Spotlight – The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing

A Honey Acres Novel

by Sasha Summers

ISBN: 9781335458544

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

Publisher: HQN Books

Blurb:

The birds and the bees and longtime rivalries…

For Tansy Hill, nothing is sweeter than honey from her farm—except maybe revenge on the man whose father stole her family’s secret honey recipe years ago. Dane “The Viking” Knudson has been Tansy’s rival since childhood, and though he’s grown into a frustratingly handsome charmer, he’s also standing between her and the best honey award at the Honey Bee Festival, which Honey Hill Farms desperately needs to stay afloat.

Fanning the sparks that have forever flown between them, the competition is on. Sure, Tansy and Dane have plenty in common—more than they’ll admit—but Dane’s plans to expand Viking Honey are also on the line. When buried family secrets come to light, they’ll have to decide whether taking a chance on each other is worth risking the happiness they’ve been longing for.

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*****

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

“He cannot be serious.” Tansy stared at the front page of the local Hill Country Gazette in horror. At the far too flattering picture of Dane Knudson. His long, pale blond hair pulled back in a sloppy man-bun—which should look ridiculous but, on him, never did. The skintight Texas Viking Honey T-shirt vacuum-sealed over what appeared to be a very Viking-like chest. And that smile. That smug, “that’s right I’m superhot and I know it” smile that set her teeth on edge. “What was he thinking?”

“He who?” Tansy’s sister Astrid, sat across the kitchen table, her lap occupied by Beeswax, their massive orange cat. “Who has poor Tansy-Wansy all worked up, hmm, Beeswax?” She smiled down at the cat, who was staring up at Astrid with pure adoration. “Maybe you should go cuddle with her.”

“Dane.” Tansy shook the newspaper. “Who else?”

“Who else, indeed?” Aunt Magnolia said. She stood, straight and tall and willowy, stacking fresh-from-the-oven lavender-honey lemon poppy seed muffins on a plate.

“What did he do now?” Aunt Camellia asked, looking and sounding the appropriate mix of outraged and sympathetic Tansy was hoping for. She wiped her hands on her apron before tightening the lid on the Mason jar full of her lavender-scented beeswax lotion.

“What did he do now?” Lord Byron, Aunt Camellia’s parrot, sat on his perch close to her chair waiting for one of the oyster crackers she always had tucked away in her pocket, just for him.

“This.” Tansy shook the newspaper again. “Texas Viking Honey to Help Honey, Texas, Develop Its As Yet Untapped Agri-Tourism Opportunity.” She paused, waiting for the reaction.

“This is bad?” Astrid asked, leaning around Beeswax to pick up her teacup. “Why is this bad? If they’re scaling back on honey, then—”

“‘While continuing to produce their award-winning clover honey,’” Tansy read, then snorted, “‘Texas Viking Honey, with the support of the Honey City Council, will be expanding operations and combining their Viking ancestry and Texas heritage—”

“That does sound rather impressive, Tansy.” Aunt Magnolia slid the plate of muffins onto the kitchen table and took her seat. “That doesn’t mean it is impressive.”

“Impressive? More like pompous.” Aunt Camellia took a muffin and joined them at the table. “All the Viking this and Viking that. That boy is pure Texan.” She devoured the muffin in a few angry bites.

“The Viking thing is a marketing gimmick,” Tansy agreed.

“A smart one.” Astrid winced at the glare Tansy shot her way. “What about this has you so worked up, Tansy?”

“I haven’t gotten there, yet.” Tansy held up one finger and continued clearly now, over-enunciating each syllable as she read, “‘Combining their Viking ancestry and Texas heritage for a one-of-a-kind event venue and riverfront cabins ready for nature-loving guests by next fall.’”

All at once, the room froze.

Finally. She watched as, one by one, they realized why this was a bad thing.

“But, the bees.” Astrid frowned. Beekeeping wasn’t just their family’s livelihood, it was their way of life. But Astrid had an extra connection to their winged friends. For her, it wasn’t about the honey or the beeswax or the money, it was about protecting them. There was one thing that made Astrid Hill upset—endangering the bees.

Two years of scorching heat and drought had left Honey Hill Farms’ apiaries in a precarious position. Not just the bees—the family farm itself. They all knew this season could make or break the Hill family. None of them wanted to say the words out loud, of course, but there was an inordinate amount of pressure to win the cash prize at this year’s Honey Festival—and the distribution contract with Healthy & Wholesome Markets. If they didn’t, they’d lose their home and their bees… Of course, Dane’s stupid plan might run off the bees long before then.

Astrid looked crestfallen. “It’s almost as if he doesn’t understand or…or care about the bees.”

“He doesn’t care about the bees.” Tansy wanted to hit something. Or someone. “If he did, this wouldn’t be happening.” She scanned the paper again—but not the photo. His smile only added insult to injury. “The noise and traffic and guests, and who knows what ‘event venue’ means? Before that, there will be construction and machinery and workers and…and destruction.” She shook her head. “What is he thinking?”

“I’ll tell you what he’s thinking.” Aunt Camellia took another muffin. “Come to think of it, he’s a Knudson, so chances are he’s not thinking… But, if he’s anything like his father, he’s determined to milk every cent he can out of every avenue available to him. This little…stunt will likely bring them a pretty penny.”

“Now, now, Camellia.” Aunt Magnolia held her hand out for the newspaper.

Tansy handed it over and exchanged a look with her sister. They didn’t know all the ins and outs of what had happened between Aunt Camellia and Harald Knudson—only that their aunt had zero tolerance for all things Knudson.

On that, she and Aunt Camellia were of one mind.

She and her aunt had spent the last eighteen months perfecting their newest honey to make absolutely certain they’d win top prize at this year’s Honey Festival. All the long hours and tweaking of flavors had led to the best honey Tansy had ever tasted—and she’d tasted a lot of honey in her lifetime. That was how Tansy knew, deep in her bones, they’d win. They’d win the blue ribbon and the cash prize and the Healthy & Wholesome Markets deal that would keep Honey Hill Farms alive and well for the long-term. But the cherry on top? Winning top honors would put the Knudsons in their place and avenge her aunt Camellia. Her aunt was bighearted and generous and kind to a fault. That Harald Knudson had done something to hurt her was enough to make the Hills and Knudsons business rivals. Thanks to Tansy’s incident with Dane, the rivalry was intensely personal for her. Up until ten minutes ago, she’d been on a sort of high just thinking about Harald Knudson’s shock as the Hill family took first place—not to mention how ecstatic she’d been imagining wiping the grin off Dane Knudson’s impossibly handsome and perpetually condescending face. Sweet victory.

But now…this…

Tansy stood and carried her coffee cup to the kitchen sink, leaning against the counter to clear her head. Her gaze bounced around the farmhouse kitchen, taking in Granna Hazel’s hand-painted bee and flower details on the pale yellow walls, Aunt Camellia’s leftover lotion materials atop the large island, and the dozen or so full jars sealed and lined up beneath the window over the sink. Aunt Camellia’s pups, all five of them, were a patchwork mass of fur, piled close in a long beam of sunlight that cut across the Spanish-tile kitchen floor. This room was the heart of the old house. This was where they gathered at least twice a day to share a meal, news, and work through any concerns together. Even with stacks of bee journals, magazines, books, baskets of honey, soap- and lotion-making supplies, and all sorts of bits and bobs tacked to the refrigerator and oversize corkboard by the pantry, it was impeccably clean. Aunt Camellia believed in organized chaos—that’s how she described it. Tansy sighed, peering out the window at the bluebonnets and golden agarita waving in the spring breeze, beckoning to the bees that called Honey Hill Farms their home.

A home Dane Knudson is jeopardizing…

“You have to give the boy credit,” Aunt Magnolia said, folding the newspaper and laying it on the table. “He has drive.”

Tansy wasn’t giving the boy a thing. As far back as she could remember, Tansy and Dane had gone toe-to-toe. From middle school spelling bees, fundraisers and Junior Beekeepers competitions, to two publicly humiliating and painful weeks in high school that forever cemented their mutual dislike of one another. She stopped that line of thought cold. Bottom line, they’d been each other’s fiercest competition. But it wasn’t the competition that irked her or the time and work she’d put in to besting him, it was Dane. He had been—he still was, this article proved that—heartless. Heartless and selfish. To him, life was a game, and toying with people’s emotions was all part of it. Over and over again, she’d invested time and energy and hours of hard work and he’d just sort of winged it. As far as Tansy knew, he’d never suffered any consequences for his lackluster efforts. No, the great Dane Knudson could charm his way through pretty much any situation. One thing was certain: Dane and his father were both rotten to the core.

“Drive? Or ego? Maybe he’s finally bitten off more than he can chew?” Tansy shook her head. “What he’s planning has nothing to do with beekeeping.” If anything, there was the potential for disaster. For all of them. And now this…this expansion of his could cost her family their home, the farm, the bees…everything. Tansy’s stomach knotted with dread.

“We should file a protest,” Aunt Camellia said, taking a third muffin.

“It’s his private property, Camellia.” Aunt Magnolia sipped her tea, one fine red eyebrow arching. “He can do as he pleases. Besides, it sounds like the city council is on board.”

Tansy didn’t want to think about just how charming he’d been to manage that. Ugh. She took one of the still-warm lavender-honey lemon poppy seed muffins and pulled it apart. The scent flooded her nostrils and made her stomach growl. Fluffy and golden, with just the faintest hint of their homegrown lavender-infused honey. She took a bite and moaned. “Oh, yum, Auntie Mags. These are heaven.”

“Of course, they are. I made them.” Magnolia smiled. “But mostly because it’s Granna Hazel’s recipe.” She winked.

Tansy spread on some of the honey butter she’d made the week before. Over the years, she learned how to balance rich flavors with a smooth-as-silk texture—making all Honey Hill honey butters spread perfectly. She took a bite, moaned again and smiled. “So, so good.”

“Why not go talk to him?” Astrid asked.

Tansy almost choked on her muffin. “Me?”

“Yes, you.” Astrid shot their aunt a look. “Aunt Camellia can’t.”

“I can’t and I won’t. I’m not setting foot on that man’s property.” Aunt Camellia nodded so vigorously that her reddish-blond curls shook. She crossed her arms over her ample bosom and leaned back against her chair, declaring, “And I won’t be responsible for my behavior if he ever dared show up here.” He meaning Dane’s ne’er-do-well father, Harald Knudson.

“Dared show up here,” Lord Byron repeated, the parrot bobbing up and down on his perch.

Aunt Camellia smiled at the parrot. “What do you have now?” she asked, retrieving the page of newspaper Lord Byron was standing on. The parrot was always taking things and hiding them away, but Aunt Camellia so adored him that he was rarely scolded—much to Aunt Magnolia’s disapproval. “Little thief,” Aunt Camellia all but cooed, then she fed him a cracker.

“I don’t think Harald Knudson would ever think about visiting Honey Hill Farm, Camellia.” Aunt Magnolia shrugged. “Which is good because we need to spend our money carefully, not bailing you out of jail. Your bird, however, could use some time locked up.” She glared at the parrot. Lord Byron glared right back.

Astrid shrugged. “You have to go, Tansy. I’d only make things ten times worse, and you know it.”

“I doubt that,” Tansy argued, though she knew what her sister meant. Astrid would go on a long diatribe about the welfare of the bees, how beekeeping was about equity and respect and balance, before she ever addressed the very real, very legitimate concerns this expansion could cause. A whole list of worries that included things like how vehicle exhaust fumes disrupted a bee’s scent signals, the necessity of an environmental study done prior to any construction—all to ensure no harm or disruption for the land, animals and bees…

Oh, how she loathed Dane Knudson—now more than ever.

He had to know that clearing or changing his property could cataclysmically alter the hives’ pollen source, didn’t he? Or that a queen would relocate her hive if she feared they were in danger? Or that bringing in people, people who didn’t understand bees or honey or anything about beekeeping, could stress a hive and impact their honey production or have them desert their home? A real beekeeper would carefully consider all of this, plus some, before considering such a…a scheme. Since Dane Knudson proclaimed to be a beekeeper, from a long line of beekeepers, he should know of this. He should know better.

“Aunt Magnolia shouldn’t go because she intimidates…well, everyone. That’s not exactly conducive to conversation.” Astrid shrugged, running a hand along Beeswax’s orange-striped back. “Sorry, Aunt Mags.”

Tansy couldn’t help but wonder if Dane Knudson didn’t need to be intimidated a little. Or a lot.

“Don’t be. I love being intimidating. It’s so…so powerful.” Aunt Magnolia smiled. “You can do the same, Tansy. Try it, you’ll like it. Put that brawny boy in his place.”

“Too bad Rosemary isn’t here.” Astrid sighed. “She’d have the perfect talking points for him, spout off just the right numbers and present it so matter-of-factly that he couldn’t argue.”

But their genius little sister, Rosemary, was off following her dreams and participating in a truly innovative bee genomics postgrad study in California. Too far away to call in for backup.

So apparently, Tansy was it. “Unlike Rosemary, the chances of me remaining matter-of-fact are slight.” Especially when I’m face-to-face with that self-inflated, condescending, ridiculously good-looking, unethical jerk.

“Tansy, darling, there is absolutely no reason to let him upset you so. Make your concerns known.” Aunt Magnolia sipped her tea. “Stay calm and cool. Keep the upper hand.”

“She’s right, Tansy. He’s the same bully he was in high school. Getting under your skin for fun,” Astrid reminded her. “But you’re older and wiser and you know how he works so he can’t get to you anymore.” She smiled, sort of. “Just remember what Auntie Mags said. Be intimidating.”

“They’re right, Tansy, darling.” Aunt Camellia patted her hand. “You can do it.”

“You can do it,” Lord Byron squawked.

Tansy didn’t miss the way both her aunts looked at her—Astrid, too. None of them appeared convinced that she could have a productive conversation with their Viking-ish neighbor. And that included herself. But if I don’t talk to Dane, then there’s no chance of stopping his idiotic plan. What choice did she have?

Excerpted from The Sweetest Thing by Sasha Summers.
Copyright © 2022 by Sasha Summers.
Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

*****

Author Info:

USA Today Bestselling Author Sasha Summers writes stories that celebrate the ups and downs, loves and losses, ordinary and extraordinary occurrences of life. Sasha pens fiction in multiple genres and hopes each and every book will draw readers in and set them on an emotional and rewarding journey. With a puppy on her lap and her favorite Thor mug full of coffee, Sasha is currently working on her next release. She adores hearing from fans and invites you to visit her online.

Author Website: https://sashasummers.com/

Facebook: Sasha Summers, Author

Twitter: @sashawrites

Instagram: @sasha.summers

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*****

Spotlight – Searching for Elsie

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Searching for Elsie

Eagle Point Search & Rescue series

by Susan Stoker

Blurb:

When trust has been broken, it will take a special man to heal the rift and her heart.

Once upon a time, Elsie Ireland thought she’d found the man of her dreams, only to learn her fairytale romance was just another cautionary tale. Beyond a perfect family image, her husband had little interest in Elsie, and even less in their son. Years later, she and nine-year-old Tony have landed in Fallport, Virginia. She’s working two jobs and living in a motel, but Tony has a roof over his head and plenty of love. For Elsie, however, love isn’t in the cards. She doesn’t have the time to spare…or the trust.

After serving his country as a Green Beret, Zeke Calhoun was happy to get out of the military and settle into small-town life as a bar owner. His position with Eagle Point Search and Rescue fulfills his need to serve and provides some of the best friends he’s ever known. He didn’t realize anything was missing until it was right under his nose every day—his sweet, shy waitress, Elsie.

It isn’t easy to convince the independent, gun-shy single mom to let him in, and with memories of his own disastrous marriage still plaguing him, Zeke isn’t fully certain he’s the best bet for a healthy relationship. But one stolen kiss in a heightened moment, and he’s a goner. Vowing that Elsie and Tony’s lives are about to change for the better, Zeke is up for the challenge of proving not all men are like her ex.

A task made significantly more difficult when a complication throws the couple’s fledgling relationship off course—then quickly spirals into a life-or-death situation no one saw coming.

** Searching for Elsie is the second book in the Eagle Point Search & Rescue Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.

Download today on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Audible, Kobo!

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Narrated by: CJ Bloom & William Peters

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*****

Author Info:

New York Times, USA Today, #1 Amazon Bestseller, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Tennessee where she lives, but this all American girl has also spent the last eighteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Texas. She’s married to a retired Army man (and current firefighter/EMT) who now gets to follow her around the country.

She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.

Website: https://www.stokeraces.com/

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~

Spotlight – Here for the Drama

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Here for the Drama

by Kate Bromley

ISBN: 9781525811449

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Publisher: Graydon House Books

Blurb:

This summer, it’s much ado about everything.

Becoming a famous playwright is all Winnie ever dreamed about. For now, though, she’ll have to settle for assisting the celebrated, sharp-witted feminist playwright Juliette Brassard. When an experimental theater company in London, England decides to stage Juliette’s most renowned play, The Lights of Trafalgar, Winnie and Juliette pack their bags and hop across the pond.

But the trip goes sideways faster than you can say “tea and crumpets”. Juliette stubbornly vetoes the director’s every choice, and Winnie’s left stage-managing their relationship. Winnie’s own work seems to have stalled, and though Juliette keeps promising to read it, she always has some vague reason why she can’t. Then, Juliette’s nephew Liam enters stage left. He’s handsome, he’s smart, he is devastatingly British, and he and Winnie have sizzling chemistry. But as her boss’s nephew, Liam is definitely off-limits, so Winnie has to keep their burgeoning relationship on the down-low from Juliette. What could go wrong?

Balancing a production seemingly headed for disaster, a secret romance, and the sweetest, most rambunctious rescue dog, will Winnie save the play, make her own dreams come true, and find true love along the way–or will the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune get the best of her?

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*****

Excerpt:

One

“I’m here and I have coffee!”

After five years as a personal assistant, I have found that entering a chaotic scene with caffeine is the quickest way to ease panic. It’s a distraction, it boosts morale, and if you’re working in the ever-intense theater world, it’s often as necessary as breathing.

Roshni, our second assistant, is quick to approach as the penthouse door swings closed behind me. She’s wearing a knee-length floral romper, and her flawless ebony hair is parted just off to the side. If I wore a romper, it’d look like a man’s bathing costume circa 1916, but on Roshni, it’s the ultimate embodiment of summer fun. I’m still not positive if I want to be her or marry her, but we’ve happily settled on being ride or die work friends in the meantime.

“Thank you so much,” she says, scooping her iced hazelnut coffee out of the to-go tray I’m carrying and casting a nervous glance over her shoulder. “Okay, so, two things. One, I accidentally knocked a pile of papers off Juliette’s desk, which then led to her calling me an anarchist and threatening to have me arrested. And two, she thinks you’re going to London.”

“What makes you say that?”

“She straight-up told me you were going to London.”

“I am not going to London,” I announce, making my voice loud enough to carry through the spacious four-bedroom apartment. With almost a decade of drama study under my belt, my vocal projection is legit.

“Why are you always so resistant to anything remotely ex-citing? To stand still is to go backwards, Winnie.”

I hear her before I see her. Juliette Brassard. My boss of five years, my pseudo-mother, my often-combative sibling, and the perpetual bane of my existence. Working for her is tiring, demanding, slightly monotonous and bizarre, but I love every second of it.

She looks the same as she does most days. Wide-legged pants and a layered top. Always layered. Today it’s a beige cotton shirt and a charcoal vintage vest. Her straight gray-brown hair just reaches her shoulders and thick-rimmed glasses cover her ceaselessly curious chestnut eyes. Her style is a fair reflection of her life—eclectic and casual but secretly expensive.

“It was never the plan for me to go to London,” I tell her. “Roshni is going with you, and you were perfectly happy with the arrangements yesterday.”

“Yes, well, happiness is fleeting, and I realized today that I need my whole team with me if this trip is going to be a success.”

“I checked with the airline this morning,” Roshni says, taking a tentative step forward. “And apparently there’s one seat left in first class.” I shoot her a loving glare as Juliette raises a victorious arm in her direction.

“You see? It’s a sign from the universe.”

“It’s not a sign from the universe,” I counter. “It’s a ridiculous amount of money to pay, and you’re probably the only non-tech billionaire who’s willing to spend that much for a fully reclining seat.”

“A noble sentiment. You should preach that sermon to the bare foot that caressed our cheeks the last time we sat in coach.”

“Okay, we had one uncomfortable flight from LA, and you know full well that the guy was wearing socks.”

“I don’t know that, Winnie. I’ve repressed the memory so deep into my subconscious that I’ll be shuffling around this apartment and whispering about phantom feet until I’m ninety.” She spins away with her typical dramatic flair, opting to walk over to the windows and gazing out at the traffic below. She also covertly checks to see if I’m still watching her.

I choose to ignore her attention-seeking behavior and in-stead place our drinks down on an antique side table. With my hands now free, I pick up a stack of opened event invitations that I left there the day before, giving them one final look over before handing them to Roshni, who’s still standing nearby.

“I’ll reorganize the papers on her desk,” I tell her. “Just RSVP to these, and then we can go over tomorrow’s itinerary. Blue Post-its are a yes. Yellows are a no.”

“Blue, yes. Yellow, no. Got it.” She exits the room with her coffee and the invites, seemingly happy to get out of the fray. If only I was so lucky.

Juliette’s been dropping hints about me going on this trip with them for the past week, but I’ve always managed to side-step the issue. And now, she’s brought the battle to my door-step. Or I guess it’s really her doorstep, since she lives here. And what a doorstep it is.

Twenty floors up on a cobbled Tribeca street, you’d either have to be born into money or wildly successful to own one of these grandly scaled units. Juliette is both. Already a border-line heiress thanks to her Manhattan real-estate mogul father, she then went on to become one of the city’s most celebrated playwrights. She was given everything but still hustled like crazy for her career and threw all of her time and energy into mastering her craft. Luckily for her, it proved to be a lethal combination.

As a native New Yorker and a fiercely proud West-Sider, Juliette’s lived in this apartment for as long as I’ve worked for her. The furniture is mismatched and romantic, and white walls are splashed with green from her dozens of potted plants. Every available surface is covered with old scripts, books, or mugs with half-drunk cups of tea. It’s scholarly chic. If Jane Austen ever traveled forward through time, I like to imagine that this is what her apartment would look like. Alas, dear Jane is nowhere to be found as Juliette steps away from the windows, moving through the space to sit on the arm of her tufted couch.

“Give me one good reason why you can’t go on this trip.” I roll my shoulders, trying to relieve a sudden stress knot before taking a much-needed sip of my latte. “Because you’re leaving tonight. I’m not mentally or physically prepared, and this is supposed to be my yearly vacation time. I have projects that I need to work on, too.”

“Yes, your grand opus of a play that you’re forever editing. Maybe the change of scenery will inspire you. In London, love and scandal are considered the best sweeteners of tea.”

“Don’t try to mind-trick me with John Osborne quotes.” Juliette groans and pushes up off the sofa. “I’m only trying to help you.”

“It would help me if you read my play and told me what you think.”

She just looks at me then and says nothing, no doubt trying to come up with another lackluster excuse. I’ve asked her to read my play dozens of times over the years, but she always finds a reason not to. She’s too busy, her mind is clouded, she’s not in the right mood.

“I’ll read it when it’s finished. Whatever I say now would alter your creative course.”

Ah, so she doesn’t want to sway my process. Not likely. Juliette’s perpetually happy to give her two cents on everything, especially on another playwright’s work.

“As far as London,” she goes on, “you just need to think about it more. Mull it over, let the idea sink in, and if you could agree to come with us in the next ten to fifteen minutes, that would be great.” She goes to leave the room after that but stops short when her cell phone starts ringing. She looks around but doesn’t find it. I do the same until she digs into the couch cushions and eventually plucks it out. She checks the caller ID and smiles as she answers.

“Liam! To what do I owe the pleasure?”

A little out of breath from her impromptu sofa wrestling match, she twists around and away from me, walking over to the windowsill and picking up a small watering can. She sprinkles her first row of plant babies as she listens to his response. Liam is her nephew and lives in London, which is also where her sister, Isabelle, has lived since she moved there in her twenties. I’ve never met her or him, but I have sent Liam gifts on Juliette’s behalf every Christmas and on his birthday. 

“That’s right,” she says, moving on to the next row of plants. “I’m getting in tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Will I be seeing you?” She tries to water the oversized ficus in the corner, but the can is empty. “Sounds great! Here, I’m passing you over to Winnie for a second. Do me a favor and convince her to come on the trip with me. She’s being obstinate.”

“What? No.” My protest is in vain as Juliette’s phone is already in flight. I barely catch it as she disappears into the kitchen, shaking the empty watering can over her shoulder in response.

I clear my throat and put the phone to my ear. “Hello, Liam.”

“Hello, is Winnie there, please?” he asks with mock seriousness.

I fail to suppress my involuntary smile at his polite request and inviting British accent. “This is she,” I answer back.

“Excellent, just the person I was hoping to speak to.”

“My sentiments exactly. To be honest, I’ve secretly been dying to talk to you for years.”

“Have you really?” he asks, surprised.

“No, not really. I don’t even know you.” He says nothing, and I think I might have scared him a bit. “Sorry,” I lightly amend, “I thought we were pretending that we actually meant to have this conversation.”

“Yes, well, that was my initial intention, but it turns out you’re much more convincing than I am. I can only assume that you’ve had formal training?”

“That assumption would be correct.”

“I should have figured.” His voice is surprisingly calm, sounding more like one of my old improv buddies and less like a stranger who’s thousands of miles away. “So,” he goes on, “I’ve been instructed by my aunt to convince you to come to London.”

“She does seem to have that idea stuck in her head.”

“There’s much to recommend it, of course. Red buses. A phenomenal bridge. How do you feel about museums?”

“I hate them,” I tease.

“Absolutely. Nothing to be learned from there. And what about parks?”

“Not into them at all.”

“Couldn’t agree more. I’m violently allergic to pollen, and why should I be forced to carry an EpiPen just so everyone else can enjoy natural beauty? Pure selfishness on their end.”

I smile to myself and pivot around so I’m no longer standing still. “I knew you couldn’t be as normal as you originally sounded. It’s to be expected, though, since you do share a bloodline with Juliette.”

“Yes, we had hoped lunacy would skip a generation, but apparently not.” He pauses then, and I somehow know that he’s smiling, too. “So, how am I faring on my quest so far? Are you packing your bags at this very moment?”

“Unfortunately not. I somehow forgot to bring all my lug-gage and clothes with me to work today, but still, this has been a very pleasant verbal exchange thus far.”

“For me as well. Can I ask what’s holding you back from taking the trip?”

“You may, but I may also choose not to answer.”

“Ah, a lady of secrets, are we?”

“Oh yes,” I answer dramatically. “A lady of many secrets and a play that I need to finish in seventeen days if I’m going to make a contest deadline.”

“Really? I take it that you’re a playwright as well, then?” 

“Afraid so.”

“In that case, as you have a very good reason to stay at home rather than crossing the Atlantic, I won’t try to sway you any further…but know that I do so very reluctantly.”

“I appreciate that.”

Juliette sashays back into the room then, the watering can forgotten as she plops down onto the couch with one of her many notebooks. I’ll have to see to the rest of the plants later. She props her feet up on the coffee table and begins to write as I make my way towards her.

“Alright, well, your aunt is now back, so I’ll get going.” “It was very nice meeting you, Winnie.”

“We didn’t actually meet,” I say, correcting him.

“But it sort of feels like we did.”

I find myself grinning once more and shift away so Juliette won’t notice. “I guess it does,” I admit. “Bye, Liam.”

“Goodbye, Winnie.” I pivot back around and hand the phone over. Juliette looks at me with a mischievous sort of smirk as I shake my head and step away to hang my bag in the entryway closet.

Excerpted from Here For the Drama by Kate Bromley,
Copyright © 2022 by Kate Bromley
Published by Graydon House Books.

*****

Author Info:

KATE BROMLEY lives in New York City with her husband, son, and her somewhat excessive collection of romance novels (It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right?). She was a preschool teacher for seven years and is now focusing full-time on combining her two great passions – writing swoon-worthy love stories and making people laugh. She is also the author of Talk Bookish to Me.

Author Website

Twitter: @kbromleywrites

Instagram: @katebromleywrites

Facebook: @katebromleywrites

Goodreads

*****

Spotlight – When It Falls Apart

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I’m so excited to share a Q&A with Catherine Bybee today!

For anyone wondering the plot of your newest release, you give a great sneak peek with the title—When it Falls Apart. What is “falling apart” in this novel?

All the threads that hold my heroine, Brooke, together are crumbling down around her. When it Falls Apart begins with Brooke’s romantic relationship crashing and burning. At the same time, in a different state, her father is circling the drain in the ICU. And for the cherry on the top of her “falling apart life”, Brooke has found herself demoted at work. In short, everything in Brooke’s life is dissolving around her.

Like all of your books, When it Falls Apart has a beautiful romance, however, there is a rawness about Brooke’s story. How was writing this novel different from your others?

If you read my notes both in the front and the back of this novel, you’ll soon realize that the story was very personal to me. Rawness comes from experience. The relationship Brooke has with her father is hauntingly familiar to me and my dad. The emotions that the heroine experienced when taking care of him were easy for me to grasp onto and write about. Sadly, the love story with Luca was completely made up and I didn’t have the support of a strong Italian family to help deal with the struggles, but I digress. 

Relationships with a parent who wasn’t there for you growing up are messy. When that parent ages and needs their child, sometimes that help comes with a bucketload of resentment, even if the child wishes they could stop those ugly feelings from creeping up on them. And THAT is the rawness you speak of.

Books, TV shows, and movies oftentimes glamorize what it means to care for a loved one. However, in When it Falls Apart you don’t sugar-coat anything about caregiving and the toll it takes on a person. How do you think readers who have been in similar situations will be affected by this story?

Justified. Validated. Accepted.

It’s a hard job taking care of an elderly family member. And if there aren’t other siblings to help, or won’t help, it’s made even more difficult. It’s difficult, gritty, dirty work that only has a bad ending…eventually. What I do hope my readers take away is that they’re not alone. That the struggle is very real and that if they don’t find balance (which is almost impossible at times) they will burn out completely and not be fit to help at all. I hope my readers are empowered to set boundaries and balance, so they come out on the other side of caring for an elderly loved one whole themselves.

Brooke gets virtually no support from her significant other, which has her reevaluating their relationship. She realizes she has settled and has to make some hard decisions. Do you think this happens too many times to women in real life?

100% Yes! There is a song by Taylor Swift with a line that says, and I’m paraphrasing here, I can be what you want for the weekend. But often that weekend ends up being a relationship that women hold on to or are convinced they can’t live without. Often it takes a huge shake-up to remove yourself from that situation. But once you’re away from the day to day dysfunctional relationship, the easier it is to see the dysfunction.

After her breakup and move, Brooke is not looking for a relationship. In fact, she tells her best friend: “I haven’t wiped off my smeared mascara from Marshall yet, the last thing I want is to jump into anything else.” Her crying over a man lasts all about two minutes when she meets Luca. Tell us about him.

Hmmm, Luca… he is the kind of man who doesn’t want a place on Brooke’s dance card…he wants to rip it up.

Luca is wired to help the people in his life. Brooke becomes a part of his inner circle simply by moving into the family building where he sees her every day.

Now, if Luca had flat out asked Brooke on a date, she would have run the other way…so no, he doesn’t go about it that way. He simply shows up and does not leave. Not when things get tough, or messy…or when his own past peeks its head in. Luca is a man who is right there at Brooke’s side without question or censor on why she does the things she does. His support and validation of her feelings is the part she was missing. Add in the hunky Italian single father and “Mamma Mia!”

At first, Luca is not thrilled that Brooke is renting a room in his family’s building. What changes his mind about her?

Her strength and vulnerability. I know that sounds contradicting, but some of the strongest women I know have a big vulnerable spot in their life that if you know them well enough, you see. The biggest smiles often hide the deepest pain. Luca sees her struggle and dedication to helping her elderly father and since family is first on Luca’s list, she passes his unconscious test.

Luca’s family, the D’Angelo’s, are incredibly close and share everything from ownership of the family restaurant to helping care for Luca’s daughter Franny. How is this different from Brooke’s relationship with her family?

Brooke doesn’t have that family. She has a father who abandoned her as a little girl that she carved out a relationship as an adult, and now she’s charged with caring for. Even her previous romantic relationship didn’t support her unconditionally the way the D’Angelo’s do for each other. She’s rather dumbfounded when they start treating her like family. It’s a wonderful thing to watch happen.

San Diego’s Little Italy plays a huge part in the story. The community, language, and food are in full display. Tell us about your own experiences in your adopted city.

I love Little Italy, the food, the pace… the people. There are many places in San Diego that are overrun with the college scene, San Diego is a college town. But Little Italy is more family friendly. Very touristy, but there isn’t a day you don’t see locals hanging out. I go to the farmer’s market often. Pick up authentic Italian ingredients for my own home cooking. I try new restaurants and take all my friends there when they are visiting from out of town. Not to mention it was the closest thing to the “real Italy” that I could go during the travel restrictions. So why not write about it and tell the world of this small island within San Diego that shouldn’t be missed?

There are two more siblings in the D’Angelo family. Where will you be taking readers next with the series?

Chloe is a yogi. Think Bali!

And Giovanni loves wine… think Tuscany, Italy.

I cannot wait to show you what I have in store for these two!

When It Falls Apart

by Catherine Bybee

Release Date: June 21, 2022

Publisher: Montlake 

Blurb:

Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.

Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?

As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him, too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?

*****

Excerpt:

“Oh my God, Carmen. He was standing at his car first thing this morning. Like ‘hop in, bella, let’s get stuff done today.’ Who does that?” 

Brooke had picked up the phone as soon as Luca was off in search of a dump guy. 

“We’re talking about the single, hot, Italian dad, right?” 

Brooke rolled her eyes. “Yes. Luca.” 

“Oy, oy, oy.” 

“Stop it. I need advice. And I need it before he gets back.” 

Carmen stopped teasing. “You don’t need advice. You need to relax. He sounds like one of the good ones. Let it happen.” 

Let it happen,” she mocked. “I don’t ‘let’ things happen. It happens to me and it’s never good.” 

“You didn’t used to be such a pessimist.” 

“Once upon a time the glass was half full. Not these days.” 

“Okay, Debbie Downer. You want my advice . . . here it is. Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.” 

“I’m not doing anything. Zero effort.” 

“Really?” Carmen didn’t sound convinced. “Makeup . . . a nice dress?” 

Brooke hesitated. “Maybe . . . a little last night, but that was it.” 

Carmen chuckled. 

“Carmen!”

“Sorry. Okay . . . any red flags?” 

Brooke thought about that. “He loved his ex-wife.” 

“That’s a red flag?” 

“I guess not.” 

“Is he good to his mom?” 

Brooke looked back on the dinner the night before. “To the whole family. He takes being the oldest brother quite seriously.” 

“And his daughter?” 

All Brooke could do was smile. “Great dad. We should all be so lucky.” 

“He’s Italian, does he smoke?” 

“No.” 

“A lot of Italians smoke,” Carmen pointed out. 

“In Italy. The San Diego variety are less in that wheelhouse.” 

“That’s good.” Carmen sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you, Brooke. How does he kiss?” 

“He hasn’t kissed me,” Brooke nearly yelled. 

“Now then . . . we have a problem.” 

“There hasn’t been . . . I don’t even know if—” 

“Stop right there. He did not drive your sorry ass all the way to Upland to do grunt work all day if he wasn’t interested in kissing you, bellllaaa. More than that, you want him to.” 

Brooke closed her eyes, and even in her own head she couldn’t convince herself that Carmen was wrong. 

“Let it happen. You deserve some happiness, Brooke.” 

The van with the air conditioning repair guy pulled into the driveway. 

“I gotta go.” 

“I want a kissing update the next time we talk,” Carmen teased. 

“Love you,” Brooke said with a laugh.

“Back at ya, boo.” 

She hung up. 

Her best friend was such a dork.

*****

Author Info:

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than five million copies and have been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series.

Website: http://www.catherinebybee.com 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/catherinebybee 

Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@catherinebybee1 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905789.Catherine_Bybee  

*****

Giveaway:

$50 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of Catherine Bybee’s WHEN IT FALLS APART

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/07c2363f277/

*****

Spotlight – The Wine Down

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In THE WINE DOWN by Louise Lennox, Brandi Armstrong leads a life with no room for error—or romance, but when she has to fight for something close to her heart, she turns to her best friend, Riddick Kruger. Can Riddick help to save Brandi’s family farm, and convince her that his love for her is worth fighting for? Fans of Kennedy Ryan’s Kingmaker Series, cultured yet humorous reads, will devour this must-read friends to lovers romance from the Meet Cute Book Club Series. 

The Wine Down

by Louise Lennox

Blurb:

Escape with the Meet Cute Book Club, where meet-cutes don’t happen only between the pages of romance novels, and one by one, all the members find their own happily ever afters.

Meet Brandi Armstrong and Riddick Kruger in book one: The Wine Down…

Brandi…

Fearless

Southern

Broken

I’m the heroine saving farms from financial ruin and racism.

Who will save me from my loneliness?

I’m Too Busy.

I’m Too Hurt.

But it’s homecoming weekend and I really want to WINE Down.

Except now, my family’s farm is on the chopping block.

My best friend Riddick vows to fix it.

Because…

I’m the object of his affection.

And money is no object.

He wants me. But I don’t want anyone.

I’m too fractured to put the pieces back together again.

But it’s fun to feel Riddick try…

Riddick…

Dominating

South African

Billionaire

I’m the wealthy Restaurateur all the ladies love…

But I’m in love with my best friend.

Brandi doesn’t want my love, but she does need my help.

She will get more than she asks for.

I’ll destroy the past that’s haunting her.

I’ll own the present by pleasuring her.

I’ll design our future; healing her.

She will be mine, and her heart will no longer hide…

Will Brandi Wine Down long enough to let love rule?

Can Riddick save Brandi’s farm without killing their friendship?

Find out in this hot friends-to-lovers romance from Louise Lennox!

The Wine Down is a standalone, Friend to Lovers romance that is part of the multi-author series, Meet Cute Book Club series. Escape with this swoon-worthy collection of romances where meet-cutes don’t only happen between the pages of romance novels and members find their own happily ever after.

Add to Goodreads!

Read Now!

*****

Excerpt:

“Riddick!” A shrill voice I hate all too well calls out. “Long Time, no see! Did you come to watch me perform? You know I’ve still got all my moves.”

Mandy fucking Foster

I’m going to be sick. And Riddick looks like he may be as well. That’s his fault. No one told him to use Mandy as his go-to fuck toy all throughout college. She’s always thought she had claim to him, even though he never made the slightest gesture to claim her. Now, she’s all over him like a cat with claws.

He clears his throat and seeks me out with his eyes. “Umm… no, I’m actually here to support Brandi.” He nods his head towards me, forcing Mandy to turn around. I give her a saccharine smile and wave. She rolls her eyes but quickly recovers.

“Oh yeah, I forgot she’s like a little sister to you. Of course, you’d want to see her perform. But isn’t it a bonus that you also get me out of the deal? Someone who knows how to use her body very well.”

Bitch. Two can play this game.

I walk over to Kruger and step beside him. Placing my hand in his, I squeeze and throw him a quick wink before bringing his ring hand to my lips and brushing my lips over the back of his knuckles. Sweet baby Jesus, his skin is incredible. I feel his calluses on the inside of my hand, but the skin brushing my lips is soft as silk. 

My poor neglected pussy is dripping from his sexy scent alone. Lord, I want to huff him like fiend addicted to glue. I close my eyes and take a deep breath before I hear him clear his throat, soft enough for my ears. That’s right, I had a reason to come over here, and getting high off the smell of his skin was not it. I glance at him and peep the right side of his mouth turned up in the beginning of a smile. I look away and glare at Mandy.

“We are not siblings. Far from it, Mandy, what we are goes deeper than that. Wouldn’t you agree, Riddick?”

My eyes never leave her scowl. Her eyes never leave my hand wrapped in his. She looks like she might combust, she’s so angry.

Riddick faces me and his jaw flinches. His eyes are predatory, and I get the distinct feeling that I finally opened a door he was seeking entrance into. “I definitely agree,” he rumbles. “We’re the best part of each other.”

His words almost knock me to my ass. What the hell is that supposed to mean? He returns my earlier gesture by flipping our clasped hands over and dropping kisses on the inside of my wrist. My knees buckle at the gesture and my breath catches. He chuckles and pulls me away from Mandy, winking as we turn to leave. “We’ll see you around, Mandy. Break a leg.”

When we get out of her view, I drop Riddick’s hand and laugh. The sound is nervous and unnatural, but I follow through with it, anyway. Anything to break this awkward tension between us. But when I look up at Riddick’s face, he doesn’t look uncomfortable at all. He looks determined. I place my hand on my neck and swallow. 

“Mandy is still hot for you. She never could keep her hands off you.”

Riddick nods. “Yeah, she never could.’ He steps closer to me, and I step back. Still, he stalks me until my back is against a wall and I realize we’re practically alone on the side of the stage. He trails the back of his knuckles across my cheek and smirks. 

“But you know, Kitten, I’m curious about your touch, not hers. Do you want me to touch you again?”

“Wh..wh..at.” I stammer.

He nods. “Umm hmm. Unfortunately, Mandy has had the undeserved privilege of touching my body all over. I wasn’t very discerning in the past. She’s had her legs wrapped around my thighs, lips around my cock, her hands grabbing my ass as I thrust into her. But none of those touches set my entire body and soul on fire, like the brush of your lips against my hand a few moments ago.” 

Oh, God… his mouth. It’s so dirty. Every word is going straight to my core.

Riddick steps into me, and I gulp at his closeness. Part of me is terrified of being pushed against a wall by such a powerful man. If he wanted to, he could trap me there with his weight. It reminds me of the first time Byron took my innocence. The pressure of his body made me feel trapped in a situation I could not control. With Riddick, I just feel deliciously covered.

Copyright 2022 @Louise Lennox

*****

Author Info:

Contemporary romance Author Louise Lennox is a hopeful romantic writing steamy romances full of heart and healing.

A Spelman College and Georgetown University graduate, Louise provides women with diverse and meaningful representation in romance novel pages. Not seeing enough women like herself headlining positive love stories, she launched #HappyBlackRomance; a community of readers and writers committed to the creation and sharing of positive romance stories featuring Black heroines.

Louise Lennox plots highlight the joys of Black relationships across the diaspora; pushing readers from all cultural backgrounds to admire them for their strength and downright sexiness. In her novels sparks always fly; the sex amazes; and the characters always leave the world better than they found it through their love.

When she’s not writing, Louise is enjoying her work as a school leader, wife, and mother of the two cutest dragons to ever walk the earth!

To learn more about #HappyBlackRomance and to score a free book or two, check out her website http://www.lovelouiselennox.com.

Follow: Facebook | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Bookbub | Amazon | Website | Newsletter

*****

Escape with the Meet Cute Book Club where meet-cutes don’t only happen between the pages of romance novels and members find their own happily ever afters. 

Eight single women bound by their love of books take a monthly break from real life to lose themselves in the chapters of romantic fiction. From friends to lovers to fake relationships and more, each story features a brand new couple and their journey to find love from an amazing lineup of authors including Louise Lennox, Tracy Broemmer, A.M. Williams, Mel Walker, RJ Gray, Rebecca Wilder, Julie Archer, and Kate Stacy. 

These eight standalone romances are packed with meet-cutes, heat, and of course a happily ever after!
This promotional event is brought to you by The Indie Pen PR

Spotlight – Scotsman in the Stacks

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Scotsman in the Stacks

by Alana Oxford

Blurb:

Paige wants two things: to land a full time librarian job and find the man of her dreams. On the cusp of thirty, she finds herself suddenly single and working part-time in a Michigan library. A handsome patron with a delicious accent appears at the reference desk, inadvertently sparking an idea that might help her land the promotion she so desperately needs. But that’s not the only thing he sparks.

James is in town from Glasgow, Scotland, on a summer artist residency. Luckily, the trip got him away from the pressure he feels to take over his uncle’s river tour business. He only wanted to clear his head and make his art in peace, but he wasn’t counting on finding an attractive librarian to fill his days.

With only eight weeks before James goes home to Scotland, Paige knows she should protect her heart. After all, she already wasted years with her commitmentphobe ex. But the more she gets to know James, the less she can stick to her plan to just be friends. Is she just wasting her time again, or can they bridge the ocean between them to find a happily ever after of their own?

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scotsman-Stacks-uplifting-closed-romcom-ebook/dp/B09Y2NCD2J

US – https://www.amazon.com/Scotsman-Stacks-uplifting-closed-romcom-ebook/dp/B09Y2NCD2J

*****

Excerpt:

“Here we are,” James said, nervously rubbing the back of his neck. “This is what I’ve been up to so far.”

Paige stepped into the room and deeply inhaled the scent of lumber. Her eyes were drawn to the workbench in the center of the room and the wood shavings littering it and the floor. A large chunk of wood stood on the table, but part of it had been carved away to reveal the rough shape of a ship emerging from the larger piece.

Paige walked reverently to the table. The air in the room was still and charged with promise, like in a museum or cathedral.

She leaned down to get eye level with the figure James was exhuming from the log. Even though it was still pretty raw, Paige was amazed by what she saw. While all the rest of the log still resembled a log, this little part had been rough-hewn into the very clear image of a ship. She could see the scoring of the chisel against the wood and the rougher strokes he’d taken to get to this point. If you’d put a chuck of wood and a chisel in front of her, she’d have no idea where to begin. The fact that he’d taken the raw material and already transformed it into the ship she saw before her, blew her mind.

“James,” she breathed. “This is incredible.”

“Oh, this is early days. Still a long way to go before it looks like anything much.”

“But look at this!” Paige gestured at the table. “How do you decide what to cut away and what stays? I can’t imagine doing anything like this.”

James joined her at the table and pointed at the emerging ship. “It’s no’ like that for me. When I pick up a piece of wood, I feel the story inside of it. It used to be alive. All living things have a story of some sort. Once I feel that story, it’s like the wood guides me to the image inside. I dinnae feel like I’m really the one making the decisions. I just uncover what was there all along.”

James’s face was so close to hers and his words, combined with the creative atmosphere, made Paige dizzy. All rational thoughts left her mind and she found the full focus of her attention on his lips. They were so close. So enticing. Her eyes began to close.

*****

Author Info:

Alana Oxford is a Michigan author of romcoms, sweet romance, and humorous women’s fiction. She wants her stories to bring sunshine and smiles to her readers. She enjoys improv comedy, moody music, everything book related, and has an ongoing love affair with the United Kingdom.

https://twitter.com/AlanaOxford

https://instagram.com/AlanaOxford

https://www.facebook.com/AlanaOxford

https://www.tiktok.com/@alanaoxford

*****

Review – Shadows of His Mind

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Shadows of His Mind

Shadows series

by Loree Lough

Genre: Romantic Suspense 

Blurb:

Jase Brooks had been a 26-year-old Marine, stationed in Afghanistan when his parents were killed in a head-on collision. His anguish was compounded when, at the reading of the will, he learned they’d made him sole guardian of his 11-year-old brother. Jase gladly walked away from a promising military career to step into their shoes, a tough job made tougher by the boy’s risky behavior: Petty theft to fund the addictions that led to the birth of his son, Luke… who also became Jase’s responsibility.

Through it all, best friend Samantha (Sam) Finnigan set aside her own heartaches to stand beside him–even when he made the dangerous decision to become a professional recovery agent. It isn’t until one of the criminals he’d rounded-up escapes prison–and kidnaps Sam and Luke as part of a twisted scheme to even the score–that Jase realizes Sam is more, so much more than a friend.

Now, he faces the greatest challenge of his life: Staying alive long enough to save them, so that he can finally admit just how much she has always meant to him…

Loree Lough, a USA Today bestselling author, has published over 140 novels. This is the second novel in The Shadow Series.

Add to Goodreads
Amazon * B&N * Rising Phoenix Press

*****

Excerpt:

Elbows on knees, he held his head in his hands. What awful thing would life throw at him next!

By now, ten month old Luke’s cries bordered on screams.

“Jesse,” he growled, “are ya deaf? Luke is bawlin’ his lungs out!”

Most days, that was enough to get his brother up, stumbling and grumbling and chanting, “Shh, Lukey, shh,” on his way to the crib.

Not this morning.

Jase crossed the hall, opened the door to the room where Jesse had slept for nearly ten years. Luke greeted him with a big, four-toothed smile and said, “Duke up, Case?”

His nephew hadn’t yet mastered his L’s and J’s, and Jase had grown fond of the boy’s  nickname for him, so fond that he wasn’t looking forward to the day when Luke could finally say ‘Luke’ and ‘Jase.’

“Dah-dee s’eep?” He pointed at his father’s bed.             

Jesse had always been a restless sleeper, moreso since Connie left him to raise their boy, alone. The neatly-made bed proved he hadn’t slept here last night.

He thumb-dried fat tears from the baby’s cheeks. “Where is that daddy of yours?” he wondered aloud, and lifted him from the crib.

Damp blue eyes met his, held the gaze for a moment. On the heels of a shaky sigh, Luke snuggled against Jase’s chest and whimpered, “Dah-dee.”

“Someday he’ll realize what a gift you are, li’l man.” He hoped it was true, for both their sakes … before it’s too late.

According to the Ford Thunderbird wall clock, it was nearly six in the morning. The kid was probably wet. And hungry. Jase went back to the crib, released the side rail, and gently deposited him on the matching T-bird sheets. “Let’s get you changed, and then Uncle Jase will fix you some oatmeal, okay?”

The baby grabbed his favorite toy—the stuffed monkey Jase purchased in the hospital gift shop the night Luke was born—and began gnawing on the long, once-fuzzy tail. “Got another tooth comin’ in, huh, kiddo?”

Any worries that Connie’s drug use might have caused birth defects disappeared that first night, looking into those alert, innocent eyes. He’d vowed, right then and there, to do everything in his power to make sure the kid stayed innocent. He hadn’t done a very good job, protecting Jesse from the world’s evils, but maybe with Luke, he’d get a second chance to do things right.

It hadn’t been easy, straddling the line between big brother and disciplinarian, partly because he had no idea what he was doing, and partly because Jesse fought him every step of the way. But for a while there, while working together to fix their dad’s classic Thunderbird, their brotherly bond strengthened enough to distract Jesse from bad company, drugs, and booze. He’d been clean a year when the car was finally roadworthy, and he’d driven it to daily AA meetings. Ironic, Jase thought, that the following year, Jesse met Connie at one of those meetings. Her influence had been stronger than AA’s. Stronger than Jase’s. When she announced her pregnancy, Jase had hoped that fatherhood would end Jesse’s slow, downward spiral, but the empty bed across the room said otherwise.

Downstairs, he strapped Luke into his high chair. “That oughta keep you busy,” he said, sprinkling a handful of Cheerios across the tray, “while I heat up your oatmeal.” And when I put you down for a nap, I’m gonna hunt up that father of yours …

*****

Review:

Jase has taken a lot on his shoulders throughout his life – serving his country, raising his brother, and now helping to care for his nephew. He can carry it all but it definitely helps to have help. Sam has had feelings for Jase forever, so helping him when he needs it isn’t a hardship. She just wished that sometimes he could see her as more than friends. Trouble at home, followed by danger from Jase’s job, has him realizing how much Sam really means to him … if it isn’t too late.

I enjoyed the characters and the plot definitely kept my interest. The story isn’t very long so it moved pretty quickly and unfortunately I felt like some stuff was left out or glossed over. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the book but it did keep it from being as smooth as maybe it could have been. Overall, though, a fast, satisfying, and occasionally exciting read.

******

Author Info:

With more than 14M copies of her books in circulation, USA Today bestselling/award-winning author Loree Lough has 125 books in print (contracts for 6 more), 7 book-to-movie options, 68 short stories and 2,500+ published articles. She and her real-life hero split their time between a home in Baltimore’s suburbs and a cabin in the Alleghenies. She loves interacting with readers and answers every letter personally.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

*****

Giveaway:

$20 Amazon giftcard – 1 winner, 

Paperback of Shadows of His Mind – 1 winner, 

ebook of Shadows of His Mind – 2 winners!

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/shadows-of-his-mind-book-tour-and-giveaway

*****

Review – The Friendship Pact

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The Friendship Pact

Sunrise Cove series

by Jill Shalvis

Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis returns to Sunrise Cove with a powerful, moving story about a young woman on a quest to find the truth about her father who learns the meaning of true love along the way.

Alone in the world, Tae Holmes and her mother April pretty much raised each other, but as Tae starts asking questions about the father she’s never met, April, for the first time in her life, goes silent. To make matters worse, Tae is dangerously close to broke and just manages to avoid financial meltdown when she lands a shiny new contract with an adventure company for athletes with disabilities and wounded warriors.

Her first big fundraiser event falls flat, but what starts out as a terrible, horrible, no-good night turns into something else entirely when Tae finds herself face-to-face with Riggs Copeland. She hasn’t seen the former Marine since their brief fling in high school, and while still intensely drawn to him, she likes her past burned and buried, thank you very much. Hence their friendship pact.

But when April oddly refuses to help Tae track down her father, it’s Riggs who unexpectedly comes to her aid. On a hunt to unlock the past, the two of them find themselves on a wild ride and learn a shocking truth, while also reluctantly bonding in a way neither had seen coming. Now Tae must decide whether she’s going to choose love … or walk away from her own happiness.

*****

Review:

I will say that the blurb doesn’t really do the book justice so I expected a different kind of story. (I think others did too based on some of the reviews.) It’s a slow build, as Tae works to decide what to do with the questions of her past as well as her growing feelings for Riggs. Riggs also struggles with his emotions, his relationships with Tae & his brother, and what he should do with his life now.

As always, Shalvis is wonderful at delivering quirky characters, heartfelt journeys, and satisfying HEAs. Tea and Riggs (and April as well) have a lot to work through – it’s messy, full of feels, with plenty of moments of heat and humor. The Friendship Pact is a feel-good read perfect for those warm, lazy days of summer.

Review – Killer Smile

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Killer Smile

Assassins in Love series

by Tawna Fenske

Blurb:

He’s a covert operator. A killer built by the U.S. Army. He’s tasked with taking out his dream girl—and not on a date.

Targeting Nicole should be simple, since she hates his guts. Sebastian The Dentist—yes, a real freakin’ dentist, don’t make it scary—has wanted Nic since they first locked horns. He’s not sure why they’re enemies, but he knows there’s more to the sweet daycare owner than crayons and cardigans. But discovering her secrets lands them both in danger they’ll dodge only by working together.

Between awkward wedding dates and puppies with no personal space, Sebastian and Nic get closer. They’re also close to discovering if Nic’s dead associate may not be so dead.

If Sebastian can stop her from hating him long enough to eliminate the threat, they might just fall in love. But only Nic can stop him from hating himself.

https://tawnafenske.com/books/the-assassins-in-love-suspenseful-romantic-comedy-series/

*****

Review:

Killer Smiles completes Fenske’s Assassins in Love series with a flourish. I really enjoyed Sebastian & Nic’s dance on their way to a HEA – funny, sexy, and dangerous.

Sebastian has always been drawn to Nic’s sass & strength, working together finds him sharing secrets that he’d prefer stay hidden. Nic definitely has her reasons for not trusting men, especially smooth talking ones but time spent with Sebastian, seeing the man under the smile, has her evaluating what she knows to be true. It can definitely change things … if only they can stay alive.

While I really enjoyed the way Fenske wraps everything up, I really wish that Seb had gotten a little more chance to resolve some of his issues. The man has a lot of guilt from his past and there is a lot there that needs to be addressed. I think that if anyone can help him, it’s going to be Nic, but it got just a little bit rushed there at the end. Overall though, she does a wonderful job combining humor and intrigue, with a satisfying mixture of heat and danger. While I’m sad to see these guys go, I’m looking forward to what Fenske has in mind for her readers next.

Review – A Borrowed Boyfriend

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A Borrowed Boyfriend

Fairy Godmother Agency series

by Angela Casella

Blurb:

On a scale of one to ten, how bad is it that I want to see my fake boyfriend naked?

Marnie

What’s worse than being left at the altar? Becoming a meme because one of your nearest and dearest took a video of you running—and falling—down the aisle and made it internet famous.

Yup, I’m that Marnie Jones. My sister is for-real famous, which only makes people more interested in my predicament. Is it any wonder I’m feeling down?

My best friends will try anything to cheer me up…including setting me up with the Fairy Godmother Agency, a maybe-crazy husband and wife private investigator-slash-life coach team who promise to find the person who sold me out. Better yet, they lend me a fake boyfriend to make my ex jealous and appease my sister.

Griffin is gorgeous, attentive, and a very convincing actor. He’s perfect for the job.

Too perfect.

Griffin

After a lifetime of practice, I’m good at pretending. But the more time I spend with Marnie Jones, the less I have to feign my interest in her.

She may be down, but she’s not out. She’s beautiful, funny, and just the right amount of weird. All she needs is someone to remind her of that.

If I weren’t such a screw up, I’d have half a mind to do it myself.

Fall in love today!
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3rgSNz0
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/ABorrowedBF
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3v83rJy
Nook: https://bit.ly/3JDgHeE
Kobo: https://bit.ly/3E0v1fY
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3vdSfLH

*****

Excerpt:

“Aw, you two are staring into each other’s eyes like you’re teenagers,” Sinclair says, slicing her way into the moment. I shift my attention to my sister’s face on the iPad. Her words are sweet, but she’s obviously not appeased. To be fair, she’s spoken to me nearly every day for the last month, and I’ve been feeling down for a while. Now, I’m suddenly in a relationship with a man who looks like this, wearing a nighty that could have been stolen from the set of her Netflix show. She probably has whiplash.

Then again, maybe she thinks I could never find a man like this without bribing him. It stings, even more so because she’s right.

“What can I say? Mitchell makes me feel like I’m a teenager again,” I tell her, my tone tight.

“The same age you were when you pretended you had a boyfriend?” She grins at

“Mitchell,” that thousand-dollar grin that’s on dozens of posters. “See? I have my reasons for suspicion.”

Old hurt wells up inside of me. My sister was a beautiful TV star, and I was an awkward teenager who couldn’t attract a second glance from a guy unless he was teasing me. So, yes, when she asked if I had a date to prom, I claimed I did. Rupert Wrightman.

Crap. I’m really bad at coming up with off-the-cuff names. Actually, considering I told her this handsome stranger next to me is called “Mitchell Mountainbottom,” I’ve probably gotten worse at it.

I look down, but suddenly strong fingers are touching my jaw, tipping my face up. Then I’m looking into Mitchell’s eyes, which look hot, like caramel starting to boil in a pan, and he shocks me by leaning in for a soft kiss. It would have lasted for only a few second, just long enough for me to register his soft but firm lips, the brush of his short beard, and his spicy scent, but my mouth parts in surprise, and then I find myself pressing into him, electricity arcing between us and gluing us together. He’s the one who pulls back, a slight smile on his face as he lifts his hand to my jaw and softly traces it.

“Seems to me there must’ve been plenty of guys half in love with her,” he says, still looking at me, and my pulse is galloping in my chest, so alarmingly fast I think I might actually die. “If she did pretend to have a boyfriend, it was probably because she wanted to let them down easy.” He lifts a hand to my jaw again, tracing it. “She’s thoughtful like that.”

I’m at a loss for words. Actually, I can’t do anything but gape at him. Should I be pissed at him? Probably. Maybe I would be if I could form a single coherent thought.

It’s for the best that Sinclair takes over. “You guys are too cute.” There’s a bit of an edge to her voice. She’s still suspicious, although I’ll bet she’s not altogether sure why she’s suspicious.

“Yes, we are,” Mitchell says with a smirk. He’s still looking at me, though.

I’m the one who finally breaks the stare. Glancing back at my sister, I clear my throat. “We have to go. Talk to you later?”

“Where do you have to go?” she asks. “You haven’t even finished your breakfast.”

Mitchell gives her a suggestive grin. “Isn’t it obvious? It was nice meeting you, Scarlett.”

Then he reaches over and ends the call.

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/38JEmgz

*****

Review:

Marnie may have taken a bit of a hit when her fiance walked out on their wedding, but she’s not out. She just needs someone to show her the strong, confident person hiding underneath her baggy Star Wars shirt. Griffin wants to be that person, he just needs some help to fight his own demons and realize that he’s worthy of love.

I’ve only read one other book by Casella and I have to say I’m missing out. Marnie and Griffin’s story was fun, sexy, and easy to read. I loved all the quirky characters and the slightly off the wall, entertaining storyline. Lying as a central part of the story is tricky for me but it works here. And while with a fake boyfriend story you could expect a lot of “is it real” drama, Casella does a good job of avoiding that trap. Instead we get a low angst, light-hearted, slow burn romance with a good dash of humor and a bit of heat. I’m pretty sure I need to add this author to my must read list!

*****

Author Info:

ANGELA CASELLA loves writing romcoms, particularly with the lovely Denise Grover Swank. They write together as Angela Denise. Angela also writes the Fairy Godmother Agency series. She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, daughter, and two geriatric dogs. Her hobbies include herding her daughter toward less dangerous activities, stress baking, and marathon watching TV shows.

Connect with Angela
Facebook: https://bit.ly/3gOsV5v
Website: www.angelacasella.com

*****