Review – Accidentally Family

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Family drama? Teen angst? Finding love again? Summers delivers it all and has you coming back for more.

*****

Accidentally Family

by Sasha Summers

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Welcome to Pecan Valley, where the town may be small but the townspeople will always lend a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. Where good times, good humor, and good people will always lead to happily ever after.

Life for Felicity, and her teen children, is finally back on track. After her divorce, she wasn’t sure if her sweet family would ever be the same. But things are good––right up until her ex’s spirited toddler lands on Felicity’s doorstep. If the universe is going to throw lemons at her, thank God she has her best friend, Graham, to help her make lemonade out of them. How did she never notice how kind and sexy he is?

Graham is still recovering from his wife’s death years ago and trying to help his teen daughter get her life together. Who is he kidding? His daughter hates him. Forget lemons––he’s got the entire lemon tree. So when Felicity suggests they join forces and help each other, he’s all in. And suddenly he can’t stop thinking about her as more than just a friend. Too bad their timing couldn’t be worse…

Because life rarely goes as planned. Luckily there are many different kinds of family to hold you together and lift you up…plus maybe even a little love between friends.

Get Your Copy Now!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Target | Walmart

*****

Review:

This is going to sound like I didn’t enjoy the book, which is not true, so make sure you read everything before you make up your mind 🙂 And I will say that this book is getting A LOT of 5 star reviews on Goodreads so this may be just an issue with my expectations vs what the author intended to deliver.

I went into Accidentally Family thinking I was getting a romance between Felicity and Graham. And I did, to a certain extent, but it is also about their miscellaneous family members and all of the troubles that everyone is experiencing. We get a decent amount of time with Felicity and Graham as they reconnect, with Graham’s issues with his daughter (although that isn’t totally resolved by book’s end), and with Felicity’s family dealing with the new baby.

However, a good portion was also spent with Felicty’s sister and Felicity’s daughter, Honor. Both of them are handling upheaval in their lives and potential romances. I’m somewhat used to these ensemble women’s fiction type stories but usually we get a resolution if a lot of time was spent on the character. And that’s not what happens here. It’s like Summers is setting up books for both of them and spending a pretty decent number of pages doing it. I didn’t mind but it left things open ended for both of them and somewhat short-changed Felicity & Graham. Their romance was almost an afterthought to the development of all the different characters. I think if it had all been wrapped up by the last page I might not have felt a little cheated.

The characters are well-developed, though, with complicated family issues that they handle in the best way they can. It’s sweet, emotional, and complex. I like them all and can’t wait to see where things are going for them next … I just wish I’d started it with a different mindset.

*****

Author Info:

Sasha Summers grew up surrounded by books. Her passions have always been storytelling, romance and travel–passions she uses when writing. Now a best-selling and award winning-author, Sasha continues to fall a little in love with each hero she writes. From easy-on-the-eyes cowboy, sexy alpha-male werewolves, to heroes of truly mythic proportions, she believes that everyone should have their happy ending–in fiction and real life.

Sasha lives in the suburbs of the Texas Hill country with her amazing and supportive family and her beloved grumpy cat, Gerard, The Feline Overlord. She looks forward to hearing from fans and hopes you’ll visit her online. Facebook: Sasha Summers Author, Twitter: @sashawrites, or her website: http://www.sashasummers.com

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*****

Spotlight – More Than Neighbors

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Shannon Stacey has created some of my favorite romantic pairings … and she hasn’t lost her touch!

*****

More Than Neighbors

by Shannon Stacey

on-sale June 16, 2020

Blurb:

The only thing they have in common is a property line! Cam Maguire is in Blackberry Bay to unravel a family secret. Meredith Price has moved next door with her daughter. He’s unattached. She’s a widowed single mom. He’s owned by a cat. She’s definitely team canine. All these neighbors have in common is a property line. One they cross…over and over. And Cam thought he knew what he wanted—until his family’s secret changes everything.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/More-than-Neighbors-Blackberry-Book-ebook/dp/B08337V9GG/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=more+than+neighbors%2C+stacey&qid=1587390776&s=books&sr=1-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/more-than-neighbors-shannon-stacey/1135744197?ean=9781335894694

Google: https://books.google.ca/books/about/More_Than_Neighbors.html?id=7DQGzQEACAAJ&redir_esc=y

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335894694

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488069901_more-than-neighbors.html

*****

Excerpt:

“So you’re staying for the summer, you said? Where do you usually live?”

“New York City, actually.”

Her hazel eyes widened. “Wow. That’s quite a change in pace.”

“It is, but I was ready to get away for a while.” “What do you do in the city?”

“I work for my dad,” he said, which wasn’t technically a lie, but wasn’t entirely accurate, either. “A lot of accounting and paperwork and boring stuff like that.”

She was cute when she wrinkled her nose. “I’m not a fan of boring math-related paperwork.”

A yelp from across the yard caught her attention and she turned to see Elinor swipe at the white puff-ball. Sophie was frowning and picked the dog up, turning her body so the cat couldn’t see him any-more.

“Your cat appears to be bullying my dog.”

“She’s not my cat. And you’re embarrassing your dog by even making that claim right now.”

She arched an eyebrow at him. “If you don’t think cats can bully dogs, you don’t spend a lot of time on the internet.”

“She just wants the dog to know who’s boss, I guess.”

“It’s his yard,” she pointed out.

“She’s a cat.”

“Point taken.” A genuine smile lit up her face and made her eyes crinkle. “They’ll get used to each other. And speaking of that, now that I know you’re going to be my neighbor for a while, I should prob-ably introduce myself properly. I’m Meredith Price, and that’s Sophie and Oscar.”

“Calvin Maguire,” he said, extending his hand. “But everybody calls me Cam.”

As she shook his hand, he noted how soft the skin was and had to resist rubbing his thumb over it.

She tilted her head as she smoothly pulled her hand away from his. “How do you get Cam from Calvin?”

“My initials. Calvin Anthony Maguire.” His mouth twisted in a wry smile. “The fourth.”

“Interesting.”

“It was a better alternative than being Little Cal for my entire life.” He didn’t really want to open him-self up to more questions about his family, since they were the last thing he wanted to talk about. “Since Oscar’s from California, let me guess. Oscar de la Renta?”

She laughed. “Oscar the Grouch.”

“You’re kidding.” He looked at the dog again, who looked like the kind they put on the packaging of fancy dog food. “I don’t really see the resemblance, but maybe it’s a personality thing.”

“He’s actually named after Sophie’s favorite book at the time, and trust me, we spent days explaining to her why we couldn’t make his hair green.”

“He doesn’t bark a lot, does he?”

“I wouldn’t say he barks a lot.” She glanced at the dog before giving him a sheepish look. “It’s more like a really high-pitched yip.”

“That’ll be fun while I’m reading over spread-sheets,” he said, picturing spending his summer being harassed by a stubborn cat and a high-strung dog. “Maybe I should have packed my noise- canceling headphones.”

She looked startled for a second and then her eyes narrowed. “I have a child and a dog, so I guess you’ll just have to figure out how to make it work.”

“Maybe a muzzle?” he asked, but he wasn’t really serious. Yipping dogs weren’t his favorite, but he wasn’t a total jerk.

She stared at him for a long moment before giving him an arch look. “I don’t know if I can find one in your size, but I can try.”

Cam chuckled, appreciating her comeback, but she didn’t even crack a smile. Maybe she hadn’t been joking. And maybe she’d thought he wasn’t, either.

“If you’ll excuse me, we just arrived and I have a lot to do.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said as she walked, and she held up her hand in what looked more like a dismissive gesture than a wave.

That was fine. If she wanted to play that game, she’d find out he didn’t really care that much. She and her yipping dog could stay in her yard and he’d stay in his.

He had better things to do, anyway. Like learning more about Carolina Archambault, and figuring out how to convince her cat he was the boss.

*****

Author Info:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shannon Stacey lives with her husband and two sons in New England, where her two favorite activities are writing stories of happily ever after and off-roading with her friends and family. You can contact Shannon through her website, http://www.shannonstacey.com, as well as sign up for her newsletter.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49875473-more-than-neighbors?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=BPmoRsG1Za&rank=1

Author website: https://shannonstacey.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shannonstacey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shannonstacey.authorpage

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

*****

Spotlight – The Summer Set

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Who else is ready for some humor to brighten up your day?

*****

The Summer Set

by Aimee Agresti

ISBN: 9781525823589

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

Publisher: Graydon House Books

Blurb:

With a setting inspired by the real-life Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires where stars like Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Graham, and Chris Pine have performed, The Summer Set (Graydon House Books; May 12; $17.99) is a salacious rom-com, beach read perfect for Broadway nerds and Hollywood gossips alike.

Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood’s hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she’s pushing forty, exiled from the film world back at the summer Shakespeare theater in the Berkshires that launched her career—and where her first love, Nick, is the artistic director.

It’s not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself thriving: bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships, and even reigniting her spark with Nick despite their complicated history.

Until Charlie’s old rival, Hollywood’s current “It Girl,” is brought on set, threatening to undo everything she’s been working towards. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on one heck of a show to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.

Harlequin | Barnes & NobleAmazonBooks-A-MillionPowell’s

*****

Excerpt:

2

I MISSED YOU TOO

Charlie studied herself in her bathroom mirror. In just a week her bruised eye had faded to the dull gray of rancid meat, now easily disguised by concealer. She flat-ironed her raven hair, securing it in a sleek, low ponytail, then rummaged the closet for her most professional-looking getup: that slim black suit, pale pink silk blouse with the bow at the neck and the stilettos she only wore when she felt compelled to impress. Her wardrobe from that perfume ad a decade earlier but timeless nonetheless, just like the moniker that had been etched in script on the curved bottle of the fragrance.

Outside, Boston did its best impersonation of her supposed hometown, London. (Though she had lived away from there enough during childhood to have eluded the accent.) The dreary May rain made her think of her mom: the estimable Dame Sarah Rose Kingsbury. News of Charlie’s incident had warranted mentions in a few celebrity weeklies and, unfortunately, made the hop across the pond. Her mother had called, texted and finally, after no response, emailed: Charlie, Did you receive my voice mail and text? I trust you’re alright. Another of your stunts? Please respond. Love, Mum. Her mom’s correspondence always scanned like a telegram, full of stops and full stops—much like their relationship itself. Charlie, reveling in being briefly unreachable and not in the mood to answer questions, hadn’t yet bothered to replace her phone and had indeed missed the call but wrote back assuring her mom that she was fine, though the accident had not, in fact, been performance art.

By the time Charlie reached the foreboding Suffolk County Courthouse, her lawyer/friend Sam—who had shepherded her through the theater purchase (while questioning her sanity)—was already there pacing, barking into her phone.

“This should be easy,” Sam told her, hanging up, hugging her while scrolling her inbox. Sam wore suits and radiated responsibility, two things Charlie found comforting in a lawyer. “Be contrite and it should be open-and-shut for community service.”

The sterile courtroom’s pin-drop silence made Charlie shiver. Next to her, Sam tucked her phone in her bag and rose to her feet, gesturing for Charlie to stand as the judge materialized at the bench. Charlie found it oddly reassuring that the judge was the kind of woman who wore pearls and a frilly collar outside her robe.

“You were okay with my email, right?” Sam whispered, as they sat again.

“What email?” she whispered back.

“My email. An hour ago? You have got to get a new phone,” Sam scolded.

“I know, I know—”

“There was this arrangement, last minute, I hope you’ll be amenable to but—”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlie pleaded.

The judge had begun speaking, so Sam hushed her. Too late.

“Ms. Savoy, this is the part where I get to talk.” The judge looked up from the paper she had been reading aloud. “Maybe it was different in your episodes of Law & Order?”

“No, ma’am, I mean, Your Honor, sir, ma’am, no,” Charlie stumbled. She had been wrong about the judge. The woman continued on about the damage Charlie caused and the significant hours of service required like Charlie was the honoree at one of those Comedy Central roasts, albeit one that could end with her in a jail cell.

Until finally, the judge cut to the chase: “…an assignment has presented itself,” she said slowly. “Which will make fine use of Ms. Savoy’s expertise…” Charlie caught Sam’s side-eye. “So Charlotte Savoy shall be required to complete sixty days with the Chamberlain Summer Theater in—”

“NO!” Charlie expelled the word, an anaphylactic response. The judge scowled as though jail might still be an option. “Sorry, Your Honor, I just mean—can I object?” Sam shot her a lethal glare. “It’s just that, well—” Charlie tried again as a door at the back of the courtroom creaked open, footsteps echoing. She turned to discover the equivalent of a ghost.

Nick Blunt—director, ex, first love, disappointment, invertebrate—heading her way.

“Mr. Blunt, thank you for joining us,” the judge said, unimpressed.

Charlie’s posture straightened, heartbeat ticking faster than seemed medically sound. She felt betrayed by her own being, muscles, nerves, ashamed of this reaction.

“Sorry, Your Honor,” he said in that deep rasp.

Charlie wished she hated that voice. And it seemed an abomination that he could still be attractive—physically at least.

Rugged with an athletic build, he wore black jeans, a blazer and aviator sunglasses, which he pulled off as he walked (pure affectation since, to her knowledge, it was still raining outside), tucking them into the V of his slim sweater.

He took his place beside Charlie, flashing that smile he deployed when he aimed to be his most charming.

“Hi there,” he said, as though surprised to be meeting this way.

“Shouldn’t you be wearing a cape?” Charlie rolled her eyes, focused on the judge reading again, and returned her body to its proper slouch, recalibrating her expression between boredom and disgust.

“I missed you too, Charlie,” he whispered back.

From the corner of her eye, Charlie spotted the sharp beak of that tattoo—the meadowlark—curving around from the back of his neck. It was still there, which gave her a pang of affection, a flare-up she forced herself to snuff out. She imagined how they might look to those few people sitting in the rows behind them. Nick and her with these identical birds inked onto the backs of their necks, midflight and gazing at each other anytime he stood on her right side, as he did now. Mirror images, bookends, the birds’ once-vibrant golden hue as faded as the memory of the hot, sticky night she and Nick had stolen away from campus to get them together.

Over the years, she had considered having hers removed or morphed into some other design, but why should she? She liked it. At face value. Charlie sighed again, more loudly than intended, as her mind sped to how this summer would now be.

“Ms. Savoy, is there a problem?” the judge asked, irked.

“Your Honor, I just wondered—is there a littered park or something? Instead?”

“We’re fine, Your Honor.” Sam patted Charlie’s arm in warning.

“Ms. Savoy will report to service June 1.” The judge slammed the gavel, which, to Charlie, sounded like a nail being hammered into a coffin.

“I had a client last week who’s cleaning restrooms at South Station this summer,” Sam said apologetically as they walked out.

Charlie just charged ahead down the hall, an urgent need to escape, her mind struggling to process it all.

“So, craziest thing happened,” Nick launched in, catching up to them at the elevator. “I was reading the news and saw about your little mishap—” He sounded truly concerned for a moment.

“Don’t pretend like you don’t have a Google alert on me,” Charlie cut him off, stabbing the down button too many times.

“You always were a terrible driver—”

“That river came outta nowhere—”

“But a stellar swimmer—”

She nodded once. She couldn’t argue with that.

He went on, “So I made a few calls and—”

“Don’t be fooled by…that.” She waved her hand back toward the courtroom. “You need me more than I need you.”

The elevator opened.

“We’ll see about that.” He let them on first. Charlie hit the button again-again-again to close the doors, but he made it in. “How long has it been, anyway?”

“You know how long it’s been,” she said as the doors closed so she was now looking at their reflection. It had been six years, three months, two weeks and two days since they last saw each other. At the long-awaited premiere for Midnight Daydream—which should’ve been a thrilling night since a series of snags had pushed the film’s release date back two years after filming. But instead of celebratory toasts, it had ended with a glass of the party’s signature cocktail—a messy blackberry-infused bourbon concoction the shade of the night sky—being thrown. In retrospect, she thought, there’d been so many signs the movie was cursed.

“You’re just mad your self-imposed exile is over.” He smirked.

“Always with the probing psychoanalysis.” She watched the floor numbers descend, doors finally opening.

Sam scurried out ahead of them. “My work here is done. I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.” She gave Charlie an air-kiss before striding off.

“Wait, no, I just need to—” Charlie tried to stop her, but Sam had already hopped in a cab.

“So, I have an office not too far, off Newbury Street, off-season headquarters for Chamberlain—” Nick started.

“Luckily you’re usually phoning it in, so I haven’t had the privilege of running into you around town.” She walked ahead in the cool, pelting rain.

He stayed where he was. “I’d invite you out for a drink—”

“It’s, like, 10 a.m. That’s too early. Even for you—” She glanced back.

“Summer is gorgeous in the Berkshires, as you may recall,” he shouted, sunglasses back on, absurdly, and that smile again. “Welcome back to Chamberlain, Charlie.

Excerpted from The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti, Copyright © 2020 by Aimee Agresti. 

Published by Graydon House Books.

*****

Author Info:

Aimee Agresti is the author of Campaign Widows and The Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine’s coffee table book Inside Hollywood. Aimee’s work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer, and she has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. Aimee graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.

Author Website

Twitter: @AimeeAgresti

Instagram: @aimeeagresti

Facebook: @AimeeAgrestiAuthor

Goodreads

*****

Spotlight – Forbidden Lust

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Who’s maybe looking for something a smidge on the improper side?

*****

Forbidden Lust

Dynasties: Seven Sins miniseries

by Karen Booth

on-sale June 2, 2020

Blurb:

A secluded island resort is the perfect romantic setting for the night of passionate abandon Allison Randall plans to share with Zane Patterson. Her elder brother’s best friend has always been off-limits…and Zane is determined to keep it that way. But when a storm strands them together, neither can hold back. Everything Allison dreamed of is finally in reach…until unwelcome revelations threaten a rude awakening!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Forbidden-Lust-Dynasties-Seven-Sins-ebook/dp/B0816Z43BC/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=forbidden+lust%2C+karen&qid=1587390466&s=books&sr=1-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forbidden-lust-karen-booth/1134800042?ean=9781335209146

Google: https://books.google.ca/books/about/Forbidden_Lust.html?id=rKevywEACAAJ&redir_esc=y

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335209146

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488062933_forbidden-lust.html

*****

Excerpt:

One man’s betrayal can destroy generations. Ten years ago, a hedge-fund hotshot vanished with billions, leaving the high-powered families of Falling Brook changed forever. Now seven heirs, shaped by his betrayal, must reckon with the sins of the past. Passion may be their only path to redemption. Experience all Seven Sins!

Zane’s pulse skipped a beat as the aircraft floated down to the tiny landing strip and bounced its way to an abrupt stop. Another five hundred yards and they would’ve been in the ocean. Engines whirring, the plane taxied around to a modest outbuilding—yellow with a rust-red roof. The crew quickly opened the cabin door, and Zane whipped off his seat belt, sucking in his first sweet breath of Bahamian air. Sunglasses on, he surveyed the landscape from his vantage point at the top of the plane stairs. Palm trees rustled in the wind, and gauzy white clouds rolled across the seemingly endless stretch of azure sky. This was exactly what he’d needed. He knew it already.

A driver from Rose Cove, the boutique resort owned by Scott’s aunt and uncle, met him outside the airport building, and after a quick zip through customs, Zane was on his way to the marina in a golf cart. From there, a speedboat captain named Marcus took Zane for the two-mile trip to Rose Cove Island, off the southernmost tip of Eleuthera. The water was tranquil and clear, the wind buzzing through Zane’s ears as the boat sliced through the water and the sun blanketed him in warmth. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and powered it down. He had zero plans to look at it while he was in paradise. He not only needed to unwind, he wanted to disappear. Fall-ing Brook, the Lowell family and Black Crescent weren’t even a distant thought—they’d evaporated from his mind.

Pulling up to the dock at Rose Cove, Zane was struck by the beauty of the pink sand beaches from which the tiny private island got its name. Marcus directed him down a crushed-seashell path through a tropical forest so shaded by palm trees that it was a good ten degrees cooler. Colorful birds chirped and flitted from tree to tree, while the occasional lizard. skittered across the sandy ground to hide behind a rock. He eventually reached a clearing with a white single-story building of colonial architecture, with a porch that wrapped around the entire structure. In-side, Zane finally got to meet Scott’s aunt Angelique.

“Welcome to Rose Cove!” she exclaimed, rushing out from behind the check-in desk, wearing a beautiful turquoise sundress, flat sandals and her braided hair pulled up in a twist. Despite her enthusiasm, Angelique’s peaceful voice suggested that she lived her life at a pace far different from the rest of the world’s. “My nephew has told me so much about you.” She gave him a hug, showing the same warmth Zane had found in Scott’s entire family. He already felt at home here. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to leave.

“You can’t believe everything Scott says,” Zane joked.

Angelique smiled wide. “He had nothing but great things to say.” She bustled back behind the counter and unfolded what appeared to be a map. “Here’s all you need to know about the island. This is the main building, where my husband, Hubert, and I live.” She circled a picture of the building where they were. “The ten cottages spoke out from here and are a good distance from each other for privacy. You’re in cottage number eight. You have a quiet stretch of beach, a hammock and a private plunge pool. There’s a beautiful king-size bed, a luxury bath and a fully stocked kitchen. Or our staff will bring you breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Simply fill out the card waiting for you in your room. Until then, I invite you to relax and enjoy the island. Perhaps say hello to your neighbor in cottage nine. She’s been waiting for you to arrive.”

“A neighbor?” A she, no less? Perhaps this was Zane’s lucky day, although there was a part of him that knew his tendency to get lost in women was not his best trait. Really, he should be focusing on fishing and swimming while detoxing from social media and the internet.

“My niece, Allison. She arrived a few hours ago.” Zane’s jaw dropped so far he had to make a conscious decision to close his mouth. He was flabbergasted. What were the chances that he and Allison would end up on the island at the same time? “Alli-son is here. On this island. Right now.”

“Is there a problem?”

He shook his head so fast he nearly lost his sun- glasses, which were resting on top of his head. “Absolutely not. I love Allison. I’m just surprised. I’ll have to stop over and say hi.” He hadn’t seen Allison much in the years since he graduated from high school. He’d gone to college in North Carolina on a basket-ball scholarship, and when he returned to Falling Brook after four years, she was off to school in Los Angeles, where she stayed to start a business. She returned every Christmas, but Zane always seemed to be visiting his mom in Boston at the same time.

But three weeks ago Scott’s wife, Brittney, invited both Allison and Zane to a surprise birthday dinner she was having for Scott. Allison flew in for the weekend. The instant Zane saw her, he knew exactly how good the years had been to Allison—almost too good. She’d taken a straight line from cute to drop-dead gorgeous. Her long and wavy black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, showing off the incredible depth and warmth of her brown eyes. The chemistry of the entire room shifted when she smiled or laughed. He’d always found her interesting and a bit otherworldly, with a style and vibe all her own, but that night he was transfixed.

She’d surprised him many times when they were younger, like the day she got her nose pierced, but she’d flat-out shocked him that night at Scott’s house. She kissed him—soft and sensuous and so packed with sexy intent that he’d felt the earth shift beneath him. He was so conditioned to think of Allison only as his best friend’s little sister that he’d been wholly unprepared for Allison, the fully formed woman. And with Scott in the other room, a man to whom there would be no explaining, Zane had done the unthinkable that night. He’d pushed beautiful, beguiling Allison away.

*****

Author Info:

Karen Booth is a Midwestern girl transplanted in the South, raised on 80s music, Judy Blume, and the films of John Hughes. She loves to write big city love stories. When she takes a break from the art of romance, she’s teaching her kids about good music, honing her Southern cooking skills, or sweet-talking her super-supportive husband into mixing up a cocktail.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48734295-forbidden-lust?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=ZIQLoSY19a&rank=2

Author website: https://karenbooth.net/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/karenbbooth

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

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

*****

Spotlight – Ambush Before Sunrise

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Who thinks a hot cowboy and a little bit of danger might help take your mind off of things?

*****

Ambush Before Sunrise

by B.J. Daniels

on-sale May 19, 2020

Blurb:

Wrangler Angus Savage has come to Wyoming to help Jinx McCallahan get her cattle to high country. He’s signed on for the dangerous drive, eager to reconnect with the woman he knew when they were kids. Now in the wilderness the no-nonsense cowboy and the strong-willed rancher must navigate the trail’s many hazards—like her treacherous ex who wants her back…or dead.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ambush-before-Sunrise-Cardwell-Ranch-ebook/dp/B081D5TKK5/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=ambush+before+sunrise%2C+daniels&qid=1587390133&s=books&sr=1-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ambush-before-sunrise-b-j-daniels/1134633065?ean=9781335136510

Google: https://books.google.ca/books/about/Ambush_before_Sunrise.html?id=WMq9DwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335136510

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335136510_ambush-before-sunrise.html

*****

Excerpt:

JINX WATCHED ANGUS GO. She still hadn’t figured out why he seemed so familiar. Nor had he said anything. She sighed and rose to take her dishes back to Max.

“I can take those for you,” Brick said, shooting to his feet.

She smiled but shook her head. “Stay here by the fire with Ella.” She was glad when he sat back down. She needed to be alone. Brick was sweet and a good wrangler. He amused her with his blatant attempts to charm her, but he was wasting his time. While he resembled his brother, they didn’t seem to be anything alike. Angus was a mystery to her.

The more she was around him, the more she felt a strange sense that they’d been here before. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she knew this man, as in another life. It was crazy. Sometimes she’d find herself studying his face as if a memory was so close she could almost touch it.

“He’s handsome, isn’t he?” Max asked, startling her. She hadn’t realized that she’d reached the chuck-wagon. Her mind had been miles away.

“Pardon?” she asked, turning to face him as she conjured up her most innocent face.

Max laughed. “You were staring at Angus Savage—and not for the first time, I might add.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was…thinking.”

“Thinking? I can just imagine.” He turned back to his cooking.

She didn’t want to know what he’d imagined. Nor did she want to continue this conversation. Still, she asked, “Have you ever run across someone you felt as if you knew in another life?”

He chuckled. “That your story?”

“I’m serious.”

Max turned to look at her. “I can see that. I suppose it’s possible the two of you met before. Your mother and his were good friends.” The cook frowned. “I think she took you with her up to Cardwell Ranch once years ago.” So that could have been it, she thought. “You don’t remember?”

She shook her head and yet as he said it, she had an image come to mind of mountains shooting up from a green river bottom and a large red barn set against a wall of rock and pine trees. A memory teased at her. “How old would I have been?”

“Eight or nine,” he said as he turned back to his cleaning up. “You didn’t stay long, just overnight, I think. That’s probably why you don’t remember.”

But she did remember a little. Now it really nagged at her. It wasn’t just that she’d seen him before. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened during that visit; she was sure of it.

She turned to look at Angus again. He’d rejoined his brother and cousin on a log by the fire. His face shone in the campfire light. Max was right about one thing; the cowboy was handsome as sin. Had he remembered her? He would have been a little older than she was by a couple of years at least.

“Why don’t you just ask him?” Max said with a laugh. “Otherwise, it’s going to drive you crazy.”

He was right about that, as well, but what if Angus didn’t remember her? She’d feel foolish. Then again, what if he did? What if he was just waiting for her to say something?

“While you’re making up your mind, why don’t you hand me your dishes?” Max said with a shake of his head as he took them from her.

Leaving camp, she checked the cattle, glad that Brick and Royce had volunteered to take the first shift. She didn’t expect trouble. Not tonight. T.D. was angry and vengeful, but he never planned ahead. He knew she was taking the herd up into the high country for summer grazing today. Maybe he would even wait until she returned to continue threatening her, rather than try to catch them. His laziness might pay off for her.

But unfortunately, she also knew that her being up here in the mountains put her at a disadvantage. T.D. wasn’t stupid. He would realize how vulnerable she was up here. Anything could happen in the mountains on a cattle drive. People got injured. Others died. And T.D. was desperate to get his hands on her ranch. He would come after her.

In the distance she heard a coyote howl. Another answered, then another. She was more worried about wolves and bears, than coyotes. But she could only protect her herd so much. It was the nature of the business.

The camp was quiet as she walked back toward the fire. From out of the dark shadows, she spotted a lone figure still illuminated in the flames. Ella gave her a nod as she pulled up the log next to her again. The heat of the blaze felt good this high in the mountains since it was only early June.

Jinx could feel the long day in the saddle in her muscles. She yearned for sleep, but it had been hard to come by for some time now. It wasn’t just T.D. who haunted her dreams.

*****

Author Info:

About B.J. Daniels: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author B.J. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, and three springer spaniels. When not writing, she quilts, boats and plays tennis. Contact her at http://www.bjdaniels.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BJ-Daniels/127936587217837 or on twitter at bjdanielsauthor.

Website: http://www.bjdaniels.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48829281-ambush-before-sunrise

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bjdanielsauthor?lang=e

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BJ-Daniels-127936587217837/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/b.j.daniels/?hl=en

*****

Book Review – Wylde

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Who’s ready to get a little … all right, a lot … Wylde  😉

*****

Wylde

Arizona Vengeance, Book #7

by Sawyer Bennett

Release Date: May 12, 2020

Blurb:

There’s a reason they call me Wylde and it’s not just because it’s my last name.

I might be one of the newest players on the Arizona Vengeance team, but I’m no stranger to the celebrity that goes along with being a professional hockey player. Whether it’s a fan seeking an autograph or a puck bunny looking for more, I’ve grown used to the attention. I not only thrive on it; I use it to my advantage. Let’s just say my bed is rarely empty.

When a quirky redhead at the local bookstore stops me dead in my tracks, I decide to pop in and turn on the trusty Wylde magic. As smart and strong-willed as she is beautiful, Clarke Webber isn’t swayed by my witty banter or charming good looks. And when she realizes who I am and the fame that comes along with it, she likes me even less. Thankfully, I’m always up for a challenge. The more I get to know about her, the more I know my playboy days are behind me.

If I’m going to capture Clarke’s heart, it’s time to be a lot less Wylde, and a lot more Aaron.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZnaAI7

Nook: http://bit.ly/31XoQFe

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

Google: http://bit.ly/2UnShj3

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2zbvr2u

Print: https://amzn.to/3bau9qk

Audible (narrated by Teddy Hamilton & CJ Bloom): https://adbl.co/2Kh5gN6

*****

Review:

I really enjoyed Bennett’s newest – it’s straight-forward, sweet, and relatable. Some of the others in the series may have had more drama or action or heartbreak but I have to say that the one thing they all have in common is the author’s ability to deliver a satisfying read every time. And this time is NO different.

I like Clarke. She’s normal, spunky, and willing to move out of her comfort zone here and there. Nothing can really prepare her for Aaron Wylde, and she makes him work for dates, but he’s charming (doesn’t he know it) and manages to wrangle a few outings out of her … she’s a goner after that.

While Wylde has been living up to his name, I think that life was telling him that it was time for something more by putting Clarke into his path. No one is going to make a relationship work if they aren’t ready for it and it is obvious pretty quickly that Aaron’s wild days are over. Bennett probably could have made it harder for him, especially with his childhood, but the family that he’s making with the Vengeance has done a good job of showing him what it is all about. He’s had awesome examples of coupledom and he steps up like a pro when he needs to.

It’s pretty obvious from the start that Clarke’s issues are going to play a roll in the story but once Aaron wriggles his way into her life she does try pretty darn hard to get over her past. And I appreciate that Bennett doesn’t make it into too much of a dramafest. Instead she gives us an charming story of two people getting to know each other, falling in love, and working through a rough patch, which they handle like adults.

While returning readers will enjoy seeing past couples again, Wylde can easily stand on its own. (Although new readers might want to make space on their bookshelf for the backlist …)

*****

Author Info:

Since the release of her debut contemporary romance novel, Off Sides, in January 2013, Sawyer Bennett has released multiple books, many of which have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.

A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to erotic contemporary romance, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.

Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active daughter, as well as full-time servant to her adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others, and that a bad day can be cured with a great work-out, cake, or even better, both.

Sawyer also writes general and women’s fiction under the pen name S. Bennett and sweet romance under the name Juliette Poe.

Facebookhttp://bit.ly/Sawyer_FB 

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Master Blogger List: http://bit.ly/Sawyer_Bloggers

*****

Spotlight – Her Amish Suitor’s Secret

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I just love these Amish stories. There is something so wholesome and uplifting about them.

*****

Her Amish Suitor’s Secret

by Carrie Lighte

on-sale May 19, 2020

Blurb:

Sometimes the truth comes at a cost. Can she forgive him when she learns his true identity?

Posing as an Amish groundskeeper at Rose Allgyer’s lakeside cabin retreat, Englischer Caleb Miller is determined to clear his brother’s name of theft. But as he’s drawn to Rose’s good nature, the burden of his ruse gets heavier—especially after learning Rose was deceived by her ex-fiancé. Still guarded, will Rose trust Caleb with her heart when she discovers he isn’t who he claims to be?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ambush-before-Sunrise-Cardwell-Ranch-ebook/dp/B081D5TKK5/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=ambush+before+sunrise%2C+daniels&qid=1587390133&s=books&sr=1-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-amish-suitors-secret-carrie-lighte/1134876523?ean=9781335488176

Google: https://books.google.ca/books/about/Her_Amish_Suitor_s_Secret_Amish_of_Seren.html?id=b-XBDwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335488176

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488060199_her-amish-suitors-secret.html

*****

Excerpt:

“Isn’t it quiet where you live in Wisconsin?”

“It’s not this quiet. This peaceful. There’s something about being here, where sometimes the loudest sound I hear is water lapping the shore… It makes me feel so calm. I feel like that when I’m working in the fields, too. Probably because when I was young I used to es-cape to the garden when—”

Rose stopped paddling, eager to hear the rest of his sentence. He hardly ever talked about his youth. “When what?” she pressed, looking over her shoulder to get a glimpse of his face.

Over the past couple of weeks while chatting with Rose, Caleb had occasionally forgotten to guard his Englisch identity, but until now, he’d always guarded his emotions, especially those concerning his upbringing. He hadn’t meant to disclose his feelings tonight—he hadn’t even intended to spend any time alone with Rose. But opening up to her seemed to happen naturally, in spite of yesterday’s resolution to put distance between himself and the Amish of Serenity Ridge. So he continued, “My mamm and daed bickered a lot and it helped to go outdoors to get away from them. When I was gardening, I forgot about their troubles. Tending to Gott’s creation made me feel… Well, it made me feel tranquil.” Kind of like how I feel right now.

Caleb had also stopped paddling and mild waves gently rocked the canoe. In the moonlight, he could see Rose’s eyebrows were furrowed and she appeared to be contemplating what he’d just said. After a quiet spell, she questioned, “Does gardening still bring you a sense of tranquility?”

“Jah, it does.” Caleb’s mouth went dry as he anticipated her next question: she was going to ask why he’d become a teacher instead of a farmer, and he couldn’t drum up a credible reply.

Instead, she gave him a fetching smile and, before twisting forward in her seat again, she added, “I’m glad. For our sake, as well as for yours.”

Caleb let his breath out slowly. He dipped his paddle into the water and Rose did, too. As they journeyed he thought about how amazing it felt to confide in her. Maybe he wasn’t being honest about the facts of his life, but tonight he’d been honest about his emotions. And even though Rose’s back was to him as she sat in the bow, there was something so…not necessarily romantic, but so personal about being with her that he’d never felt with his friends or any of the women he’d ever dated. Rose seems to enjoy spending time with me, too, Caleb rationalized. So what’s the harm in continuing to develop friendships here as long as no one finds out I’m Englisch?

When they pulled onto the shore near the trailhead by Paradise Point, Caleb hopped out and dragged the canoe several feet up the embankment so Rose wouldn’t get her shoes wet, and then they headed for the forested path. It was much darker beneath the trees than on the open water, so Rose shone the flashlight on the ground in front of her. Caleb initially tried to follow in her foot-steps but after tripping twice, he decided to accompany her side by side on the narrow path in order to get the benefit of the light.

“I think we should talk so we don’t startle any animals,” Rose announced loudly. “Or we should sing.”

“My singing would frighten the animals,” Caleb jested.

“In that case, you should have serenaded the skunks on the porch—maybe they would have left.”

“Or they would have sprayed me,” Caleb said. “This probably isn’t the right time to ask, but are there many other kinds of animals in these woods?”

“Serenity Ridge has a family of moose that sometimes make their presence known. The other night when I was coming back from the dining hall, I thought I heard one in the bushes behind me, but then it went quiet.”

Caleb’s ears perked up. “What night was that?”

“I think it was last Monday or Tuesday, but don’t worry, it turned out to be a deer—I saw its tracks on the path. That’s the thing about animals and buwe—they always leave tracks. When my breider were young, my mamm always knew when they’d been exploring down by the swamp instead of doing their chores because of what her kitchen floor looked like. You’d think it would occur to them to take off their shoes before they came inside, but it never did,” Rose said, giggling.

For the rest of their hike Caleb asked questions about her siblings and their families, and he told her a couple anecdotes about Ryan, too. Finally the trees thinned out and Rose announced they were nearing the summit. Caleb was about to remark he wished they’d brought re-freshments when he heard a noise in the distance, almost a metallic sound, or like something scraping against a rock. He came to a halt and tugged Rose’s arm to make her stop, too. With his chin nearly resting on her shoul-der, he whispered into her ear, “What was that?”

“I didn’t hear anything,” she whispered back, and flashed the light into the woods on one side of the path and then the other. Caleb didn’t see anything unusual. He didn’t hear anything unusual, either, other than the thundering of his pulse, which was probably more from standing so close to Rose than from being alarmed. Half a minute passed and nothing stirred in the woods.

He must have imagined it, Caleb thought, merely two seconds before an earsplitting shot reverberated through the night air.

*****

Author Info:

Carrie Lighte enjoys traveling to Amish communities across the United States and she hopes to visit a few in Canada soon, too. When she isn’t writing, reading or researching, she likes to hike, kayak and spend time at the beach.

Website: https://www.carrielighte.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48829268-her-amish-suitor-s-secret

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarrieLighte

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

*****

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Spotlight – Wrong Turn

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Ready to go on a crazy adventure?!?!?

*****

Wrong Turn

RoadTripping #2

by Samantha Chase

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Blurb:

Chelsea Cooper thinks her best friend’s fiancé is the world’s biggest jerk.

She’s never really been one to make waves, but when it comes to that guy, Chelsea’s willing to make an exception. There’s just no way she can let her best friend make the biggest mistake of her life by marrying him. She’ll do anything to stop the wedding, even if it means teaming up with the one person who’s an even bigger jerk—the groom-to-be’s best friend.

Drew Russo thinks his best friend’s fiancée’s best friend is the prickliest woman alive.

Everything about Chelsea aggravates him. She’s too structured, too uptight, and too opinionated—especially when it comes to her thoughts on his best friend. When he’s tasked with keeping her away from their best friends’ secret wedding, Drew knows he’s in for one hell of a challenge. Never mind the days he’ll have to spend trapped in a car with the world’s most annoying woman.

The plan is simple enough—keep Chelsea from interfering with the wedding. But between distractions, delays and detours, they discover they aren’t the enemies they thought they were. And sometimes a wrong turn can lead you in the right direction.

Warning—This sweet, sexy, and laugh out loud funny romance is filled with all the most ridiculous road trip stories you can imagine and will make you realize sometimes being wrong can be a lot more fun than being right.

Goodreads: https://geni.us/WrongTurn-GR

Amazon: https://geni.us/WrongTurnKindle

Apple: https://geni.us/WrongTurnApple

Nook: https://geni.us/WrongTurnBN

Kobo: https://geni.us/WrongTurnKobo

Google Play: https://geni.us/WrongTurnGoogle

*****

Author Info:

Samantha Chase is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller of contemporary romance. She released her debut novel in 2011 and currently has more than forty titles under her belt! When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook, wearing a tiara while playing with her sassy pug Maylene…oh, and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their two sons in North Carolina.

Website: https://www.chasing-romance.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamanthaChase3

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

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

Newsletter: https://www.chasing-romance.com/newsletter

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/samantha-chase

*****

Spotlight – Her Hidden Hope

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Who couldn’t use an extra dose of HEA right about now?

*****

Her Hidden Hope

by Jill Lynn

on-sale April 21, 2020

Blurb:

Asking for forgiveness is the hardest part. She once trusted him with her heart…but will she ever trust him with the truth?

With only two weeks to renovate her family’s Colorado B and B, struggling single mom Addie Ricci can’t turn away help. Especially not when it’s her handsome high school sweetheart, Evan Hawke, who’s offering to pitch in. As they repair the B and B, Addie and Evan also begin rebuilding their relationship…until a secret from their past threatens to bring it all crashing down.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Her-Hidden-Hope-Colorado-Grooms/dp/1335429549

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-hidden-hope-jill-lynn/1133998232?ean=9781335488145

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jill_Lynn_Her_Hidden_Hope?id=qEvKDwAAQBAJ

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335488145

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488060168_her-hidden-hope.html    Use coupon code LINSP20 at checkout to save 20% off any Love Inspired or Love Inspired Suspense title.*

*****

Excerpt:

Addie was straddling a fence between the fields of gratefulness and guilt, and she planned to hop down.

Soon.

Yesterday afternoon, she and Evan had knocked out painting the cabinet bases and doors. It had gone so much faster and better with his help. Then this morning the countertops had been delivered, and Evan had recruited his brother to help with the heavy lifting.

They’d needed him.

After Jace took off, they’d spent the day attaching the countertop to the cabinets, cutting it, filing, gluing. Through it all, Addie had been looking for the perfect opening to talk to Evan, to bring up the past.

She felt guilty as all get-out accepting his help without him knowing the truth. And if finding out made Evan take off and decide not to lend any more assistance, she could live with that.

She just couldn’t live with the lie anymore. Even if telling Evan about Eli was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, she had to do it.

“I all done, Mommy. I all done.” Sawyer dropped to the kitchen floor, proficient in dramatics. He’d spent the day playing with Belay and cycling through various activities Addie had suggested for him—dunking in a toddler basketball hoop out on the porch, Play-Doh, stickers, coloring. He had also succumbed to a nap at one point though he’d fought that option valiantly.

Addie had used a baby gate to block off the porch steps, confining Sawyer to either that space or the house throughout the day, and amazingly, that’s where he’d stayed. Likely the props for that should go to Belay, Best Dog Ever and Toddler Whisperer Extraordinaire.

“Can you at least move yourself over to the booth by the breakfast nook?” Addie asked Sawyer. Not that that option was much better. It needed work too. But the kitchen floor was a mess. A definite construction zone.

He kicked his legs. “I don’t wanna. Don’t wanna, wanna, wanna.” Belay nosed around the lump of crabby boy, licking Sawyer’s knees that poked out of his shorts. Sawyer giggled but still didn’t perk back up. Was he sick? Tired?

Addie knelt and checked his forehead. It was clammy, but in a running-around-all-day-need-a-bath kind of way. Not in a sick way.

Her phone dinged from its perch on the breakfast-nook table, and Addie stepped over Sawyer to check it.

“I got another reservation for Old West- bend weekend!” She yelped, and Evan popped out from under the kitchen sink, which he was reinstalling.

“That’s great.”

“And they’re staying all week.” She did a happy dance, and Belay joined her, tail wagging, mouth grinning.

Evan laughed that low chuckle that did too many things to her insides before returning to his dark cave.

The reservation was a huge relief. A stress, too, because of what still needed to be done to the B & B, but like Evan had said, it would all work out. Somehow.

It had to.

*****

Author Info:

Jill Lynn pens stories filled with humor, faith and happily-ever-after. She’s an ACFW Carol Award-winning author and has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. An avid fan of thrift stores, summer and coffee, she lives in Colorado with her husband and two children, who make her laugh on a daily basis. Connect with her at Jill-Lynn.com.

Website: https://jill-lynn.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50831975-her-hidden-hope

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JillLynnAuthor

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

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

*****

Discover LOVE INSPIRED

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Spotlight – The Secrets of Love Story Bridge

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I think everyone could probably use something a little more cozy right about now.

*****

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge

by Phaedra Patrick

ISBN: 9780778309789

Publication Date: April 28, 2020

Publisher: Park Row Books

Blurb:

Fredrik Backman meets The Cactus in THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE (Park Row Books; April 28, 2020; $25.99 US/$32.50 CAN), in which a cynical single father has a surprise encounter on the famous love lock bridge, sparking a journey of self-discovery that may lead him to a second chance at love.

Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous “love lock” bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.

One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him asThe Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…

Harlequin | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

*****

Excerpt:

The Lilac Envelope

The night before

As he did often, over the past three years, Mitchell Fisher wrote a letter he would never send.

He sat up in bed at midnight and kicked off his sheets. Even though all the internal doors in his apartment were open, the sticky July heat still felt like a shroud clinging to his body. His nine-year-old daughter Poppy thrashed restlessly in her sleep, in the bedroom opposite.

Mitchell turned on his bedside lamp, squinting against the yellow light, and took out a pad of Basildon Bond notepaper from underneath his bed. He always used a fountain pen to writeold-fashioned he supposed, but he was a man who valued things that were wellconstructed and long-lasting.

Mitchell tapped the pen against his bottom lip. He knew what he wanted to say, but by the time his words of sorrow and regret travelled from his brain to his fingertips, they were only fragments of what he longed to express.

As he started to write, the sound of the metal nib scratching against paper helped him block out the city street noise that hummed below his apartment.

Dearest Anita

Another letter from me. Everything here is fine, ticking along. Poppy is doing well. The school holidays start soon and I thought she’d be more excited. It’s probably because you’re not here to enjoy them with us.

I’ve taken two weeks off work to spend with her, and have a full itinerary planned for usbadminton, tennis, library visits, cooking, walking, the park, swimming, museums, cooking, a tour of the city bridges, and more. It will keep us busy. Keep our minds off you.

You’ll be amazed how much she’s grown, must be almost your height by now. I tell her how proud I am of her, but it always means more coming from you.

Mitchell paused, resting his hand against the pad of paper. He had to tell her how he felt.

Every time I look at our daughter, I think of you. I wish I could hold you again, and tell you I’m truly sorry.

Yours, always

Mitchell x

He read his words, always dissatisfied with them, never able to convey the magnitude of grief and guilt he felt. After folding the piece of paper once, he sealed it into a crisp, cream envelope, then squeezed it into the almost-full drawer of his nightstand, amongst all the other letters he’d written. His eyes fell upon the slim lilac envelope he kept on top, the one addressed to him from Anita, that he’d not yet been able to bring himself to open.

Taking that envelope out, he held it under his nose and inhaled. There was still a slight scent of her on the paper, he thought, of violet soap. His finger followed the angle of the gummed flap and then stopped. He closed his eyes and willed himself to open the letter, but his fingernails dented crescents into the paper.

Once more, he placed it back into his drawer.

Mitchell lay down and hugged himself, imagining Anita’s arms were wrapped around him. But, when he closed his eyes, the words from all the letters weighed down upon him like a bulldozer. As he turned and tried to sleep, he pulled the pillow over his head to force them away.

1. A Locked Heart

The lovers who attached their padlocks to the bridges of Upchester might see it as a fun or romantic gesture but, to Mitchell, it was an act of vandalism.

It was the hottest year on record in the city and the morning sun was already beating down on the back of his neck. His biceps flexed as he methodically opened and squeezed his bolt cutters shut, cutting the padlocks off the cast-iron filigree panels of the old Victorian bridge, one by one.

Since local boyband Word Up filmed the video for their international smash hit “Lock Me Up with Your Love on this bridge, thousands of people were flocking to the small city in the North West of England. They brought and attached locks marked with initials, names, messages, to demonstrate their love for the band and each other, on the city’s five bridges.

Large red and white signs that read no padlocks studded the pavement. But as far as Mitchell could see, the locks still hung on the railings like bees swarming across frames of honeycomb. The constant reminder of love surrounding him, other people’s, made him feel like he was fighting for breath.

As he cut off the locks, he wanted to yell, ‘Why can’t you just keep your feelings to yourselves?’

After several hours of hard work, Mitchell’s trail of broken locks glinted on the pavement like a metal snake. He stopped for a moment and narrowed his eyes as a young couple strolled toward him. The woman glided in a white floaty dress and tan cowboy boots. The man wore shorts and had the physique of an American football player. With his experience of carrying out maintenance across the city’s public areas, Mitchell instinctively knew they were up to something.

After breaking away from his girlfriend, the man walked to the side of the bridge while nonchalantly pulling out a large silver padlock from his pocket.

Mitchell tightened his grip on his cutters. He was once so easy and in love with Anita, but rules were rules. ‘Excuse me,’ he called out. ‘You can’t hang that lock.’

The man frowned and crossed his bulging arms. ‘Oh yeah? And who’s going to stop me?’

Mitchell had the sinewy physique of a sprinter. He was angular all over with dark hair and eyes, and a handsome dorsal hump on his nose. ‘I am,’ he said and put his cutters down on the pavement. He held out his hand for the lock. ‘It’s my job to clear the bridges. You could get a fine.’

Anger flashed across the blond man’s face and he batted Mitchell’s hand away, swiping off his work glove. Mitchell watched as it tumbled down into the river below.

Sometimes the water flowed prettily, but today it gushed and gurgled, a bruise-grey hue. A young man had drowned here in a strong current last summer.

The man’s girlfriend wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s waist and tugged him away. ‘Come on. Leave him alone.’ She cast Mitchell an apologetic smile. ‘Sorry, but we’re so in love. It took us two hours and three buses to get here. We’ll be working miles away from each other soon. Please let us do this.’

The man looked into her eyes and softened. ‘Yeah, um, sorry, mate,’ he said sheepishly. ‘The heat got the better of me. All we want to do is fasten our lock.’

Mitchell gestured at the sign again. ‘Just think about what you’re doing, guys,’ he said with a weary sigh. ‘Padlocks are just cheap chunks of metal and they’re weighing down the bridges. Can’t you get a nice ring or tattoo instead? Or write letters to each other? There are better ways to say I lov– Well, you know. . .

The man and the woman shared an incredulous look.

‘Whatever,’ the man glowered, and he shoved his padlock back into the pocket of his shorts. ‘We’ll go to another bridge instead.’

‘I work on those too . . .’

The couple laughed at him and sauntered away.

Mitchell rubbed his nose. He knew his job wasn’t a glamorous one. It wasn’t the one in architecture he’d studied hard and trained for. However, it meant he could pay the rent on his apartment and buy Poppy hot lunch at school each day. Whatever daily hassle he put up with, he needed the work.

His workmate Barry had watched the incident from the other side of the road. Sweat circled under his arms and his forehead shone like a mirror as he crossed over. ‘The padlocks keep multiplying,’ he groaned.

‘We need to keep on going.’

‘But it’s too damn hot.’ Barry undid a button on his polo shirt, showing off unruly chest curls that matched the ones on his head. ‘It’s a violation of our human rights, and no one can tell if we cut off twenty or two hundred.’

Mitchell held his hand up against the glare of the sun. ‘We can tell, and Russ wants the bridges cleared in time for the city centenary celebrations.’

Barry rolled his eyes. ‘There’s only three weeks to go until then. Our boss should come down here and get his hands dirty, too. At least join me for a pint after work.’

Mitchell’s mouth felt parched, and he suddenly longed for an ice-cold beer. A vision of peeling off his polo-shirt and socks and relaxing in a beer garden appeared like a dreamy mirage in his head.

However, he had to pick Poppy up from the after-school club to take her for a guitar lesson, an additional one to her music class in school. Her headteacher, Miss Heathcliff, was a stickler for the school closing promptly at 5.30pm, and it was a rush to get there on time. He lowered his eyes and said,I’d love to, but I have to dash.’

Then he selected his next padlock to attack.

Excerpted from The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick, Copyright © 2020 by Phaedra Patrick

Published by Park Row Books

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Author Info:

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @PhaedraPatrick

Instagram: @PhaedraPatrick

Facebook: @PhaedraPatrick

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