Book Review – Last Chance Hero

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We’re doing a double header today and starting with a look (and review) at a sweet, small-town romance with a sexy firefighter hero.

*****

Ramsay_Last Chance Hero_MMLast Chance Hero

Last Chance series

by Hope Ramsay

Blurb:

Ross Gardiner has had his fill of difficult relationships. Returning to Last Chance after a rough divorce, the town’s handsome new fire chief just wants safety and stability-a tall order given his dangerous job and the way he has the attention of all the single women in town. All except Sabina Grey, the girl who stole his heart when they were teenagers. Sabina knows a lot about playing it safe. Always the good girl, she’s now responsible for her antiques store and caring for her sister. But having Ross in town brings back the memory of one carefree summer night when she threw caution to the wind-and almost destroyed her family. Now that they are both older and wiser, will the spark still be there, even though they’ve both been burned?

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1CF3zww

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1LEeC1u

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1RMF9IH

*****

Excerpt:

She wore a pair of faded blue jeans that clung to her hips and butt like they were part of her. Her green tank top looked like something she might have found at a tag sale. The slippery, clingy fabric was covered in Oriental flowers, and it was almost see-through.

Not to mention that it exposed her shoulders, which had freckles on them. As usual, Sabina had pulled her hair back into a ponytail. And as usual, wisps of hair had escaped around her face. He wanted to cross the room, pull that damn rubber band out of her hair, and bury his hands and his nose in all those amazing curls.

Oh yeah, and his hands itched to touch her breasts through that silky fabric. Which is why he balled them into fists and jammed them into his pockets. Then he pretended that his feet were set into concrete.

A man could get hurt by lust like this.

And that didn’t even count the damage his feelings for Sabina might do to Lucy or Henrietta or even the folks in Last Chance who were all invested in him marrying Lucy.

He didn’t want to feel this way.

About anyone.

Lust like this was just crazy. It made a man do stupid things, and he had been there and done that. He much preferred the cool, calm feeling he had for Lucy and her lists.

Sabina stood there staring at him for a moment, her lips soft and parted. The afternoon sun coming through the dusty window, lit up her hair. Her voice sounded squeaky when she started talking, and she stammered, which was not like her at all.

“Uh . . . I . . . Uh. I got a call from Bubba Lockheart. I gather y’all moved the trunk down from the attic?”

“Oh, yeah, you came for the trunk.” He had the twin sensations of being relieved and disappointed all at the same time.

She nodded.

“It’s in the living room. Let me get the hand truck.” He hurried out onto the back porch and snagged the dolly and wheeled it into the living room.

Sabina was waiting for him.

“So, did you search through it? What else is inside?” She tilted her head, and for an instant, she resembled a little kid on Christmas morning, so excited to be unwrapping a present.

“Uh, no. We were kind of busy today.” He kept his words sharp and short. He shoved the dolly under the trunk and tilted it back. Then he wheeled it all the way out to the porch and down a make-shift ramp that had been set up over the front steps. Sabina followed him and opened the tailgate of her van.

“Can you lift it yourself or do you need help?” she asked.

“I can do it.” He wanted her to leave. Fast. But the trunk was awkward and he almost tilted it sideways when he tried to lift it. Before he could stop her, Sabina bent down and grabbed one of the handles and helped.

Together they got it up into the van. But in the process they ended up side by side and their shoulders touched.

He’d never been burned by a fire. He was practically religious about keeping his gear in topnotch form. But that touch scalded him. It would have been normal to jump back from all that heat. After all, he’d been trained to know the danger of uncontrolled fires.

But his training went right out the window, along with his common sense. Instead of running like hell, he turned toward her. She looked up at him, the fire dancing in her eyes. Oh, man, this was so wrong.

And so right.

“Ross,” she whispered, her voice so damn sultry.

His mind told him to stop. But his heart had a completely different idea. His heart had been waiting decades to kiss Sabina Grey. And there she was, right in reach, and her mouth looked so ready to be kissed that he couldn’t help himself.

He leaned down and pressed his mouth to her lips, and even though this wasn’t exactly the hands-on, bodies-pressed-together, hot and heavy kiss he’d once fantasized about, the heat of the moment still swept through him.

He wanted to pull her close. He wanted to explore her mouth a little deeper. He wanted to do a lot more than dance with her.

But Sabina pushed back.

“We can’t do this.” Her look was stunningly sober.

“Right,” he said on a deep exhalation. “Right.” He repeated the word because his mind had sort of checked out for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

She didn’t accept his apology. She just gave him one of those female looks that were so hard to decipher. This one was pretty bad ass.

And then she backed away, ran to the driver’s side of the van, and took off, sending the gravel on the driveway flying.

*****

Review:

I have to start with two things – #1 this blurb doesn’t really do this book justice at all and #2 I have no idea why I haven’t been reading this series because this book was fantastic! I’ll skip over the second part because I think it kinda speaks for itself, what with my track record of starting series in the middle, so instead I’ll talk about the first.

It sounds like a newly divorced man, who got a little shook by his first marriage, is back in his hometown and fending off all the women except the one that he wants, who wants him too but is a little scared to take the chance. Which could be a sweet story, right? Yeah, that’s not this story. Now don’t get me wrong it is sweet, oh-so-wonderfully sweet, but so not what it is described to be.

Sabina is having a little trouble living her own life because she’s too busy mothering her little sister (out of guilt for a past event) … a sister who is actually dating Ross. It kinda reminds me of Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, except I don’t know that Sabina pushes the two together because she doesn’t think Ross would truly be interested in her. There’s actually a whole lot more going on, all stemming out of that guilt I mentioned earlier. That and the fact that she seems to be a bit of a people pleaser and has a terrible time being even a little selfish and saying no to others. Ross has actually been interested in Sabina for years and when he first comes back to town he asks her out a few times but after being told she’s busy – and then being introduced to her sister – he takes the hint that she doesn’t like him the same way. And dates the sister instead.

Things get dicey for them all when the little town’s matchmaking soothsayer visits Sabina and tells her that she needs to get her sister wedded before her own soulmate will make an appearance. Well, since said sister is dating Ross, things take off from there as everyone in town tries to get Ross and Lucy down the aisle as quickly as possible so that Sabina’s love will appear. (Yes, they have a little old lady who gives words of wisdom concerning matters of the heart and the townspeople listen. It totally makes sense when you read the book :) ) Too bad Lucy & Ross aren’t all that sure they want to get married and Ross & Sabina might have more feelings for each other than they will admit to.

I think that this little triangle could totally be something unappealing but Ramsay handles it with style and grace. You can easily see how they all get to where they are and how things just become more and more tangled. You like all of them and thankfully know that it will work out right in the end (it’s a romance, so of course it does) but you just hope that it doesn’t cause too much heartache before they get there. Which I’m pleased to say Ramsay isn’t too heavy-handed there. Instead she uses a fantastic suspense element around a suspicious fire to keep things hopping. It’s a fun touch to add the little bit of danger and intrigue to what could have been an overly dramatic love story. Instead we get a fantastically heart-warming read, highlighting a myriad of complex emotions and interpersonal dynamics.

*****

RamsayHopeAuthor Info:

Hope Ramsay grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar. 
 

@HopeRamsay

http://hoperamsay.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/hoperamsay/

 

https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomHopeRamsay

*****

Giveaway:

Enter to win some Last Chance books of your own!

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*****

Last Chance Hero Release Week BlitzB

Book Review – Falling Fast

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Y’all, you have got to check this one out – I absolutely loved it!

*****

FALLING FASTFalling Fast

Falling Fast # 1

by Tina Wainscott

Releasing June 16, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb:

Fans of Jasinda Wilder and Colleen Hoover will adore this emotional new small-town romance—a smoldering tale of first love and long-awaited redemption from USA Today bestselling author Tina Wainscott.

Raleigh West works in an auto shop day and night, trying to put his broken past out of mind. It’s been seven years since the fiery crash that landed his teenage sweetheart in the hospital . . . and him in jail. In an instant, he lost everything: his passion for racing, his hope of escaping his father’s shameful legacy, and the only girl he ever loved. Raleigh hasn’t seen her since that awful night. Never got a chance to apologize. And never forgave himself, either.

When brave, beautiful Mia Wentworth returns to the Florida coast for the first time in what seems like forever, it’s not to see Raleigh. Even so, the moment she arrives she can feel his presence like a gust of wind that gives her goose bumps. Opening her heart to him again seems impossible. But staying away? That might be harder still. Lucky for them both, Mia’s never been the kind of woman to take the easy way out.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/falling-fast-falling-fast-1-by-tina.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23510311-falling-fast?ac=1

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/147390-falling-fast

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

*****

Excerpt:

The director gestured for everyone to take a seat, and Mia settled onto the chair at the outside edge. She scanned each and every person.

No Raleigh.

He’s not coming. Get over it already.

The director, who knew Nancy from their volunteer work, welcomed everyone and said how touched she would be by the turnout. He introduced Mia and her parents, then spoke at length about the wonderful and sweet and feisty Nancy.

As Mia teared up over his sentimental words, she saw him. She blinked, just to make sure, but her heart knew immediately. The director’s voice faded into the roar of blood in her ears.

Raleigh.

He stood behind the last row of chairs next to the thick trunk of an oak tree, in khakis and a maroon button-down dress shirt. His hair was trimmed, and he was clean-shaven. Not an ounce of fat on him judging by the way his shirt lay flat against his stomach. She gripped the edges of the chair as the ground tilted. Or was she tilting? God, don’t let me fall off the chair! No, you’re dizzy because you, uh, forgot to breathe!

Carefully, she pulled in a long, deep breath. Then another. The world was still blurry, and she wiped at her eyes to clear them—and found Raleigh in her sights. Which was even more startling, because she was pretty sure he was looking right at her.

She forced herself to breathe again, to shift her gaze to where it should be. The director invited people to come up and share a story or their thoughts. There was no hesitation as the first person stepped up to the microphone stand positioned in front of the chairs.

Several people spoke from their hearts over the next twenty minutes, and everyone dabbed at their eyes, including Mia. She wrestled with whether to go up, but to put herself on display was more than she could bear. Her father went up and sounded like a politician as he thanked everyone for coming. The director made one last call, and Mia’s eyes went to Raleigh again. He leaned forward, his hand clenched on the tree. He clearly wanted to go up, but he looked at her father. Then at her. Then he rocked back on his heels again, his face tight with the war inside him.

Come up. I want to hear what you have to say. About Grandma. About your friendship with her.

I just want to hear your voice.

He remained in the shade of the tree. Mia certainly couldn’t think him a coward, not when she, too, was afraid to go up and speak. Facing cancer and burns wasn’t as hard as facing people, she mused. Wasn’t that crazy?

But then she stood. Walked to the microphone and fumbled as she adjusted it to her height. Cleared her throat and tried hard not to look at Raleigh. Instead, her gaze skipped across the rows and the ribbons dancing in the breeze.

“Thank you all for being part of her life. I . . .” Her eyes betrayed her, zeroing right in on Raleigh. Her thoughts froze. Time was suspended, everyone—every single person—focused on her. She cleared her throat, heat rising up her neck. “I’m jealous that you all got to spend time with her. To know her as a friend.” Her gaze went to Raleigh again. “Thank you,” she said again, thrashing herself for the impulse as she took her seat.

She would have no regret, though. If all those weeks and months and years of hospital stays had taught her anything, it was to let no opportunity slip by. Especially the ones where you left words unsaid. Important, life-changing words.

She searched through the people all getting to their feet. Raleigh leaned against the trunk now, his head tilted back. As though it were all too much to bear. The impulse now was to go to him.

But the director asked everyone to form a line to pay their respects before the casket was lowered into the ground. Mia had to follow her parents to form a reception line, where everyone offered their condolences before stepping up to the casket. Mia’s heart squeezed so tight that she could hardly breathe. Would Raleigh shake her hand? Hug her? Say in a low, intimate voice how very sorry he was for their loss? Their loss, because it was as much his as hers. Maybe more so.

As she accepted handshakes and hugs, she realized that she was so wrapped up in where he was that she wasn’t worried about anyone seeing her up close. The line was dwindling, and she couldn’t see him anywhere.

“Mia.”

*****

Review:

As I was reading this I kept thinking that these two just can’t catch a break. But the interesting thing was the difference in attitude that all the hardships they’ve encountered have given them. Now, granted Raleigh’s past has a darker tone, but they both have dealt with their own struggles. And while both of them have grown into great people – kind, caring, giving, loving … the difference is that Raleigh doesn’t expect life to do anything but to continue to push him down. But that definitely has something to do with the types of things he’s dealt with. The fact that he’s survived to be such a good and well-loved person, shows a definitely depth of character. Mia’s also had her share of struggles but she’s learned to embrace life a little more easily. She could easily have given up at any moment or at least turned bitter, but she’s definitely taken the higher road.

I loved these two together and the entire book gave me a warm and squishy, even while I was upset at the newest curveball life had thrown at them. Just plain heart-warming (and a little heart-breaking), Falling Fast is one of those delightful feel good reads that leave you smiling at the end … and I can’t wait to see what’s Waincott’s bringing next!

*****

Tina_WAuthor Info:

USA Today bestselling author Tina Wainscott has always loved the combination of romance and suspense, because nothing complements falling in love better than being hunted down. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas, Wainscott creates characters with baggage, past hurts, and vulnerabilities. They go through hell, find love, and, at the end, find peace in who they are and everything they’ve gone through. And isn’t that what everyone wants?

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter Goodreads

*****

Giveaway:

Loveswept Mug, Flirt Mug and Select Ebook Bundle

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/235babe7228/

*****

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Spotlight – Hunter of Her Heart

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Gonna start out the week with a bad boy who has a little extra … wildness inside :)

*****

Hunter_of_Her_Heart_500_newHunter of Her Heart

by Kaylie Newell

Release Date: 6/23/15

Genre: Paranormal

Publisher: Entangled

Blurb:

To love a bad boy is to love the beast inside him…

Bad boy Zane Wolfe has always been wild and reckless. Even though he’s hot for his high school sweetheart, Candi Brooks, settling down has never been in his plans. Beyond that, he’s changing in strange ways—and begins to wonder if there’s truth to the local folklore that claims his family is cursed to be werewolves…

There’s never been a time when waitress Candi didn’t have a serious weakness for Zane and his intense, dark sex appeal. She craves him. But after her life changes dramatically, and Zane won’t commit, Candi’s reached her limit. She can’t wait forever…so she’s taking her heart off the table before it gets good and broken.

Something mysterious is going on in Wolfe Creek, and danger stalks Candi. Zane will do anything he can to protect her. But the one person she needs protection from might just be him…

Add it on Goodreads

Purchase at    Amazon    BN    Entangled

*****

10986668_980017935350552_5414782704109325112_nAuthor Info:

For Kaylie Newell, writing ranks right up there with the things she loves most in life- falling somewhere behind her family, but ahead of Bradley Cooper (which says a lot).  She fell in lust with the romance genre when she was about thirteen and began sneaking her mother’s paperbacks from the bedside table.  After acne, college, marriage and kids, she decided to take a crack at writing one herself.  Turned out to be the best adventure she’s ever taken.  When she’s not dreaming up her next book, she’s usually eating chocolate or walking the family mutt.  In that order.

Author Website/Blog: www.kaylienewell.com

Author Twitter: @KaylieNewell

Author Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaylieNewell

Author Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/KaylieNewell

*****

Giveaway:

Enter to win a $25 Gift Card and a signed copy of Lone Wolfe Protector

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112ffc1076/

*****

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Spotlight – Lip Service

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Gonna end the work week with one that I think will be perfect for those that like their romances a little … quirky :)

*****

Lip ServiceLip Service

by Adele Downs

Print Length: 116 pages

Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group

Release Date: April 27, 2015

ASIN: B00WT1EA2W

Genre: Hot contemporary romance

Blurb:

Getting Between Jack…

Orphaned at a young age, Legs Anderson owes her Aunt Ada everything. The stoic old lady raised her, and Ada’s warnings about men—and the Harris boys in particular—have stuck, even after her death. Of course, that could be because Ada stuck around, too.

…And His Legs

Patience is not one of Jack Harris’ virtues, and he’s waited too long to start a life with the woman he’s loved since childhood instead of them just knocking boots. Now Ada is interfering from beyond the grave, haunting the old Victorian house she bequeathed to her niece and reinforcing Legs’s fears of commitment.

But Jack won’t give up. No matter what trouble may follow, the house will be renovated, Ada will learn to let go, Legs will put her money where her mouth is… then Jack’ll put his lips everywhere else.

Available at Boroughs Publishing     ARe    

Amazon    BN   Kobo   Smashwords

*****

Excerpt:

“Move in with me, dammit. You’re the most stubborn woman I ever knew.”

Legs topped his coffee cup with fresh brew, easy as you please. “No more stubborn than you, since you keep askin’ the same old question. I have my own place.”

Jack frowned and stabbed his egg yolks, making them run. “Then let me live with you.”

“In my aunt’s house?” Legs asked like he was crazy.

“It’s your house now.”

“I’m trying to fix it up. I have to patch and paint. There’s no room for your things.”

“I’ll help you and then you’ll have plenty of space for me. And my stuff.”

Her ponytail shook with her reply. “Ada won’t like it. She’ll think it’s immoral.”

Jack leaned forward. “You talk about her like she’s still with us. She’s been gone over a year, sweetheart.” His voice dropped an octave and his brow creased. “Don’t you think she’d give in after all this time?”

Legs wrinkled her nose. “No. She thinks you’re a wanderer.”

Jack tossed down his fork. “I own a sporting goods store! I go fishing!”

He touched her hand when she got close enough and drew little circles around her wrist bone with a fingertip. The preschool teachers from Let’s Explore stifled sighs at the next table. “It’s time to let go, darlin’.” His expression turned earnest. “She raised you, I know. But I want to be with you now. It’s time to let me in.”

“Not if it means letting her go. I’m sorry, Jack. I just can’t do that to her.”

Jack sighed and returned to his breakfast. “We’ll talk about this again tomorrow.”

*****

authorAuthor Info:

Adele Downs writes Contemporary Romance inside the office of her rural Pennsylvania home. She is a former journalist, published in newspapers and magazines in the USA, UK and Caribbean.

Adele is an active member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter where she serves as past-president. She has written several articles for RWR magazine (Romance Writers Report), and she has presented workshops for writers.

When Adele isn’t working on her current project, she can be found riding in her convertible or reading a book on the nearest beach.

Website: www.adeledowns.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authoradeledowns

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Adele_Downs

Tsu: www.tsu.co/Adele_Downs

*****

Giveaway:

2 ecopies of Naturally Yours

2 ecopies of Kissing Her Cowboy

1 linen tea towel with a saying meant especially for readers

$10 Amazon Gift Card

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*****

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Book Review – The Duke and the Domina

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cover66448-mediumThe Duke and the Domina

Warrick: The Ruination of Grayson Danforth

The Lords of Time series

by Jenn LeBlanc

Grayson Locke Danforth, in his wildest of dreams, never expected two things.

The first was to be recalled from India by Queen Victoria where he worked for the quiet purposes of the crown. He must now become the Duke of Warrick after the tragic deaths of his father and brothers. However, tragedy is entirely in the eyes of the beholder, and Grayson doesn’t want the title, or to return to what remains of his family. Grayson wants to remain invisible, an outcast, a man in exile for the way his body and mind behave and the secrets he needs to keep.

The second thing he never expected was to be forced into marriage to a woman from the twenty-first century.

Lulu is no mere woman, however. She’s a switch who works as a professional Dominatrix—at least, she did. When she wakes up in a strange house, a strange world, a strange body, she isn’t quite sure what to think and is certain she’s dreaming. She has less than a day to gain her bearings and make a decision that will dictate the rest of her life in this world—whether or not to marry this beautiful stranger.

As Lulu and Grayson attempt to begin a life together, she discovers the true reason why this man is a stranger to his family. She can only hope she can persuade Grayson to accept who she is, and who he was born to be, before he forces her out of his life in order to maintain his well-kept secrets.

Trust doesn’t come easily to either of them, but it’s the only thing they have. Grayson will have to give in to his need to submit in order to get his wife to open up and allow him to possess her fully in return.

It’s a cautious dance between two people who have never known how to trust, or love.

Again, another series I joined in the middle but luckily it didn’t seem to matter this time. I’m branching out a little in my reading – to me erotica, when done well, is just REALLY steamy romances. The material is a little more graphic but it is still about relationships. I’ve read a few, here and there, with BDSM elements, but it isn’t a sub-genre (or lifestyle) that I’m all that familiar with. I’m slowly getting the feel for the give and take in the D/s relationship, which is very intriguing. And The Duke and the Domina is even more so because up to this point everything I’d read had had a male Dom. This time, though, the roles are reversed … which makes it all the more interesting.

Throw in the fact that it is a historical romance and it becomes even more complicated. There are certain appearances that are expected in society and roles that are to be strictly adhered to. Grayson has certain tendencies, which are out of this norm, making him ashamed and solitary. He has very few people close to him and keeps many, many secrets. But when a mysterious woman falls into his lap, his world is turned upside down.

I’ve always loved the fish out of water idea of a woman traveling back in time. As an avid reader of love stories populated by lords and ladies, I can’t imagine what it would be like to throw a modern woman into that world. What she has to give up and what expectations she would have to meet. Having her be a Domina definitely makes it even more complicated – for those same reasons that Grayson’s preference are so very dangerous.

But when the two are thrown together it could be the answer … if only they can learn to open up their hearts and trust the other with the truth. To that end, I totally get Grayson’s reluctance – especially because of the damage it could do to him, those he calls his and even to his very life. But I’m not totally sure I understand her issues. She isn’t comfortable revealing herself to Grayson but I never got all that good an understanding why. Maybe I missed something but it wasn’t clear to me.

That didn’t stop me from enjoying the book though. I eagerly flipped pages as the two danced around each other … and finally gave love a chance.

Spotlight – Zack

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Some of you may remember Alex, Sawyer Bennett’s first Cold Fury story – this is book 3, following Garrett.  It is a fantastic series and you guys have to check it out – there is so much more going on than just a sports romance!

(I hate to say it, but if you haven’t read Alex or Garrett and you don’t like spoilers you probably shouldn’t read any further.  There is a cliffhanger in Garrett that is spoiled by the below.  Just skip to the bottom so you can enter the context for some great prizes!)

*****

ZACK-CoverZack

Cold Fury Hockey # 3

by: Sawyer Bennett

Releasing June 9, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett goes for a hat trick with the latest romance in a sexy series about cool-as-ice hockey players and the women heating up their lives.

Warning: The following contains spoilers from a cliffhanger in Garrett.

Rising star Zack Grantham has been stuck in a downward spiral of grief that has put his career on hold. Back on the road with the Carolina Cold Fury, still crippled by emotional baggage, and now a single dad, he’s in need of some serious help with his son. But while the nerdy new nanny wins his son’s heart, Zack isn’t sure he’s ready for a woman’s touch—even after getting a glimpse of the killer curves she’s hiding under those baggy clothes.

Kate Francis usually keeps men like Zack at a distance. Though his athlete’s body is honed to perfection, he refuses to move on with his life—and besides, he’s her boss. Still, the sparks between them are undeniable, tempting Kate to turn their professional relationship into a personal one. But before she makes a power play for Zack’s wounded heart, Kate will have to open him up again and show him that love is worth the fight.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23834720-zack?ac=1

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/125350-cold-fury-hockey

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

*****

Excerpt:

As soon as I get out of the club and into the silence of my car, I dial Delaney.

She answers on the first ring. “You scared the shit out of me. Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I murmur as I start the engine and wait for my Bluetooth to connect. When I hear the subtle click telling me she’s on speakerphone, I put the car in drive and say, “Just driving around…thinking.”

I hear her blow out a gust of sympathetic frustration, but her voice is gentle. “Okay. Just get home.”

“Is Ben okay?” I ask.

“He’s fine. Sleeping. Have you gone over the applicants I picked out for you?”

My hands tighten on the steering wheel, and a tiny pain shoots through my wrist, a pain I’d never admit to the team doctors, so I ignore it and tell her, “Not yet.”

“Tomorrow,” Delaney says sternly. “You have to make a decision tomorrow.”

“I know,” I mutter, realizing that the time for dragging my feet and procrastinating is over. “I promise. Tomorrow.”

“Okay,” she says softly. “That’s good.”

I don’t say anything else, my mind already starting to shut down. I abhor the thought of culling through her final recommendations for a nanny for Ben. Because that means this is final…that Gina is really dead and Ben’s mommy is definitely not coming back. In my mind, it’s putting the final nail in her coffin.

“I love you,” Delaney says, almost desperately, into the phone.

I bite my lip…hard, and feel my tooth slice down into the delicate flesh. “Back at ya,” I say, my voice harsh and raspy.

Words of love to my older sister—the woman who has been my rock-solid support the last four months since Gina died—unable to materialize. I disconnect the call and stare blankly out the windshield. I’m practically on autopilot as I drive home.

Out of the silence of my car, an unbidden, sarcastic snort bursts forth from me, and then I start snickering to myself.

Home.

What a fucking joke.

My five-bedroom house on Marchand Street feels like a prison, the walls closing in on me and causing me to seek out strippers named Candi Apple at midnight. I can’t escape my memories there, my guilt devours me as I look at Gina’s pictures throughout the house, and every day, rather than rise above my pain, I get swallowed up in it a little deeper. I hate that fucking house now, and I’ve pretty much resolved myself to sell it. Maybe moving will help leave the ghosts behind and give Ben and me a fresh start.

If it wasn’t for Ben…

Beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed Ben.

The spitting image of Gina.

My little boy, who seems to have bounced back fine after losing his mother, giving me toothy grins and cuddling with me on the couch at night. If it wasn’t for him…

No, I don’t even want to think about where I’d be if it wasn’t for Ben. Let me just appreciate the fact that I have the most wonderful child in the world, and it’s only because of him that I at least have some sort of desire to want to feel again.

While I can’t seem to feel outside the bounds of pure and unconditional love for my child, it doesn’t mean I want to be this way. I’m smart enough to know that Ben will look to me for guidance on how to live this life without Gina, and I’m savvy enough to know that if I don’t get my shit together, for his sake, I stand a really good chance of fucking his head up.

So I try the only way I know how—by seeking out the Candi Apples of this world—and dig down deep for something to interest me in this life outside of my child and my hockey career.

Taking a deep breath, I pull onto the outer belt line that circles around Raleigh, and let it out slowly. Yeah, tomorrow I need to start the process of removing my head from my ass. I also know the first step is to do as Delaney says and make a choice from the final applicants and hire a nanny for Ben. Once I start back at practices next week, I’ll need someone to help me with him.

Delaney has been down here in Raleigh for the past week, interviewing prospects and checking out references. She’s narrowed it down to a choice of three, and while I really don’t want to care about whom to pick, I know that for the sake of my son, I need to be satisfied the person I do choose is right for the job. I trust Delaney implicitly, but I also know that I need to show some interest . . . at least for her peace of mind. The day after tomorrow she’ll head back to Manhattan, where she works as a financial analyst, and I can’t let her leave with undue worry over me and Ben.

It pisses me off that I have to hire a nanny. It feels like I’m replacing Gina . . . hiring a new mommy for my boy. Deep down, the rational side of me knows this isn’t true. While I’ve been able to handle Ben just fine on my own for the last four months while I recovered from my wrist injury, there is no way I can be a single parent to Ben when much of my career is spent on the road. I will need someone to be with him full-time when I’m gone, and it has to be someone trustworthy.

So I’ll do my duty tomorrow and give the applicants thoughtful consideration. Then I’ll make my decision and start the process of introducing a new woman who will become a provider and mother figure to my son.

That thought causes pain to shoot through my chest, and while I know it’s unfair, a little part of me already hates this woman because she will be taking Gina’s place in that respect.

*****

SawyerAuthor Info:

USA Today and New York Times Best-Selling Author, Sawyer Bennett is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

Sawyer is the author of several contemporary romances including the popular Off Series, the Legal Affairs Series and the Last Call Series. She will be releasing her third book in the Cold Fury Hockey Series with Random House Loveswept, June 2015.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter  | GoodReads

*****

Giveaway:

Enter to win Loveswept & FLIRT Mugs and Select Ebook Bundle

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/235babe7228/

*****

Click on the below to check out the rest of the tour!

Zack_VT

Book Review – Provoked

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cover66168-mediumProvoked

Make Me series

by Riley Murphy

When a museum executive secretary, who barely tolerates men, has a run in with an infamous BDSM Master, Neil Cannon, a man who lives to discipline women, there’s little she can do about it. Why?

The Master thinks Charlotte, a.k.a Charlie, is her kink-loving, totally outrageous, and continually stirring-up-trouble twin sister. And after what Charlie just did, he has to keep thinking that. At least until she can find a way to climb out of the huge mess her well-meaning intentions have landed her in. She’ll take the punishments the Master intends for her twin. She’ll even put up with him and his misogynistic antics if it means she’ll be able to unlock the secrets that will save her family. All she has to do is behave like her sister. How hard could it be to emulate a fearless, over-confident, rebellious woman, with highly questionable sexual standards?

Neil’s been waiting months for the chance to deal with this audacious sub who’s been jacking up the testosterone levels of his vanilla crew whenever her sports car needed maintenance. That’s why he made the service call himself. He’s confident she won’t be yanking his chain, because if she tries he’s prepared to yank it right back.

Or so he thought until she turns out to be different than what he expected her to be. She starts pushing buttons he didn’t know he had. She’s flipping internal switches, lighting things up, creating a whole new level of dominant need he’s determined to explore, enjoy, and satisfy.

Unfortunately, before either of them can get a handle on the D/s chemistry exploding between them, she takes off. It’s then he discovers that she’s invited a part of his past, that he’s promised to steer clear of, right to his front door.

Now, in order to keep her safe, he must find her, and when he does he has to keep her close. Too close for either one of them to escape the inevitable truth.

“Sometimes the best pleasures in life are found at the end of a person’s comfort zone,” whispered the Master to the one woman he’s dead set on collaring…

I usually don’t like books that are intentionally vague and confusing to build tension, but I only found it moderately annoying here :) Murphy’s characters and the complexity of the story kept me going past that and by the end I was glad I didn’t give up. The mystery portion may be a little convoluted for some, but since this is the first in a new series, there are some plot points that didn’t get resolved. However the main story line wraps up nicely and I can see how the next book or two could get quite interesting.

I’m not sure I totally understand the D/s lifestyle and I really am not sure I got Charlie going from an ultra-feminist to a sub in just a couple of days, but there are definitely sparks between her and Neil that work. The snarky dialogue and steamy interactions between the two made for fun reading. And while I don’t necessarily get the D/s relationship (mostly from ignorance), Murphy delivers it in an addictive way and I’ll definitely be on the look out for the next book in this series. I have a feeling Charlie’s sister is in for quite a few surprises.

Guest Post – Deeper

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This morning we’re featuring author allyn lesley and her debut novel, Deeper, which is getting fantastic reviews on Amazon.  And if you have kindleunlimited you can even get it for free!

*****

What do you like the most (or least) about writing romances?

I enjoy writing the dialogue. It’s always interesting to match the characters in my head to things they’ll say to give readers a taste of their personalities. The dialogue either enrages or engages readers.

What is your favorite romantic story (movie/book, fact/fiction)?

I’ve always said this, and it remains true: Seized by Love by Susan Johnson is a historical romance novel I read in my teens. The novel, though decades old now, was my first taste of an unapologetic Alpha hero. In today’s terms, the novel would be deemed an erotica. I found the author’s story-telling to be on point, realistic, and spell-binding. I own a paperback copy as well :)

If you could be any romantic character, who would it be and why?

Hmm. This is an interesting question, and one I’d never considered. Off the top of my head, it’d have to be Johanna Lindsey’s Tatiana from Once a Princess. As you can tell, there’s a special place in my heart for historicals from my childhood. The reason Tatiana sticks out was that she didn’t know her true station in life (she ends up being royalty) but her “low place” doesn’t force her to think less of herself. She’s sassy, stands her ground, and demands respect.

Which of your characters was the most fun to write? 

Now, that one is hard. I had a good time writing about Roland ‘Ro’ Harris, a side character in my debut novel, Deeper (Book One of The Deeper Chronicles) because he was funny, and I’m so not funny :). I really enjoyed writing about Gabriel ‘Gabe’ McIntyre from my short, Liar, that’s part of the anthology called Once: A Collection of Sinfully Sexy and Twisted Tales. Gabe was good for me because I usually like strong, in your face Alpha males, and his character needed to have a silent type of strength who was a sweet, good guy all around. And, finally, I had the best time writing Noah Adams. He’s my hero in Deeper. The man was just so there. He’s who he is, and makes no apologies for his beliefs and his viewpoints on life. That was fun to create.

If you weren’t a writer and could be anything you want, what would it be?

I’d be a teacher which is what I’m going back to graduate school for.

*****

deeperDeeper

Book One of The Deeper Chronicles

by allyn lesley

Genre: Adult Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Blurb:

Everything Avianna Linton thought she knew was shattered in one traffic stop. With her life turned upside down, she flees to the bright lights of New York City hoping for anonymity and a new life.

Rising from nothing, Noah Adams holds onto his power and control with a bone-crushing grip. No one dared challenge his authority until her…

Avi’s disdain for Noah is barely contained, and Noah does everything he can to restrain himself—a concept he has little experience with.

There’s more between the two than either of them realize. A force looms near, hovering with deadly precision and motivated solely by revenge.

Avi wonders who her new friends truly are and if she’s already in too deep. Noah, accustomed to getting what he wants, will do whatever it takes to draw Avi in deeper.

Amazon US – http://amzn.to/1GfYCAB

Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/1IEzgKi

*****

deeper teaser 2

Blurb:

Summer 2011

No more than thirteen years old, a girl in hand-me downs and ill-fitting shoes stomped down the sidewalk. Everywhere her plain brown eyes landed was brokenness.

The row houses that made up her run-down neighborhood were broken.

The few cars parked along the curb belonging to people who used the vehicles as temporary shelters when they couldn’t afford the rent were broken.

And the neighbors … The neighbors were the worst. Their entire beings were broken. Their minds crumbled by choices they were pushed by life to make. Their physical bodies aged before their time by lack of access to quality food choices. Their psyches irreparably damaged by parents who were stuck in a generational cycle they didn’t have the tools to break through.

Broken.

Everyone who lived in this part of town was broken.

And what did brokenness lead to?

Without a backward glance, she ran from the home where just weeks prior she had found her parents with their mouths agape, forearms corded off, and needles sticking from their veins.

She ran from her brokenness.

The teen rounded a corner and slowed her pace to a cool, unaffected gait before she approached the men who were huddled together. This was the place, the corner, in Lower Manhattan to get the best drugs, everybody knew that—addict or not.

The teen gripped the crumbled money in her pocket, a gift from the police officer who felt the need to check on what was left of her family from time to time. With a kind smile that reached his violet eyes, he’d told her to buy something just for her. Maybe he thought she’d treat herself to some earrings or her favorite ice cream—little kid stuff—but she had lost her childhood a long, long time ago.

Around her, men and women with sunken, scabbed-over cheeks became the norm. The little girl stuck out like a sore thumb but had no intention of remaining an ‘other’ any longer. The euphoric smile on the faces of her neighbors, her deceased parents, and sibling—she wanted that, even for just a little while.

“You got anything?” she muttered to no one in particular.

“You lost, kid?” the young man in the center of the group asked, snickering to his companions.

“I’m not a kid,” she said with defiance. Her face rose higher in the air and she squared her thin shoulders. Even with a mature body, the freckles that littered the bridge of her nose and spread to the apples of her baby face said otherwise.

To amuse her he said, “Okay. So you’re no kid.” He peered at her closer. “But hand to God, I swear I’ve seen your face before.”

He probably had.

Before their deaths, images of the girl’s parents’ faces hung in neighborhood stores identifying them as regular shoplifters. They had been arrested so many times they were on a first-name basis with their arresting officers.

With her face blazing in embarrassment, the little girl toed the cracked pavement. “I want your best.” Her words came out low and stammering. She wasn’t a kid, and she planned to prove it. “I want the best you have,” she repeated louder then shoved the formerly crisp bills into his face.

Greed alighted his eyes.

“Yo, man, she’s only a ki—”

“Shut the fuck up,” he yelled at the sole dissenter. “If it’s green, we take it.” He pocketed the money then looked around.

“Hey,” she shouted, taking a step toward him. If he thought he would stiff her, he had another thing coming.

“Relax, kid,” he said with a canny smile. “I wouldn’t do you dirty when your folks were my biggest customers.” His evil laugh chilled her though the air was balmy. “Take a walk with my friend over there.”

The young thug had at least a hundred pounds on her and towered over her by maybe a foot and half. She tucked her chin into her shirt and kept her gaze low, following the boy’s sneakered feet to a nearby abandoned house.

“Stay here.” He looked up and down the street to ensure they weren’t followed before disappearing behind a door that was falling off its hinges. Before the girl had a chance to worry, he was back and shoving a small opaque rectangle in her hand.

Almost too beautiful, the deep purple petal and green stalk painted on the waxy paper dominated the small expanse. She giggled at the ornate flower.

“Take Over. Best shit on the market,” he said before walking away.

Holding the pretty bag against her heart, she turned and walked in the opposite direction.

*****

allyn lesley logoAuthor Info:

allyn lesley writes real stories about real people.

As a teen, allyn lost herself in the pages of some of Romance’s heavyweights, trusting that a happy ever after was just around the corner. In allyn’s own writing journey, as in life, she’s learned that people don’t always experience recovery and restoration after a fall. Her stories speak to the gritty side of life where the right choice isn’t always easily identified and happiness not quickly gained.

Amazon — http://amzn.to/1EW0Ui3

Blog — allynlesley.blogspot.com

Facebook page — http://on.fb.me/1ybhJHB

Goodreads — http://bit.ly/1wfvIeY

Google+ — http://bit.ly/1B7oZFE

Instagram — instagram.com/AuthorAllynLesley

Pinterest — http://bit.ly/1cvXbBD

Tumblr — http://bit.ly/1cvXeNW

Twitter — http://bit.ly/1CzTiGO

YouTube trailer — http://bit.ly/1B7eBOl

*****

Deeper teaser 1

Spotlight – Until It Doesn’t

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Hopefully your are enjoying the start of your weekend.  Today we’ve got a romantic comedy with a friends to lovers thing going on.

*****

FINAL COVERUntil It Doesn’t

by Zoë Marshall

GENRE: Romantic Comedy

PUBLICATION DATE: June 19, 2015

Blurb:

Bailey Swanson is relentlessly addicted to ice cream, hates jeans – yet thinks leggings are basically just colored sausage casings – and would be completely lost without her best friend Mark. He’s the only one that gets her, and sees through her difficult-to-love exterior.

Mark has known Bailey since they were both children. As her manager, he handles her failing acting career and is always there for her. As her friend, he’s held her hand through her most recent break up, all the while wondering if she’ll ever be whole again.

But Bailey is a disaster when it comes to romance — and while she’s trying to move on from her cheating ex, she can’t drown her sorrows forever in Ben & Jerry’s. She knows she has to get past this eventually… right? Unless a happily ever after just isn’t in the cards for her, in which case her plan to swear off all relationships forever is a good one.

Or maybe the answer is right in front of her face. Things aren’t always as they seem when it comes to the heart. That fickle little thing tends to get the best of all of us at one point or another…

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WRHN0YC

*****

Excerpt:

“I feel better,” he says as he gets up from the swing and stands facing me. He’s standing so close, it feels like something has shifted, as if the balance has been tipped slightly in an unexpected direction. Wait a second. What am I even thinking? This is Mark, for Christ’s sake.

I take a step back and let out a deep breath. The smell of the flowers surrounding us washes over me and I feel a weight lifted. “So, where does that leave you guys? Are you going to try to be friends?”

He looks up at the sky. “We’ll never be friends. I don’t think any exes ever are. There’s always something there, lying in wait. It can be disguised, but never destroyed. You can pile as much shit on top of it as you want, but in the end, it’s always there.”

I smile at Mark. “I’m proud of you, kid.”

He rolls his eyes and replies. “Who do you think you’re calling ‘kid’? I’m four months older than you are. You’re the kid.”

“Ok then. I’m proud of you, old man.”

He laughs and walks over to me, then gives me a playful punch on the arm. “Well, I’m proud of you too, jerk.”

We spend the next few minutes standing next to each other in silence, staring at the few visible stars. That’s something I love about Mark. We can be silent together. No matter how crazy fast the world is spinning, we can always just stand still. Together.

*****

author (2)Author Info:

Zoë was born in Santa Rosa, California, but spent the majority of her “growing up” years in San Francisco. After high school, she attended University of California, Santa Cruz, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management Economics and Accounting. She tried the corporate thing, working at two of the Big Four accounting firms, but cubicles just weren’t her thing.

She’s currently living the ultimate cliché – an aspiring writer working two jobs, one as a server and one as a bartender. She’s living in San Ramon, California, spending her limited free time reading and writing. Her biggest vices are pizza and ice cream, which is why she lives in yoga pants and leggings. And she thoroughly believes jeans were invented by the devil.

facebook – https://www.facebook.com/alyssa.z.marshall

twitter – https://twitter.com/zoewritesbooks

Instagramhttp://www.instagram.com/zoemarshallfiction

*****

blogcover (2)

Book Review – I’ll Stand By You

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I love Sharon Salas’s books – and not just because she’s an Okie gal too :)  

I am so thrilled to get to share I’ll Stand By You with you because I think this is going to be one of my all time favorite stories.  It is just so amazingly sweet …

*****

IllStandByYouI’ll Stand By You

by Sharon Sala

Release Date: June 2, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

No one is alone

Dori Grant is no stranger to hardship. As a young single mother in the gossip-fueled town of Blessings, Georgia, she’s weathered the storm of small-town disapproval most of her life. But when Dori loses everything within the span of an evening, she realizes she has no choice but to turn to her neighbors.

As long as there is love to give

Everyone says the Pine boys are no good, but Johnny Pine has been proving the gossips wrong ever since his mother died and he took over raising his brothers. His heart goes out to the young mother and child abandoned by the good people of Blessings. Maybe he can be the one to change all that…

Goodreads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23510410-i-ll-stand-by-you

Buy Links

Amazon: http://bit.ly/AmazonSala

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/BNSala

iBookstore: http://bit.ly/AppleSala

IndieBound: http://bit.ly/IndieSala

*****

Excerpt:

“Nothing means a damn thing if I don’t have my baby.”

“And now we get to my suggestion. Do you like Johnny Pine?”

“Yes, of course. He’s been wonderful to us.”

“No, I mean, could you like him as relationship material?”

“That possibility exists,” she said.

“Good. Now let me talk to Johnny.”

She handed the phone back to Johnny.

“Now he wants to talk to you.”

She took the baby and Johnny took the phone.

“Yeah?”

“I have a suggestion that could bring an end to your troubles.”

“Like what?”

“Do you like Dori?”

“Well, sure. She’s great.”

“Do you like her enough to consider a personal relationship with her?”

Johnny looked at Dori, then cupped her face and ran his thumb down the side of her jaw.

“Yes, I like her enough to consider a personal relationship.”

Dori shivered beneath his touch as she realized Butterman was asking Johnny the same question he’d asked her.

“Put the phone on speaker,” Butterman said.

“Just a minute,” Johnny said and then pressed a button. “Okay, you’re on speaker now.”

“Here’s the deal,” Butterman said. “You two are very young to have such adult responsibilities. You’re both trying to take care of your families on your own, and now DFCS has their nose in your business and is threatening you with removing the children from your custody, right?”

“Right,” they said.

“So this would end tomorrow if you were married.”

Johnny took a quick breath, started to speak, and then found himself staring at Dori instead, waiting for her reaction.

Dori already knew Johnny cared for her because he’d told her. What he didn’t know was that she was very attracted to him.

“Well? Did both of you faint or what?” Butterman asked.

“I’m game if she is,” Johnny said.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep our boys,” Dori said.

Butterman chuckled. “Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. If it were me, I wouldn’t waste any time. Go get the license and find a preacher, and your trouble with Miss Carter is a thing of the past. I assume I am invited to the wedding.”

*****

Review:

It’s the characters that are so important in this series and Sala once again brings us wonderful ones.  Not only Dori and Johnny, but Johnny’s little brothers and those people in the town who are so willing to lend a hand when needed.

Life hasn’t always been kind to Dori or Johnny, but they have never given up.  They work hard at making a good life for those they care about and when life brings them into the same sphere, that dedication expands to encompass both families.  But while life keeps throwing them punches, now they have each other and it is so very sweet watching them fall in love.  I’m impressed at how, being so young but having to take on so much responsibility, they still manage to keep a good attitude.  They aren’t naïve but they aren’t letting it turn them bitter either.  They are such a fantastic match and I was so very happy that they found each other.

As with the other books, Sala continues to bring a great cast of secondary characters … unfortunately not all of them have a good heart.  It isn’t always pretty, but Sala manages to do a fantastic job of capturing that small town feel.  There are caring people, who help and support those around them, but there are also those that only look out for themselves.  It’s both kinds of people that bring Dori and Johnny to their eventual HEA.  And while it isn’t always roses and sunshine, thee good definitely outweighs the bad in their lives, which I think is what most of us hope for.

If you haven’t read Count Your Blessings (previously titled Color Me Bad) or Curl Up & Dye, it’s OK because all of these books can stand on their own.  But it does help to give you an idea of the small Southern town charm and politics that Sala captures so well.  And as much as I loved the first two stories, I think this one is my favorite (so far, because I can’t wait to see what Sala has in store for us next).

*****

SharonSalaAuthor Info:

Sharon Sala, who has also written under the name Dinah McCall, has 85-plus books in print, published in four different genres-Romance, Young Adult, Western, and Women’s Fiction, and her Young Adult books have been optioned for film. She has been named a RITA finalist seven times by Romance Writers of America, and in 2011 they named her the recipient of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her books are New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly bestsellers and published in many different languages. She lives in Oklahoma, the state where she was born.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://sharonsala.net/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SharonSala1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/40570.Sharon_Sala

*****

Giveaway:

Win your own copy of the book and a diamond hummingbird necklace

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/07c2363f74/

*****

IllStandByYouTeaser

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