Review – Tacker

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If you are a fan of the Arizona Vengeance, there’s little doubt that you’ve been waiting for this story … if this is your first in the series, you picked a good one to start with!

*****

Tacker

Arizona Vengeance, Book #5

by Sawyer Bennett

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Blurb:

I am not okay.

Fifteen months ago, my life was turned upside down when the plane I was piloting went down. Injured and trapped in the wreckage, I had to watch my fiancée die a painfully slow death, which is something that can really mess with your head.

Since that day, I’ve had little desire to do much of anything. Except play hockey, that is. Because that is the one place where the bad memories are banished and I can escape my pain.

But off the ice, I’m spiraling out of control. Losing the grip on my life and putting myself and my career in danger. Now, thanks to a string of bad decisions, I’ve been ordered to complete therapy in order to stay on the team.

The problem? Nora Wayne, my beautiful and somewhat unconventional therapist. I can’t buy into the brand of happy clappy crap this woman is feeding me. What could she possibly understand about the type of loss that I’ve suffered? How does she know anything about finding happiness after losing the most important person in your life

Turns out, I’ve got a lot to learn, and she’s just the person I need to break through those walls I’ve erected.

I am not okay.

But for the first time in a long time, I know that I will be.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2RXjtoI
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Audible (narrated by Stephen Dexter & Lucy Rivers): https://adbl.co/2MmulIE

*****

Review:

Bennett proves again why she is my go to for a heartfelt read dressed up in hockey pads.  Tacker has had an unimaginable couple of years.  Losing a loved one and having to sit by while they died leaves a lot of pain behind and he’s not been handling it well.  After a HUGE mistake involving too much alcohol, a truck, and a cement wall, he has to finally address it or lose the only thing keeping him sane – hockey.  Enter Nora.  Smart, pretty, and empathetic, she turned her own horrible past into a career that lets her help others.  And it allows her to create a special connection to Tacker, guiding him as he comes to terms with his own emotions.

My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen a little more of their therapy sessions.  We are there for the oh-so-important break through and along the way as they share & grown closer.  But Tacker’s pain and guilt has been such a driving force in his life for so long that seeing the how of his recovery, not just the large leaps would have been nice.

I do appreciate that even in a book with so much pain and emotion, however, Bennett kept their actual relationship pretty drama free.  There’s a little concern over their growing feelings because of their professional relationship but I feel like it is handled in a way that gives the concerns their due.  It’s not handled lightly but addressed and then they move on.  I also like that the romance isn’t the main focus of the story – it’s about Tacker coming to terms with his past.  The love story is there but he has to be in the right place before it can go anywhere.

All about the feels, second chances, and moving on, Tacker manages to deliver on all of its potential of a book that was meant to grab you by the heart.  It was so good to see Tacker coming out of his self-imposed prison and learn to live again, connecting with others, and forgiving himself for being alive.

(While it is helpful to have read the rest of the series, it definitely is not required.  Most of the focus is on Nora and Tacker so their story can easily stand on its own.  I missed Dax’s story, the book before this one, and I did just fine 🙂 )

*****

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.

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*****

Spotlight – Stud Muffin

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Stud Muffin, an all-new friends-to-lovers standalone romance from Jiffy Kate, is available now!

*****

Stud Muffin

Donner Bakery #2

by Jiffy Kate

Blurb:

It’s hard to get revenge without getting a rap sheet.

After Tempest Cassidy walks in on her husband banging her high school nemesis, her whole world gets turned upside down. She goes from being known as the Duchess of Muffins to the town crazy. Her new MO: revenge. Eventually, Tempest grows weary being arrested. Yet what choice does she have? If she’s not angry, then she’s simply . . . sad.

Just as she decides to get her life back on track, in walks Cage Erickson, the new bouncer at the local strip club. He’s scary-handsome and the polar opposite of her ex. She’s attracted to him, but she’s not looking for a rebound. He’s attracted to her, but he’s not looking for a serious relationship. So, they agree to be friends.

But when lines get blurred in the friend zone, will they both get burned? Or will it be a TKO?

‘Stud Muffin’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#2 in the Donner Bakery series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/35TdNQh

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/StudMuffin

Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2khZoKt

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2m25z5P

*****

Excerpt:

As Mindy gets closer, she begins rubbing her hand over her belly, ensuring I know she’s with spawn, I mean, child. How far along is she anyway? The picnic wasn’t that long ago and she didn’t look pregnant then, did she? Maybe she did, but I was too shocked by the ring on her finger to notice? My mother would’ve said something to me when she broke the news about Mindy and Asher being married, so she must not have noticed either.

Maybe she just carries big… and early. Maybe she’s pregnant with multiples. That would be rich—I can’t even get pregnant with one, but Mindy Mitchell, husband stealer extraordinaire, can have my husband and all the babies.

All I know is that I have to stop gawking because Mindy is enjoying this way too much.

“Hey, Tempest. Soup for one, I presume?” Her smile is wide and condescending as she glances at the contents of my shopping cart.

Bitch.

“You know, I’ve been so busy lately that canned soup is all I have time for some nights. It’s not always the healthiest option, with all that sodium, but I’m fortunate to not retain water, like you obviously do.”

Really, Tempest? Is that the best put-down you can think of?

“I’m not bloated, silly.” She laughs, swatting the air in front of her face. “I’m pregnant! Of course, I don’t expect you to notice the difference.”

It’s illegal to hit a pregnant lady, Tempest.

She’s not worth the jail time.

Deep, cleansing breaths.

You don’t look good in orange.

“How far along are you?” I ask, willing myself to stay calm. “Elephants are pregnant, for what, two years?” I know I’m being immature, but I’m using my words and not my fists, so I’m calling it a win.

“Gah, you’re such a bitch. No wonder Asher wanted to leave you. At least I was able to give him what he wanted,” she brags, rubbing her belly even faster than before.

Maybe if she rubs a little more, a fucking genie will pop out, and I can at least get three wishes out of this deal. Wish one: Asher and Mindy disappear off the face of the planet.

“And,” she continues, “because I know it’s driving you crazy, I’ll let you in on the secret. I’m in my third trimester.” She smiles and squeals, like we’re BFFs and she just told me the best news. “Just a couple more months to go and this precious bundle of joy will be in the world… Asher is going to be such a great daddy.”

The blood drains from my face as I do the math in my head. Asher and I have been divorced for almost two months. I found them in bed together three months before that. Two plus three does not equal the amount of months it takes to be in the third trimester. I know my pregnancy facts.

Mindy just answered one of my many burning questions: that sack of shit was cheating on me months before I busted him.

And now, he’s having a baby with someone else.

Honestly, I don’t know how to feel right now… numb, blind-sided, furious, hurt?

All I know is I’m trying my damnedest not to lose my shit.

Deep breaths.

“Believe me,” Mindy says, breaking through the haze I’m in. “I tried and tried to get Asher to leave you before you found out about us on your own, but he didn’t listen.” She sighs, like she’s disappointed for me… like she’s on my side and she was trying to do me a favor. “Oh, well, life goes on, right?”

We enter into a bit of a staring competition for a brief moment, her bright, smiling eyes against my crazy, sadistic glare. I feel the crazy oozing out of me. When she finally starts to back her buggy up to make a U-turn in the aisle, she has the audacity to smile… and wink at me.

She’s the incarnation of Satan.

Asher and Mindy aren’t going to have a bouncing bundle of joy, they’re going to have a devil love child. I should alert the media. This has a horror movie written all over it.

“See you around, Tempest,” she says over her shoulder, before stopping and turning. “Oh, I guess I’ll see you at the reunion, if not before… and you’re bringing a date, right?”

Deep breaths, Tempest.

I don’t answer her with words, only with my glare, hoping it burns a hole in her skull.

You can do this.

Don’t let that cow win.

After she makes a turn onto another aisle, I take a few more deep breaths, willing my nerves to calm, and when that doesn’t work, I close my eyes and try harder. With my hands on my knees, I suck in air like it’s going extinct. My breathing becomes routine and I automatically start swaying my body in preparation for the Tai Chi moves that come next.

Cage has been teaching me a little bit of Tai Chi to further help channel my anger and anxiety and I have to admit, I love it. Completely forgetting where I am, I begin to perform my favorite combination of steps. If people see me, I don’t care. I’d rather them talk about me doing Tai Chi in the canned goods aisle than losing my shit at the Piggly Wiggly.

I’m finally feeling relaxed and in control of my emotions, so to celebrate my victory, I decide to throw a few punches into the air, similar to what Rocky Balboa did after running up all those stairs in the movie.

I am Tempest Cassidy, master of my emotions.

Thoroughly enjoying myself, I decide to end my impromptu workout with a killer roundhouse kick… right into a tower of Pork N Beans.

At first, it’s only a few cans. I lurch out, containing them in a lunge, looking around to see who might’ve witnessed my performance. Only a lady down at the other end of the aisle seems to be in the know. I breathe out a sigh of relief, feeling uncharacteristically lucky as I try to balance the cans and myself.

Just as I decide it’s safe to stand up, I lose my balance and the cans in my hands take a tumble… and then the entire end cap begins to fall.

Cans.

Cans of Pork N Beans are rolling everywhere.

When everything finally comes to a rest, I’m sprawled out on the glossy tile of the Piggly Wiggly in aisle six, using my body as a dam to stop them from getting too far. I’m afraid to move… afraid to breathe…

*****

Author Info:

Jiffy Kate is the joint pen name for Jiff Simpson and Jenny Kate Altman. They’re co-writing besties who share a brain. They also share a love of cute boys, stiff drinks, and fun times.

Together, they’ve written over twenty stories. Their first published book, Finding Focus, was released in November 2015. Since then, they’ve continued to write what they know–southern settings full of swoony heroes and strong heroines.

Connect with Jiffy Kate

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Website: http://www.jiffykate.com/

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*****

Book Review – Taming My Whiskey

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Buckle up for a wild ride as Dixie Whiskey finds forever love in TAMING MY WHISKEY, a funny, sexy, and emotionally riveting standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. The perfect love story for those who enjoy fiercely loyal and insanely sexy alpha heroes, smart, sassy heroines, strong family bonds, bikers, babies, and more!

*****

Taming My Whiskey

The Whiskeys: Dark Knights at Peaceful Harbor #6

by Melissa Foster

Blurb:

Being the princess of the Dark Knights motorcycle club doesn’t come with a white knight or a fairy-tale castle, and that’s okay, because Dixie Whiskey has never needed a man to slay her dragons or make her whole. Even so, after watching each of her brothers fall in love, she’d sure like a shot at her own happily ever after. But with the Dark Knights watching over her and the only man she’s ever wanted out of reach, she’s not holding her breath.

As the launch of Silver-Stone Cycles’ biggest line approaches, Jace Stone is left needing a favor from the one woman who holds the power to take him to his knees. He knows when it comes to sinfully gorgeous and sharp-tongued Dixie Whiskey, he must stay on his toes and keep his walls firmly in place. But Jace needs her for his business—and Jace Stone always gets what he wants.

When the tall, gruff, and darkly handsome biker presents an opportunity that any other woman might see as the chance of a lifetime, Dixie turns him down flat. But Jace is determined, and he pulls out all the stops—sending Dixie’s overprotective brothers up in arms. Rebellious Dixie takes a stand—going after the freedom, and the man, she’s always wanted. One scorching kiss leads to an undeniable connection, but Jace isn’t looking to be tied down, and Dixie refuses to play second fiddle. Can two untamable hearts find forever love in each other’s arms?

The Whiskeys are perfect beach reads with depth of story, strong family ties, and a wealth of emotions. Small town love stories with happily ever afters guaranteed.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | Apple | GPlay | Paperback

*****

Review:

Strong, sassy, a little bit prickly, and able to take care of herself, Dixie is all Whiskey and I’ve been so looking forward to getting to know her better.  Jace might knock her a little sideways but that attitude doesn’t let it last for long.  I really appreciate that even when she’s nursing a hurt and bruised heart, she only lets it get her down for so long.  She’s not going to be defined as THAT woman and dusts herself off, then come out swinging.  And in the end shows that it is the Whiskey women who do the taming, proving once again why she’s been a delightful addition to the series since the very first moment she was introduced to readers.

While I absolutely loved getting to know Dixie more, I think I’m in the minority of women who didn’t find Jace all that great.  His whole attitude of how awesome he is and how he has to save her from the broken heart he is sure to give her seems noble but rubbed me the wrong way somehow.  I’m sure that he knew she was attracted to him but … I don’t know, he just seemed to go about it wrong.  Dixie is a strong and confident woman who doesn’t need coddling – that’s what she’s proving to her brothers.  And why have her stay at his apartment if he’s that set on not getting involved.  But worst of all is his horrible communication skills.  As a self-made man, with years of business experience, you’d think he’d be better at sharing where he’s coming from.  I can kinda get it at first since he’s confused about his feelings but later he REALLY should have known better.  So much of their troubles are caused by him and I’d really don’t blame any of the brothers for any urges to take him apart that they might have had … just sayin’.  By the end I was super confused about where his head is at (and so is Dixie) – throughout the book he’s all over the place on his feelings, her feelings, their attraction, and where they’ve stood in the decade that they’ve known each other.

But I have to say that I’m very glad to have had a chance to be there to see the last of the Whiskeys fall in love.  While I’m sad to see the end for the main family, I’m really looking forward to what Foster has in store next.  She is amazing at creating interesting characters with complicated lives that just beg you to keep reading and there are a ton of friends &relatives that will keep us coming back for more for years to come.

*****

For more hot Whiskey love, check out Melissa’s other Whiskey novels.
TRU BLUE
TRULY MADLY WHISKEY
DRIVING WHISKEY WILD
WICKED WHISKEY LOVE
MAD ABOUT MOON
TAMING MY WHISKEY
And don’t miss RIVER OF LOVE, the first story in which the Whiskeys were introduced!

“Melissa Foster is synonymous with sexy, swoony, heartfelt romance!” – New York Times Bestseller Lauren Blakely

“You can always rely on Melissa Foster to deliver a story that’s fresh, emotional and entertaining. Make sure you have all night, because once you start you won’t want to stop reading. Every book’s a winner!” – NYT Bestselling Author Brenda Novak

“Melissa Foster writes worlds that draw you in, with strong heroes and brave heroines surrounded by a community that makes you want to crawl right on through the page and live there.” – New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent

In TRU BLU

There’s nothing Truman Gritt won’t do to protect his family–Including spending years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. When he’s finally released, the life he knew is turned upside down by his mother’s overdose, and Truman steps in to raise the children she’s left behind. Truman’s hard, he’s secretive, and he’s trying to save a brother who’s even more broken than he is. He’s never needed help in his life, and when beautiful Gemma Wright tries to step in, he’s less than accepting. But Gemma has a way of slithering into people’s lives and eventually she pierces through his ironclad heart. When Truman’s dark past collides with his future, his loyalties will be tested, and he’ll be faced with his toughest decision yet.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | iBooks

In TRULY, MADLY, WHISKEY

Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm’s length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She’s a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey’s midnight fantasies. She’s also one of his closest friends.

Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his.

The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there’s no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotionally charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew about themselves.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | iBooks | GPlay | Paperback

In DRIVING WHISKEY WILD

Special Forces veteran and Dark Knights Motorcycle Club member Bullet Whiskey lives to protect his family, their bar, and the residents of his small hometown. He’s rough, unapologetic, and haunted by a secret, painful past. He’s also a master at keeping people away, and when his sister hires gorgeous and sweet Finlay Wilson to help expand their biker bar, he knows just how to get rid of her.

After losing her boyfriend and her father, Finlay moves back to her hometown to be closer to the little family she has left. She needs her temporary job at Whiskey Bro’s to get her catering business off the ground, and she’s determined not to let the gruff, arrogant mountain of a man Bullet Whiskey scare her off.

Finlay is everything Bullet has never wanted. She’s afraid of his dog, afraid of motorcycles, and sweet enough to give him cavities, but as she weaves her way into the hearts of everyone around him, he’s powerless to resist her charms. Passion ignites, but trust doesn’t come easily, and when their pasts collide, Bullet finds out the true meaning of protecting those he loves.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.ukBarnes and NobleKOBOiBooksGPlayPaperback

In WICKED WHISKEY LOVE

After escaping abusive parents and, later, an abusive relationship, Sarah Beckley has spent a lifetime watching snakes shed their skin. With two small children to care for and another on the way, she’s finally found a home in Peaceful Harbor with the brother she hasn’t seen in more than a decade. She’s still searching for her sister, but life is good. If only she could stop thinking about the sinfully sexy doctor/biker who has taken to her children like a loving uncle–and to her like a hungry man.

Trust doesn’t come easily for Sarah, but Bones Whiskey is patient and protective, amazing with her children, and he looks at her like she is the only woman he could ever want–and more. With two little ones underfoot, Sarah expects him to move on quickly, yet with every tender kiss and each trying moment with the children, Bones surprises her. But will the fiercely loyal biker stick around when Sarah’s worst secret is revealed, or will he shed his skin, too?

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | iBooks | GPlay | Paperback

In MAD ABOUT MOON

Can true love strike twice in one lifetime?

Josie Beckley refuses to believe there is a limit on happiness. A decade after she escaped her abusive parents and lost touch with her siblings, the death of her husband leaves her and her son homeless. But Josie has never been one to wallow in sadness, and when she takes a chance on reconnecting with her siblings, a sinfully handsome bright light from her past shows up and offers to help her find a way out of the darkness.

Most people wouldn’t see Jed Moon as someone to look up to. He’s been in and out of jail and has lived a less-than-stellar lifestyle. But years ago one woman saw through his bullshit, and he’s never forgotten her. Now she’s back in his life, and as a prospect for the Dark Knights motorcycle club, Jed promises to keep an eye on the sassy, sexy single mother who has never stopped lighting his fantasies on fire.

Jed and Josie’s combustible connection is stronger than ever. Having Josie and her son in his life brings out all of Jed’s protective instincts-and visions of a future he never imagined having. But when a shocking revelation knocks the insatiable lovers to their knees, it forces them to make choices that could change their lives forever.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | iBooks | GPlay | Paperback

*****

Author Info:

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

Melissa also writes sweet romance under the pen name Addison Cole.

Melissa enjoys chatting with readers and book clubs. Send her an email invitation to your next event!

Never miss a brand new release, special promotions or inside gossip again by simply signing up to receive your newsletter from Melissa.

Find Melissa on the following sites…
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Goodreads | Bookbub | Amazon Author Page

Click to get your FREE Love in Bloom Series Reading Order

*****

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Win a Tru Blue ebook
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*****

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Spotlight – The Christmas Dare

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It might be Halloween today but I am so very sweet on holiday romances!

*****

The Christmas Dare

Twilight, Texas series

by Lori Wilde

Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Avon Books

Publication Date: October 22, 2019

Blurb:

A jilted-at-the-altar bride reunites with her high school sweetheart in Lori Wilde’s sensational new Twilight, Texas Christmas novel.

Kelsey James always played by the rules and look where it got her—dumped and half-drunk in a poofy white dress, her Christmas wedding ruined. Then her best friend talks her into going on her “honeymoon” anyway, daring her to a “Christmas of Yes.”  It’s about time she lets loose a little, so Kelsey agrees to say “yes” to fun, to romance, and to adventure! And adventure leads her right smack into the arms of sexy Noah MacGregor.

Noah’s never one to say no to a risk—from leading his NBA team to victory to making Christmas cookies in Twilight, he’s up to the challenge! But a lot has gone on since they were teenagers, and he knows he has to take his time to make Kelsey dare to believe that what they feel is more than just the holiday magic that’s in the air . . .

Purchase Your Copy Today!
Amazon  |  Avon Romance  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

*****

Author Info:

A fifth generation Texan, LORI WILDE is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 82 works of fiction. She’s a three-time nominee of the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA award and has won numerous other awards. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Texas Christian University, and a certificate in forensics.

She is also a certified Hatha yoga instructor, and runs a yoga/creativity retreat for artists at Epiphany Orchards in Weatherford, Texas, the Cutting Horse Capital of the World.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

*****

Giveaway:

To celebrate the release of THE CHRISTMAS DARE by Lori Wilde, we’re giving away a paperback copy The Christmas Key by Lori Wilde to one lucky winner!

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy The Christmas Key by Lori Wilde. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Books.  Giveaway ends 11/4/2019 @ 11:59pm EST.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

*****

This promotion is brought to you by Pure Textuality PR.

 

 

Spotlight – The Giving Heart

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I just love small town romances, especially as we more into the holiday season!

*****

The Giving Heart

Summer Island, #2

by Toni Blake

Genre: Contemporary Romance; Small Town Romance

Imprint: HQN Books

On-sale date: October 29, 2019

Price: $7.99 USD / $10.99 CAD

Format: Mass Market Paperback

Blurb:

Spend a white Christmas on Summer Island, where the fires are warm and the romance is hotter

Lila Sloan wonders why she ever thought house-sitting for her sister Meg on the remote Summer Island was a good idea. And to make matters worse, local real estate developer Beck Grainger is trying to cut down the beautiful trees that line the property. Lila can’t let this happen; Meg will never forgive her.

Beck can understand Lila’s anger—sort of. The trees are actually on the neighboring property, and the land was zoned for development months ago, so his plans were no secret. But he dislikes being at odds with his friend’s sister, especially because Lila is appealing in every way: loyal, quick-witted and completely stunning.

Lila hates that she’s so attracted to Beck, who seems like a genuinely good man, despite his tree-murdering tendencies. And their chemistry is off the charts. She just wishes he’d let this development go. As Summer Island counts down to a snowy Christmas, Lila and Beck will have to strike a compromise that seems impossible for them both—or risk losing the best thing either of them has ever had.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1335505059

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-giving-heart-toni-blake/1129992772#/

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-giving-heart/id1446004163

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-giving-heart

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Toni_Blake_The_Giving_Heart?id=6z1-DwAAQBAJ

*****

Excerpt:

Five long, cold minutes later a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a winter coat with blue jeans and some weird, worn, leathery sort of cowboy hat on his head came walking down from the direction of West Bluff. Despite herself, and for the first time ever in her life, she found herself envying work boots like the ones he had on because they appeared so sturdy and dry. She braced herself for a fight.

When she looked up at him, two things struck her simultaneously. First, he was ridiculously handsome—with dark hair peeking out from beneath that dumb hat, and dark stubble on his chiseled jaw to match. And second, his warm brown eyes wore that same confused, cautious look as the man on the bulldozer’s as he said, “I’m Beck Grainger. And…there seems to be some sort of problem here?”

Lila drew back. This was Beck Grainger? Who Meg had spoken of so fondly? And even Suzanne, too, during their short visit yesterday, had mentioned him as a friend. Meg had told her he’d been interested in dating Suzanne and she’d declined, but they both still thought he was a great guy.

“Well, I’m Lila Sloan,” she said. “And yes, there’s a problem. I’m not letting you destroy Meg’s property value like this.”

Beck Grainger’s dark eyebrows shot up beneath his leathery brim. “You’re Meg’s sister?”

She gave a terse, crisp nod.

The handsome man sighed, shifting his weight from one work boot to the other. “Look, no one is trying to destroy anyone’s property value. And I assumed Meg knew about this. It’s not a secret. It was brought publicly before the town council and zoned for residential use back in the spring.”

Ugh. None of this was good news. But Lila was certain Meg didn’t know. Her sister had been dealing with a lot this past year and perhaps hadn’t been paying attention to island business. They’d actually discussed these very woods over the Thanksgiving table last week, recalling how they’d played here as children when their grandmother was still alive and running the place. Meg said that a couple of years ago she’d crossed the stream to plant some shade-loving trillium and blue cranesbill among the trees, and that the small blooms had added color visible from the patio each of the last two summers. Meg loved and valued these trees. And Lila brimmed with anger that no one had made Meg aware of this—but that was neither here nor there. “I can assure you she doesn’t know.”

The handsome man’s brow narrowed skeptically. “Well, if it’s a problem for her, why didn’t she just pick up the phone and call me?”

“Because she’s away right now—traveling. And even if she were here, she wouldn’t have known you were the person to call. And maybe she would have done something sensible—because Meg is definitely sensible—like contact someone on the town council. But I, being less sensible and more rash, took a more direct approach. Meg left me in charge of the inn while she’s away—and I can’t let you do this. I just can’t.”

The tilt of Beck Grainger’s handsome head told her he was going to try reasoning with her. “You know, it’s not gonna be that bad. Luxury homes. With big yards. They’ll fit into the landscape.” He even ended the sentence with a wink. Was he serious? Given what Lila had been through recently, he was definitely barking up the wrong tree with an elitist suggestion that rich people made better neighbors.

“I don’t care what you’re building—you’re doing it at the expense of my sister’s inn. People stay here because of the ambiance and atmosphere. They stay here to listen to crickets in the trees and see fireflies blinking in the woods. We played in these trees as kids. They’ve been growing here since…well, since before Summer Island was even Summer Island. I can’t let you tear them down.”

*****

Author Info:

USA Today bestselling author Toni Blake’s love of writing began when she won an essay contest in the fifth grade. Since then, she has written over twenty contemporary romance novels. Her books have received the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, her work has been excerpted in Cosmopolitan, and she has been nominated for a RITA Award. Toni lives with her husband in Northern Kentucky.

Author Links

Website: http://www.toniblake.com/

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

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/402788.Toni_Blake

*****

Giveaway:

Enter to win a copy of The Giving Heart by Toni Blake

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*****

Spotlight – Love in Due Time

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Love in Due Time, an all-new second chance romantic comedy from L.B. Dunbar is available now!

*****

Love in Due Time

Green Valley Public Library series

by L.B. Dunbar

Blurb:

Naomi Winters will be forty—soon-ish—and she’s only been with one man. One night. One time. Long ago. She believes everything happens for a reason, and the universe spoke about Nathan Ryder.

Nathan Ryder isn’t the same man who hightailed his bike out of Green Valley eighteen years ago. As a rule breaker, women are one area he acts a fool. Case in point…the local librarian. He can’t get a read on her, but she’s one risk he’s willing to take. Again.

What do an eccentric librarian and a sexy silver biker have in common? More than you think.

The due date on their love might not be expired after all.

‘Love in Due Time’ is a full-length, contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Green Valley Library series.

Download your copy today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2kwBn29

AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2m24uuN

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/LoveinDueTime

Nook: http://bit.ly/2kv2FpK

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2kx2n1t

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2m2Wytn

Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2ku1o2d

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2kwPLr8

*****

Excerpt:

“Naomi?” My hands cover her shoulders, holding her steady.

“This is all my fault.” Her eyes widen, the widest I’ve ever seen. Panic fills them.

“What do you mean?”

“I … I can’t believe this happened again.” Her hands come to my chest, and she gently pushes at me. “You have to get out of here.”

“What?” My brows pinch at the harsh tone.

“You need to go. I can’t be near you.” Her voice struggles to stay level.

Ouch. That stings a little.

“Why?” I take one step back under the force of her hands.

“I can’t be around you. This can’t happen.”

“Lady, what are you talking about?” My voice roughens.

“Bad things always happen after I’m with you.”

I stiffen, straightening to my full height. My arms cross and I glare down at her. Saying such a thing is just downright mean. Her head shakes as her fingers curl along the open edges of my work jacket. Suddenly, I feel like she’s tugging me to her instead of pressing me away.

What the …

“When I’m with you, something happens. Something bad.” Her breath catches. “Because we kissed, the library is closing.”

I stare at her. She can’t be serious, but I see the hysteria in her eyes, like a rabid, trapped animal. She actually believes what she says.

“Well, we didn’t kiss,” I remind her, my tone stern and condescending. “I kissed you, remember? And you didn’t kiss me back, so I don’t think it counts.”

She glares up at me, her fingers still gripping my open jacket. Her shoulders fall, her head lowers, and it’s as if I can visibly see her relax, like water cascading down a building, washing over her.

Exhale. Settle.

Exhale. Calm.

“I didn’t kiss you back?” she questions and then her head pops up again. She nearly shrieks with the hesitant realization. Commence inhaling, like she’s winding up again. Full steam ahead.

“I didn’t kiss you back,” she repeats, her excitement growing. Another exaggerated inhale.

“I didn’t kiss you back!” Now, she’s just downright gloating, and the engine’s ready to blow.

“You don’t have to sound so pleased,” I murmur. I glance up and notice Mrs. MacIntyre watching us through the window of the librarian’s office behind the check-out counter. Her eyes narrow and I’m certain we’re making too much noise for her liking.

“I … I’m so relieved,” Naomi admits, her head falling forward, her fingers loosening on my jacket. Then her face turns up again. Her lids lift, slow and lazy. Her mouth curls in sweet relief, and she pulls herself up on her toes by the open edge of my jacket and does the damnedest thing. She kisses me.

*****

Author Info:

L.B. Dunbar loves the sweeter things in life: cookies, Coca-Cola, and romance. Her reading journey began with a deep love of fairy tales, medieval knights, Regency debauchery, and alpha males. She loves a deep belly laugh and a strong hug. Occasionally, she has the energy of a Jack Russell terrier. Accused—yes, that’s the correct word—of having an overactive imagination, to her benefit, such an imagination works well. Author of over two dozen novels, she’s created sweet, small town worlds; rock star mayhem; MMA chaos; sexy rom-coms for the over 40; and intrigue on an island of redemption. In addition, she is earning a title as the “myth and legend lady” for her modernizations of mythology as elda lore. Her other duties in life include mother to four children and wife to the one and only.

Connect with L.B. Dunbar

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Website: https://www.lbdunbar.com/

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Website: https://smartypantsromance.com/

*****

Spotlight – Happy Trail

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Happy Trail, an all-new opposites attract standalone romance from USA Today bestselling author Daisy Prescott, is available now!

*****

Happy Trail

Park Ranger series

by Daisy Prescott

Blurb:

A man of few words, Ranger Jay Daniels values the calm, quiet solitude of the Great Smoky Mountains. Never quite fitting in with either side of his family, he prefers the company of birds and trees to people.

Yeah, he’d most definitely prefer a bird—any bird, any bird at all, take a vulture for instance—to the human-tornado hybrid that just blew onto his peaceful stretch of the Appalachian Trail.

The path of true love never has run smooth for Olive Perry. After getting dumped and promptly abandoned in the middle of her multi-month hike, Olive swears off men. Determined to finish the long trek by herself, she doesn’t need a prince—or broody and taciturn ranger—to save her.

Yet, when an early snowstorm threatens the mountains, and Ranger Daniels is charged with getting hikers to safety, that includes hot-tempered Olive Perry. Snowed in and forced to share an abandoned cabin, can Olive’s heated intensity melt Jay’s cool reserve?

And if so, will this happy trail lead to true love? Or will their time together be just another bump in the road?

‘Happy Trail’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Park Ranger series.

Download today!

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

AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2lB3BJv

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/HappyTrail

Nook: http://bit.ly/2m0VeXN

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

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2jXnfPc

Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2ku05Al

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2kwOTmm

*****

Excerpt:

“Can we drop the pretense of not being trapped on the wrong side of the fence with whatever bloodthirsty beast is making such a sound?” I squint into the distance, hoping narrowing my eyes will give me super strength vision.

It doesn’t. I step behind Ranger Daniels for protection.

“What are you doing?” He twists his neck to look down at me.

“Hiding. I believe you took an oath to protect and serve.”

“Pfft. You’re confusing me with a police officer. I’m here to engage, educate, and empower.” He moves so he’s beside me.

“You carry a gun, don’t you?”

“Sometimes. Do you see a holster now?”

I scan his hips and shake my head, allowing my eyes to linger on the tight fit of his uniform pants over his strong thighs and the thick belt at his narrow waist. Ranger Daniels is packing heat, but not of the pistol variety.

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

A distinct braying reaches my ears.

“Is that a donkey?” I tip my head.

“What would a donkey be doing up here? Makes no sense.”

“Ask him. Or her.” I point at the gray beast moving toward us. “I’m a city girl, but I’m pretty sure that’s an ass.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Jay removes his hat.

Maybe he plans to shoo away our attacker with it?

The gray form ambles toward us, letting out a loud bray and revealing large teeth.

“Should we be worried?” I’m standing behind Jay again.

“About a donkey? They’re mostly docile. He’s probably just curious.” Shifting his attention forward, he addresses our new friend. “Hey there. Where’d you come from?”

The donkey halts.

“See? He’s fine. Probably thinks we’re bringing treats.”

“And what will he do when he realizes we’re showing up to his house empty-handed?” I’m half mocking. In my world, not bringing a hostess gift is an unthinkable breach of etiquette. I have no idea about the social decorum for equines.

“Let’s go.” Jay encourages me forward with a sweep of his hat.

We take several steps and the donkey does the same without breaking eye contact, like we’re about to duel. There’s definitely a challenge, a mild threat in the eyes of our new foe.

“Should we slowly retreat to the fence?” I whisper at Jay’s back.

“Nah, we’re fine.”

“Maybe he’s a guard donkey.” I slide a glance over my shoulder toward safety. We’re a dozen or so yards away, but it isn’t too late to make a quick escape.

Jay’s eyes meet mine. “You know guard donkeys aren’t a thing.”

“I’m a stranger in a strange land—anything’s possible.” I wait until he faces forward to stick my tongue out at him.

He’s shaking his head and clearly not paying attention to me anymore as he stomps across the squishy field.

Left with no choice, I follow after him.

My boot slips in the mud, or donkey poop—it’s impossible to tell the difference. I squawk and flail my arms as I tumble forward in an awkward motion resembling the mating dance of an emu.

The donkey’s ears prick up before flattening against his head.

“Uh oh,” I murmur as I straighten up.

“It’s fine,” Jay says for the dozenth time.

Only he’s wrong.

*****

Author Info:

Born and raised in San Diego, Daisy currently lives in a real life Stars Hollow in the Boston suburbs with her husband, their rescue dog, Mulder, and an imaginary house goat. When not writing about herself in the third person, Daisy can be found traveling, gardening, baking, or lost in a good book.

Connect with Daisy

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2lzD4fw

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Instagram: http://bit.ly/2m2eVhW

Website: https://www.daisyprescott.com/

Connect with Smartypants Romance

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Website: https://smartypantsromance.com/

*****

Spotlight – Sticking to the Script

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Sticking to the Script, an all-new standalone in the romantic comedy Cipher Office series, from Stella Weaver is available now!

*****

Sticking to the Script

Cipher Office series

by Stella Weaver

Blurb:

Steven Thompson had a bad year. A string of mean, kinky (the alarming kind, not the good kind), and crazy dating debacles combined with a boss who appears to be experiencing male-prenatal-psychosis means Steven’s stress levels are high. They’re so high, he’s decided to quit dating and focus instead solely on his job.

Until he meets Dr. Ken Miles.

Doctor Ken Miles is having a fantastic year. His hard work is paying off in a big way . . . professionally. But his social life? Not so much.

Until he meets Steven Thompson.

Steven isn’t so sure about Dr. Miles, but Ken is one hundred percent certain about Mr. Thompson. And even though both men know full well that the key to getting what you want out of life is hard work, they can’t seem to make them—together—work.

Will they ever get on the same page? Or just keep sticking to the same old script?

‘Sticking to the Script’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#2 in the Cipher Office series, Knitting in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/35BGZLv

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/StickingtotheScript

Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2lAVqg6

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2k11L3Z

*****

Excerpt:

“He asked you to a movie?” She blinked, nonplussed.

“Who are we talking about?” Nico asked, leaning around Elizabeth to look at me. His green eyes held a mischievous twinkle, no doubt eager to hear a new chapter of farce and lunacy in Steven’s Big Book of Dating Disasters.

“Ken Miles,” I replied.

Nico’s twinkle and dimple disappeared. Whether Elizabeth disliked Ken or not, I was sure Nico loathed the man. I couldn’t blame him; it was his prerogative to hate men who used to lust after his wife. He arched one raven eyebrow and asked, “How’d that come about?”

“Yeah,” Elizabeth said. “How, Steven?” Her tone was curious, but I thought I detected a little tinge of disapproval that I didn’t like.

Not wanting to make an issue of anything, I replied with an easy nonchalance. “I ran into him at Buzzy’s. We started talking about Mystery Science Theater 3000—”

“That show’s a riot,” Nico asserted, reaching for his fritter. “The reboot is pretty good, too.”

“That’s what I told DKM.” I took Nico’s lead and grabbed my own heavenly pastry.

“Then, when he found out the movie was playing at the Music Box,” he asked me if I wanted to see it. So, we went.” I shrugged.

“There’s a movie?” Nico asked. “How did I not know this?”

I mumbled around my fritter bite, “You’re not missing much.”

“Stinker, eh?”

“Little bit.” I shrugged again. That had been two, overly casual shrugs in just a few seconds and I worried I was playing it too cool. Elizabeth’s powers of observation surpassed my own. If I wasn’t careful, she’d have me giving her every last detail of the evening.

“So,” she broke in. “Are you thinking this might have been like, you know, a date?” Her brows were drawn together in concern, her words tentative.

I tilted my head in stern exasperation. “Puh-leeze. The man didn’t know who McSteamy was. I got the memo that he’s straight.”

“Who’s McSteamy?” Nico asked.

I pursed my lips together, raised my eyebrows and gestured to Nico. “I rest my case.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I’m sorry, I just didn’t want you getting the wrong idea or anything. He’s”—she looked at her husband in apology—“he’s very good-looking, and I could see how asking you to a movie could get your hopes up.”

“Nah,” I waved dismissively. “I know what’s up. But I think we could hang out,” I volunteered without thinking. I instantly regretted my slip.

“Good luck with that,” Nico said with a laugh.

“We had a good time. He’s kind of funny,” I defended.

“Not possible,” he declared. Nico was a comedian, and a very successful one at that. He knew what was funny and wasn’t about to give the odious Dr. Miles any benefit of the doubt where humor was concerned.

Inexplicable annoyance spurred me to continue. “I think I might make hanging out with him a regular thing.”

“I don’t think a stiff like that knows how to have fun.”

Elizabeth grimaced at her husband’s uncharacteristic snark, then issued me a sympathetic smile. “Well, it will be good for Dr. Ken Miles. He’s not the most colorful person in the city, that’s for sure. Maybe you’ll broaden his horizons.”

*****

Author Info:

Stella Weaver is a reader, writer, sloppy crafter and family-woman. She’s a native of coastal northern California who now lives on the Texas Gulf coast. She’s won the much coveted #1 Mom of the Year Award and has the coffee mug to prove it.

Connect with Stella Weaver

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Website: https://stellarweavings.blogspot.com/

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*****

Spotlight – Weight Expectations

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Weight Expectations, the first in the romantic comedy Cipher Office series of standalones, from M.E. Carter is available now!

*****

Weight Expectations

Cipher Office series

by M.E. Carter

Blurb:

Rian Thompson thought she joined the gym to get healthy. Little did she know she was about to add hundred and ninety pounds of swoonworthy abdominal muscles and arrogance to her life.

Every day in Rians’s life follows a predictable pattern, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s got a nice job, a nice place to live, and a nice family—even if they are a little wedding-zilla-ish at the moment.

She doesn’t need anything spectacular to be happy. She just needs to get healthy—mentally, physically. . . and maybe spiritually if that happens. But she’ll settle for two out of three until her sister finally gets hitched.

Carlos Davies thought his life was perfect. Little did he know it was about to be turned upside down by a woman who is not his type.

In Carlos’s mind, his life is damn near perfect. He’s got a great job, a great place to live, and a great stash of pick up lines that always work. It has occurred to him that maybe no one actually takes him all that seriously. But with these bulging biceps and thick, dark hair, does that even matter since he’s never sleeping alone?

Welcome to Weight Expectations, where great—and unexpected—things happen.

‘Weight Expectations’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Cipher Office series, Knitting in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2nQ4Rtx

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/WeightExpectations

Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2lZkGwJ

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2k6uftk

*****

Author Info:

My name is ME Carter and I have no idea how I ended writing books. I’m more of a story teller (the more exaggerated the better) and I happen to know people who helped me get those stories on paper. I love reading (read almost 200 books last year), hate working out (but I do it anyway because my trainer makes me), love food (but hate what it does to my butt) and love traveling to non-touristy places most people never see. I live in Houston with my four kids, Mary, Elizabeth, Carter and Bug, who was just a twinkle in my eye when I came up with my pen name. Yeah, I’ll probably have to pay for his therapy someday for being left out.

Connect with M.E. Carter

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2ly7Fu3

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Website: https://www.authormecarter.com/

Connect with Smartypants Romance

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*****

Spotlight – A Lie for a Lie

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Hunting’s latest is getting some fabulous reviews … definitely a read worth checking out!

*****

Lainey vs. Puck Bunnies in A Lie for a Lie    

A Lie for a Lie is a heartwarming, sexy, emotional romantic comedy. It’s a second chance romance, filled with secrets and there are definitely some exciting, fun twists. It’s also a story of empowerment, self-discovery, and independence.

Rook Bowman, aka RJ or Rookie as he has been known as previously, has recently taken on the role as captain of Chicago’s NHL team, and with that role comes big responsibility and more fame than he sometimes knows how to handle. As with any professional sport, the NHL lifestyle can often be full of excess and decadence; money, fame and an endless stream of women who will do just about anything to get into bed with them, and it’s not always easy to avoid that kind of temptation.

When we meet Rook in A Lie for a Lie we learn that he has a less than shiny past when it comes to the excess and the puck bunnies (hockey groupies). NHL players are often drafted quite young—just watch a game and you’ll notice that the rookies can often barely grown peach fuzz, let alone a full beard. They’re still teenagers when they start their careers, and Rook was no different. Having grown up on an alpaca farm in rural New York, his focus was mainly hockey and the family farm, but once he hit the pros he found himself surrounded by women who literally threw themselves at him. And being young, attractive and full of testosterone, he fell headfirst down that rabbit hole. At least until the drama found him in the form of a fake pregnancy and a social media firestorm. Because of that, and the impact it had on his relationship with his family, Rook swears off the bunnies and refocuses on his career, rather than extracurricular activities.

He meets Lainey on the way to Alaska, where he’s gone every summer since he was a teenager with his dad and his brother. He lost his father a few years earlier, but kept the tradition with his brother because he craves the escape from the demands of his life as an NHL superstar. Lainey encapsulates everything he misses about being a “normal guy.” She doesn’t recognize him or seem to even know anything about hockey, and that makes her even more alluring. For once, he can just be himself. He doesn’t have to worry about ulterior motives or being used. Lainey is refreshingly innocent, incredibly smart, genuine and overwhelmingly sweet and Rook finds himself enamored with her sense of adventure. As they get to know each other, Rook learns about her traumatic past and realizes that despite the challenges she’s faced, Lainey possesses a quiet strength and resilience. Add some insane chemistry and you’ve got a recipe for love. Unfortunately for Rook, he built their entire fragile relationship on lie he can’t take back.

*****

A Lie for a Lie

All In #1

by Helena Hunting

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Montlake

Blurb:

Sometimes I need an escape from the demands, the puck bunnies, and the notoriety that come with being an NHL team captain. I just want to be a normal guy for a few weeks. So when I leave Chicago for some peace and quiet, the last thing I expect is for a gorgeous woman to literally fall into my lap on a flight to Alaska. Even better, she has absolutely no idea who I am.

Lainey is the perfect escape from my life. My plan for seclusion becomes a month long sex fest punctuated with domestic bliss. But it ends just as abruptly as it began. When I’m called away on a family emergency, I realize too late that I have no way to contact Lainey.

A year later, a chance encounter throws Lainey and me together again. But I still have a lie hanging over my head, and Lainey’s keeping secrets of her own. With more than lust at stake, the truth may be our game changer.

*****

Excerpt:

When Lainey excuses herself to the bathroom, I rush upstairs and throw on a T-shirt. I know she said whatever makes me comfortable, but sitting around shirtless is such a douche move.

I make it back to the kitchen and pour her a fresh drink before she returns from the bathroom.

“How can I help with dinner?” Lainey drapes her sweater over the back of a chair.

And my mouth goes dry. Like I ate an entire sleeve of saltines and chased it with a tablespoon of salt. So far I’ve only seen Lainey in a giant parka or an oversize sweater. Under all that bulky fabric is one hell of a body. She’s wearing a simple white waffle shirt that conforms to her curves. A pair of dark-wash skinny jeans encase her toned legs.

I’m used to bunnies throwing themselves at me, often in questionable states of undress. I stopped getting excited about miniskirts and revealing tops a long time ago. There’s something infinitely sexier about a woman who can show off her body without actually showing it off at all.

Lainey tips her head to the side. Her teeth press into her full bottom lip. I want to do that. Suck that pouty, full lip between my teeth and bite it. I want to do a lot of other, far more explicit things than that, but a kiss seems like a good place to start.

“RJ? Is everything okay?” Her eyes dip down to my chest. I’m wearing a shirt from one of my endorsement campaigns. It afforded me the extensive renovations on this cabin a few years ago.

“Huh?” I give my head a shake. “Oh. Yeah. Everything’s good. Sorry, zoned out there for a second.”

She smiles and pushes up on her toes, her eyes twinkling—like, they legit light up, and her excitement makes her entire body vibrate. It also makes her boobs jiggle. I try to keep my eyes glued to her face. It’s not easy, though.

“I do that all the time! Sometimes my brain is busy with so many thoughts I miss entire conversations. Does that happen to you too?”

I grin. I love that she seems to say whatever is on her mind. “All the time.”

“It’s actually a helpful skill when you’re being lectured, because I can sort through stuff in my head, but it’s not so great when your supervising professor is telling you what’s wrong with your thesis.” She pulls her hair over her shoulder and finger combs it.

“I take it that’s happened to you.”

“It did. Thankfully he also emailed all his criticisms, so missing out on it the first time wasn’t that big of a deal.” She divides her hair into three sections and deftly braids it without looking at what she’s doing even once. It’s pretty damn impressive. I almost want to pull it apart so I can watch her do it all over again. “Anyway, enough about that. Let’s get started on dinner!” She nudges me out of the way so she can wash her hands. She dries them on her jeans and moves over to the fridge, opening it to check out the contents.

I kind of like that she makes herself at home. I’m used to women who expect to be catered to. It’s refreshing to meet someone who doesn’t want me to pander to her.

I start pulling things out of the fridge as she starts naming items she’ll need and set them on the counter. I manage to locate most of what she asks for.

“What about garlic? Do you have any of that?” She leans over, peering into the fridge beside me. Her braid slips over her shoulder, skimming my arm.

“Uh, maybe we could forgo the garlic?”

“Are you allergic? My oldest brother gets bloated when he eats it. It took us forever to figure out what was causing it. Sometimes I’ll still put some in when he’s coming for dinner, because it’s funny to see him look like he’s expecting.” She tips her head to the side. “Or you just don’t like garlic?”

“I like it sometimes, but it depends.”

Her brows pinch together. “On what?”

“Who I’m eating with. I mean, if I’m going out with buddies, you bet I’m gonna order the honey garlic wings, or the cheesy garlic bread, or the pasta Alfredo. But if I’m eating dinner with a pretty girl, I’m gonna pass on the garlic.”

“Oh.” She twists the end of her braid around her finger.

I hope I’m not reading things wrong and making her uncomfortable.

“Does that mean you think I’m pretty?”

That she sounds genuinely curious as to my answer is unexpected. “You see yourself in the mirror every day—what do you think?”

She averts her gaze, still playing with the end of her braid. “My eyes are too big, so I always look like I’m surprised. My nose is small, and my lips are too full, so my mouth doesn’t really fit the rest of my face.”

“Wow. I think you need a new mirror, because all I see is a whole lot of gorgeous.”

She snorts a laugh and waves me off. “Once, I took a portrait class, and we learned all about proportion and symmetry of the face. Those are just my flaws based on what I was taught.”

“Well, I’m a big fan of all your flaws, and I think they make you more beautiful, not less.”

“Thanks. I think you’re beautiful too.” She cringes. “I mean handsome. You’re very nice to look at, with or without a shirt on. When I fell in your lap on the airplane, I remember thinking, At least I fell on someone nice looking.”

“Is that so?”

“Mm-hmm.” She opens a drawer, maybe to avoid looking at me. “And as much as I was mortified when you sat beside me on the Cessna, I couldn’t complain about the view, inside or outside of the plane. That you turned out to be really nice, and just so helpful, was a great bonus.” She hands me a roll of foil. “Why don’t you wrap the potatoes? They take the longest, so we should get started on those first.”

I put the potatoes on the barbecue and let Lainey order me around. She definitely knows her way around a kitchen. When I was growing up, my mom did most of the cooking, but my dad could make a mean Saturday-morning brunch. He also made great bread, which I miss a lot.

An hour later we’re seated at the table, plates full of steak, twice-baked potatoes, and crispy brussels sprouts cooked in bacon fat. I open a bottle of red wine and offer Lainey a glass.

“Just a little bit? I’m not sure I like red wine.”

“Maybe you just haven’t had the right red wine.” I pour a little into her glass.

She picks it up and gives it a swirl, then sniffs it. “I’ve seen people do this in the movies, but I don’t really know what the point is,” she admits, then tips the glass back and takes a tentative sip. Her expression turns thoughtful; then she takes another, slightly more robust sip. “This is actually really nice. I like it. Maybe the red wine I had before was bad.”

“Maybe. Some of the cheap stuff tastes pretty awful.” I pour more into her glass before filling mine. I hold up my glass and wait for her to raise hers.

“To chance meetings.”

“To new adventures and great company to share them with.” We toast and take a sip, each smiling behind the rim.

*****

Author Info:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. Helena writes everything from contemporary romance with all the feels to romantic comedies that will have you laughing until you cry.

Website: https://helenahunting.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helena.hunting69/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/helenahunting

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7226675.Helena_Hunting

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