A SOLDIER'S SONG
by Irene Onorato
Genre: Inspirational Romance
Pub. Date: 2/13/2018
Can love conquer all? . . .
All Special Forces sergeant Jason Dexter ever wanted was to serve his country—with his father’s blessing. Although the elder Dexter has yet to make his peace with his son’s decision, Jason has no regrets. Still, he has mixed feelings about returning to his upstate New York town. But his perspective changes at a friend’s wedding, where he meets a lovely, gifted musician. Now Jason has a new mission: to get to know Aria Greco better.
The daughter of Jason’s commanding officer, Aria dreams of becoming a concert pianist. Meeting the handsome soldier transforms both their lives. But Aria’s ambition, Jason’s unresolved family conflicts, and jealousy over rivals on both sides soon threatens their blossoming relationship. As Jason prepares for a dangerous deployment, will the mounting tensions tear them apart, or is their love—and the faith they share—powerful enough to heal the past and embrace the future?
Irene Onorato was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. Her father, a first-generation American whose parents were born in Italy, was an Army veteran who had served with the 178th combat engineers during WWII. He told numerous stories of battles, hardships, tragedies and triumphs. The glimpses he gave into the hearts of many American warriors would later become the inspiration for much of Irene’s writings.
In 1972, a few months after graduating high school, Irene met James Onorato, a soldier who had just returned from Vietnam. After dating two weeks, they married, raised three children, and are still happily married today.
Irene and James, both radiation protection technicians, retired from the nuclear power industry in 2014 and now reside in Louisiana. Readers can visit Irene’s website at ireneonorato.com, and find her on Facebook.
Sometimes fate brings you together...only to tear you apart
Growing up in the foster system, Quinn O'Meara made a point of never getting involved. But when she discovers a crying baby amid a fiery crime scene, she knows she has no choice. Suddenly in way over her head, Quinn turns to the police, unintentionally positioning herself in the crosshairs of a deadly human-trafficking ring.
The last time homicide detective Nick Saldano saw Quinn, she was still the young girl he'd shared a foster home with. The girl who'd loved and cared for him when no one else had. Now here she was, gorgeously all grown-up--and in terrible danger.
Unwilling to lose her again, Nick insists on keeping Quinn close, especially when the bond they once shared heatedly slides into desire. Quinn finally has someone worth holding on to, but what kind of future can they have when she might not live to see tomorrow?
Race Against Time is inspiring, heartbreaking, hope springing story that kept me on my toes. It has a well-balanced mix of heartening human connections and deadly, savage suspense. The story is told from several different points of view, giving a panoramic, layered picture of the events and a portal to the evil, disturbing thoughts of the criminals.
The story starts off with a point of the matter type of telling of the tragic tale of human trafficking. While it broke my heart, and the ease of it happening is as frustrating as it always is in these cases, the way it was told - and then, and then, and then - it took me by surprise. But after the scene is set, and the characters are introduced, the story started to flow, and the style of telling came smoother and enjoyable.
While at times the story was a bit confusing (inconsistent) or moving on slowly, there are elements in this story that I enjoyed and found intriguing.
One of them was the developing relationship between Quinn O'Meara and Nick Saldano. I loved the connection they had from their foster care years. Their memories from the time together were emotional, delightful and sweet. The spark that now was in between them was convincing. Their childhood years gave them a good foundation to get to know each other more, something that was easy for them to build upon. They both are strong, heroic characters who are able and willing to step up and take care of business. I loved it how tough Quinn was, truly a survivor and a heroine, she is the woman we all inspire to be.
There are other survivors and champions in the story as well, but to point them out could give something away of the riveting, danger-filled, action packed plot.
The empire of the crime lord and his power and reach was intriguing in the scary kind of way. The human trafficking and its consequences are interesting as we should know more about it, we should be more aware of it, and how easy it is for them to come and sweep the victim away.
In the mix of all the life-threatening danger and death, the book tells inspiring stories of people who managed to turn around their circumstances, their destiny, and make a difference in their own lives. The stories of these survivors - heroes and heroines of their own lives - have uplifting, encourages messages of hope, love, and faith. Race Against Time is a story that made me think, it is a story that will stay with me because of the compelling characters it introduced. I do wish there would have been room to get a deeper look at all the different players of the story, yet the vulnerability of the survivors and the constant, deadly threat to them took the tale to an enthralling spin of peril and risk to their lives.
Both the danger and the beauty of life took my breath away with this engaging tale
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
In the second novel in acclaimed author Sandra Owens’s Aces & Eights series, passions—and tempers—flare as one star-crossed couple gets a second chance at love.
Covert FBI agent Court Gentry loves his brothers, his job, and his Harley-Davidson. Once he loved a girl, too, but when she broke his heart, he put his emotions on lockdown…until she crosses his path again.
On vacation six years ago, free-spirited Lauren Montgomery fell hard for Court Gentry. She returned home happier than ever, only to descend into a spiral of abuse by her ex-husband, Stephan. When Stephan threatened to kill any man who touched her, Lauren cut Court from her life—but not from her heart.
When Lauren and Court reunite after her friend marries his brother, Court guards himself against the person who made him feel such intense passion and pain. Except the undeniable spark between them is impossible to contain and heating up fast. Six years ago, it was love. Now, it’s just lust. Keeping it merely physical is a foolproof plan…right?
When Stephan is released from prison, Lauren can’t outrun her past anymore, and Court vows to protect her. But with Lauren in imminent danger, Court must question his heart and risk his life to save the woman he never stopped loving.
Whereas in Jack of Hearts the Gentry brothers won me over, in King of Clubs I fell in love.
Court Gentry is an amazing hero. He is as alpha as they come, with a strong protective strike. He has inner depth, deep feelings, he is vulnerable, considerate, kind, generous, and hardworking. Sexy beast of a cuddly bear describes his complex character well, he is sensual as well as romantic, passionate and sincere.
Court's heart has been broken twice, by his mother and by Lauren Montgomery. To trust Lauren again is not going to be easy, but to turn his back on her when she is in danger and in need of help, that would be unthinkable.
Lauren's ex-husband did his best to break her, to destroy her will, mind, and heart. She would rather sacrifice herself, than let her ex hurt those she loves, including Court.
Lauren is the perfect match for Court. She is independent, feisty, caring, loving, protective, family oriented woman who loves life and laughter, until she is nearly broken by the monstrous ex-husband and his family.
The battle of accepting the past, forgiving the hurt and daring to love and live in the moment is palpable with Lauren and Court in the story. They have an uphill road ahead of them with many obstacles in the way, both physical and mental. But they are willing to work on those obstacles while I was rooting for them to find a way home to each other.
I loved how Lauren and Court talked and worked on their issues, their fears, and hopes for the future. The story gives a more in-depth look at the brothers' past, their childhood, and the troubling abandonment by their mother, and the abuse they faced in the hands of their father. The story demonstrates great character development and growth, the whole cast filled with characters I want to spend time with, to get to know better.
The suspense in the story is intense, the constant present danger giving the tale an edgy and skittish vibe. The tangible threat in the air lurks around, the kind that sneaks up on you on the death of night. Every time you think they are safe, something sinister lay in wait for them.
The story is well built with a great balance of romance, danger and action, as well as the past still haunting in the minds of the brothers. The story comes to a satisfying, very pleasing full closure with Court and Lauren yet leaves an intriguing teaser about things to come and left me a bit worried about the oldest brother, Nate. I can't wait for him to find peace of mind and happiness like his brothers now embrace.
With a heartfelt family bond, an ardent romance, and disturbing, traumatic malice with constant threat and vulnerability, the author binds a story that was easy to get lost in, submerge in and forget your surroundings. Aces and Eights is a series that I can highly recommend!
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
An award winning author, Sandra Owens lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Her family and friends often question her sanity, but have ceased being surprised by what she might get up to next. She’s jumped out of a plane, flown in an aerobatic plane while the pilot performed thrilling stunts, has flown Air Combat (two fighter planes dogfighting, pretending to shoot at each other with laser guns), and rode a Harley motorcycle for years. She regrets nothing.
Sandra is a 2013 Golden Heart® Finalist for her contemporary romance, CRAZY FOR HER. CRAZY FOR HER is the first book in her bestselling series about the men of K2 Special Services. Book two, SOMEONE LIKE HER, is available now, and book three, FALLING FOR HER, is due out this fall. In addition to contemporary romances, Sandra writes Regency romances.
Learn more about Sandra at www.sandra-owens.com
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THE EARL MOST LIKELY
by Jane Goodger
Genre: Historical Romance
The picturesque seaside town of St. Ives is home to all manner of treasures . . .
It’s not every day a young woman is offered ten thousand pounds for a few month’s work—especially the plain, shy daughter of a tin mine owner. The only thing special about Harriet Anderson is her extraordinary memory for even the smallest, most obscure detail. So when she’s asked by a gentleman to help restore his once magnificent ancestral home, she simply can’t refuse, no matter how scandalous the position. The money will mean freedom from her callous parents, and a life of independence. Harriet doesn’t imagine dreaming of anything more . . .
Augustus Lawton, Lord Berkley, cares about only one thing: restoring his beloved Costille House to its former, historically correct, glory. His late wife had taken great vindictive delight in transforming the old castle into a modern Victorian nightmare. Harriet’s remarkable memory will be invaluable in repairing it—and in helping him solve his wife’s murder. Yet as they work together, Augustus finds that besides her uncanny gift, Harriet possesses other priceless qualities. And as the castle’s beauty is gradually revealed, he can’t help noticing, so is hers . . .
Jane Goodger lives in Rhode Island with her husband and three children. Jane, a former journalist, has written seven historical romances. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, walking, playing with her kids, or anything else completely unrelated to cleaning a house.
Single mom Daisy Sorensen doesn’t believe in fairytale endings—at least not for her. All she wants is to enjoy a much-needed, stress-free family vacation at a friend’s Lake Tahoe home. So of course everything that can go wrong does. Including a gorgeous man and his daughter showing up in the middle of the night.
Soon-to-be Governor Jack Harrison has had a crazy week, but he’s sure nothing can top arriving to find a bathrobe-clad, beautiful stranger in the home he’s staying in for the week. He’s wrong. When things spiral out of control the next morning, Jack makes Daisy an offer she can’t refuse. She’ll pretend to be his fiancée and he’ll help her open the bakery she’s been dreaming about.
But in between late-night campfires and days on the lake, Jack finds himself falling for the strong, stubborn woman for real.
Daisy didn’t know how long she’d been working when she was struck by how quiet and still the house was and, realizing the rain finally had stopped, she’d decided to take a break and stepped outside onto the deck to appreciate the beauty of Lake Tahoe, the open sky above her.
She might not have planned this vacation, but she was coming around to thinking this trip might be what she’d needed—no, they all had needed—after all.
It was in this relaxed state of mind that Daisy finally stepped back inside the house, ready to turn in.
At least until her gaze rested on the tall, strange man who bore an uncanny resemblance to the state’s lieutenant governor standing in the kitchen. If that hadn’t sent her heart racing, the sound of shattering glass a second later nearly had her heart bolting from her chest.
Every instinct called for her to scream at the top of her lungs and retreat back into the shadows of the deck. Only, upstairs the kids and her aunt were resting and safe—for now. And she meant to keep them that way.
Which meant she needed to get this guy out of the house.
But first, she needed something to protect herself with. She scanned her surroundings before resting on the bottle opener sitting on the kitchen counter. If only she could reach it before he--
“Wait. Just hear me out,” the guy said in a smooth, even voice, softened probably to offer her comfort—at least before he tried to stab her to death. He raised his empty hands in front of him as if to show her he was unarmed. “I’m Jack. Jack Harrison. I’m a friend of the Vaughns.”
Jack Harrison. It really was the lieutenant governor? The man who’d spoken at last month’s seminar at the women’s business center about starting up a small business? A seminar where she’d spent a good five minutes—okay, maybe ten—fantasizing about what it would be like to run her fingers across that strong jaw or through those waves of sandy brown hair.
What was he doing here?
“You know the Vaughns?” she asked more cautiously.
“I spoke to Emily Vaughn a couple of days ago, and she assured me the place would be unoccupied this week. I promise, I’m not here to hurt you. In fact, my own daughter is upstairs right now.”
She sighed in relief as the adrenaline and fear that had poured through her a moment before seeped away. He wasn’t here to kill her. Of that she was almost certain.
He glanced down to the loan forms she’d left sitting out on the counter that outlined her miniscule savings, nonexistent assets, and lack of references or contacts that would make the loan ever happen. “Are you Daisy? Daisy Sorensen?”
“Yes. But, if you don’t mind”—she snatched up the documents—“these are personal.”
“Daisy Sorensen,” he said as if testing the words. “I know Payton married a Sorensen last year—I’m guessing you’re related?” He returned those bright blue eyes to her again, and his sensuous lips slipped into an easy smile.
A smile that sent a ripple of sexual awareness through her. Something she thought she was incapable of feeling, at least for a very long time.
She glanced down. Oh, holy Mary, Mother of…
What am I wearing?
Was she really standing in front of the lieutenant governor in her old threadbare bathrobe? And socks. Fuzzy socks.
Where was that lightning when she needed it to strike her down?
Ashlee Mallory is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and thrillers. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and two kids. She aspires to one day include running, hiking and traveling to exotic destinations in her list of things she enjoys, but currently settles for enjoying a good book and a glass of wine from the comfort of her couch.
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Protected by Love
Montana Heat #0.5
By: Jennifer Ryan
Releasing June 20, 2017
It was more than another blind date . . .
It was DEA Agent Caden Cooke’s third chance to impress beautiful chef Mia Martin. He’d already stood her up twice, and was shocked she was even giving him another chance. For Caden, taking down the bad guys is important, but Mia’s made it clear there’s no excuse for his bad behavior. So he’s vowed to make it worth her while with an apology he’s cooked up just for her.
From the moment they meet, it’s clear this isn’t just another fix up. The sparks flying between them are undeniable; the tension is electric. Then, suddenly, the best moments of their lives turn treacherous when a drug dealer set on revenge puts their lives in danger. And Mia and Caden quickly realize they will do anything to protect the other—and live for the love neither of them expected.
I'm completely enamored with this novella, the action-packed, explosive start of the new series that had me holding my breath with anticipation and swooning over the incredible, charming, kickass hero and heroine! This is going to be an awesome series!
DEA Agent Caden Cooke is as alpha as they come, a protective and capable leader who is tough when needed. He takes care of those he cares for, his family high up on the list of his priorities. He has been submerged in his job and is ready for a change. He has an adorable romantic side, that won my heart over and came a bit as a surprise.
Mia Martin can hold her own in a fight. She is smart, beautiful, independent, with kindness and inner strength that are admirable. Together Mia and Caden set off some serious spark. They fit together, like two parts of a whole. It is palpable how much they like each other, enjoy the company and have fun when in each other's presence.
For a novella, the author has managed to pack the pages with lots of story, character development, and depth. All the secondary characters contributed to the plot development and setting up the stage for the new series. The hero and heroine have one heck of a first date, but they are more than survivors, they are fighters, and not giving up. The feelings they have for each other might seem like they are developing fast and furiously, yet the circumstances make it believable and enjoyable to see them fall so hard and completely. The wonder and amazement of their own feelings and about the other's existence are delightful, the timing and spacing of the storyline absolutely perfect.
Lots of action, danger, uncertainty, and deadly maneuvers that kept me on my toes while at the same time utterly and completely falling for the characters and swooning over their passion filled, ardent start of a something beautiful and amazing, and hoping they stay alive long enough to enjoy the budding relationship and feelings developing between them...
Absolutely fantastic, this is going to be a one klick series for me!
~ Five Spoons
He really wanted to kiss her.
“You’re worried about work.”
He scanned the quiet street and the light traffic this time of night. He didn’t think Marco stupid enough to stay in the city. Too many cops out looking for him. He wondered if someone was watching his place, waiting for him to come home.
“Work is always on my mind, but right now, there’s only one thing I’m thinking about.” He closed the distance between them and slipped his free hand around her back, the ends of her hair brushing his hand, and pulled her close. He stared down into her surprised eyes and smiled. “You promised me a good-night kiss.”
Her hand came up and rested on his chest. “Yes, I did. I’m a woman of my word.”
“I’m counting on that.”
He leaned down. She rose up to meet him in the middle. Their lips touched, and fire shot through him with a swift need that burned and consumed every thought in his head but one: Hold on to her. He pulled her closer, changed the angle of the kiss, and took it deeper, sweeping his tongue across her soft lips and diving deep when she sighed and let him in.
Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted series and the McBride series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances, featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find. Jennifer lives in the San Fransisco Bay Area with her husband, three children.
When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.
Author Links: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
Done Rubbed Out
Reightman & Bailey Book 1
by Jeffery Craig
Genre: Crime Mystery, Thriller
In this first book of the Reightman & Bailey Series, deceit, corruption and murder tangle together with vivid, unconventional characters in a story of unlikely new friendships and their power to change us.
Things are going well at the Time Out Spa, but the night young proprietor Toby Bailey discovers his former lover naked and dead on a massage table, more things are spoiled than just his white leather shoes. Detective Melba Reightman and partner, Sam Jackson are called in to investigate and soon become embroiled in the most perplexing homicide case seen in years.
After a Hunting knife engraved with Toby's name is found in a pile of wet, bloody laundry, he's arrested for the murder of Geraldo Guzman. He enlists the aid of Madame Zhou Li, practicing attorney and owner of Green Dragon Chinese Herbs and Teas. The peculiar octogenarian seems an unlikely choice to defend him, but has a few tricks up her sleeve. Toby joins forces with Reightman and Jackson and a shocking string of clues leads them closer to the killer. The bad news? Successfully solving the crime might unleash a firestorm on this southern city, and come with a price none of them are prepared to pay.
THE FIRST THING Toby Bailey remembered thinking when he turned on the lights and stepped into the larger of the two treatment rooms was, “Oh shit!” Nothing else. No other reaction. Just one, simple, two word expletive phrase. The second thing he remembered thinking was that he’d never get all the blood out of the new Italian white suede loafers, on which he’d blown his non-existent shoe budget for the next several months.
The blood in question pooled in large, sticky puddles on the neutral bamboo floors, embellished by random, lurid accent spatters on the matte light café mocha walls and the strategically placed lush tropical plants. It wasn’t a good look for the room which had previously been his favorite in the Time Out Spa.
Toby stood in place; one hand still slapped against the brushed chrome switch plate, and took in the gore. Three glistening puddles of diminishing size were linked by bloody streams, leading his gaze to a massage table and the body arranged on top of a pile of blood soaked, sky blue sheets. The only sound was the gentle, but steady rhythm of blood dripping from the table’s edge to join the rest on the floor. He didn’t even hear himself breathe. He eventually realized he was, in fact, holding his breath.
He inhaled, and then exhaled. “Jeez-us!” he exclaimed, catching the metallic smell of blood, bodily fluids, and something else. Fear maybe. He’d read somewhere that fear had an actual smell.
Toby considered rushing to the body on the table. After all, his shoes were beyond help. However, he stayed frozen in place. There was no need to rush. He could tell from where he stood the dead man on the table was already beyond help – ruined, just like the white suede on his feet.
“Stop thinking about the shoes, Toby!” he told himself. “Focus!”
Even from across the room, he could easily identify the body. Geraldo Guzman – or Geri, as he liked to be called – was laid out in well-toned, naked splendor, with a shock of black hair falling against his now ivory cheek and jaw. His green eyes stared directly at Toby, vacant and empty, and light reflected off the single diamond stud in his left ear and the silver Star of David hanging from the thick chain on his neck. He looked peaceful, if you ignored the stark, angry gashes scattered across his body, the slowly trickling blood, and the open eyes.
The third thing Toby remembered thinking was he’d better call the police.
He took a deep breath, and carefully bracing himself against the doorframe, lifted first his right foot, and then his left, out of his ridiculously expensive footwear. He turned carefully to make his way to the phone by the reception desk in the front room, shocked and disturbed by what he’d discovered. He hadn’t yet allowed himself to remember the worst thing of all. He hadn’t let himself remember the feeling of grief.
Done Rubbed Out. Copyright © 2016 by Jeffery Craig Schwalk
Reightman & Bailey Book 2
In this second Reightman & Bailey thriller, Detective Melba Reightman is distraught over the murder of her friend and partner, Sam Jackson. The Guzman murder case has been closed, but she knows the real killer is still out there somewhere. Toby Bailey’s discovery of a set of incriminating photos proved there were more people involved in Geri Guzan’s death than just Dr. Lieberman, but getting anyone to listen is more of a challenge than she’d ever imagined. She’s going to need help convincing the powers that be that the case needs to be reopened, but she’ll find a way to do it. It’s the only choice she has if she wants to discover who’s behind it all.
Toby’s still struggling with Geri’s death and the shock at having been the target of a hitman. Detective Jackson took the bullet meant for him and saved his life, and he doesn’t understand how things could have gone so very wrong. No one should have known about the evidence Geri left behind, but it’s the only explanation that makes any sense. He has a hunch things are going to get worse, so he’ll just have to pull up his pants and get on with whatever needs to be done to help Detective Reightman figure things out.
And as for John Brown? He’s just worried he won’t get paid after botching the hit on Toby, and can’t help wondering what will happen next. It wasn’t really his fault. Mistakes were bound to happen when things got complicated, but who knew this would be such a hard job?
Things are heating up in this southern city.
John Brown didn’t sleep much after he made it home from the botched hit on Toby Bailey. He cleaned his gun and sat down in his favorite chair and just thought things over. “It all got too complicated, too fast,” he told himself. He’d known it was risky, and he’d hated taking unnecessary risks. He didn’t like it when there were too many pieces in play, and right now there were more than he thought wise. Last night unfolded very differently than he’d planned, and a simple drive-by murder had gone to hell because of it. He wished they’d just called it off and waited for another opportunity. John Brown wondered if he’d even hit the man he was supposed to take out. He got his answer when the phone in front of him buzzed.
U KILLED A COP
He stared down at the phone as he digested the words. He wasn’t sure what to say. It was unfortunate, but the screw up wasn’t his fault. If his employer had listened to him, none of this would have happened. He was inclined to just ignore the message, but knew there’d be a high price to pay down the line if he did. He thought it over some more, and decided he could at least respond.
SORRY, he eventually typed, adding a sad, frowny face after the word. When he didn’t receive a response, he typed a question:
Now John Brown was worried he wasn’t going to collect his pay, and that wouldn’t do at all. He’d done his best, and he deserved his money. He wasn’t about to let himself get screwed again by the person who’d hired him.
WHAT NOW? He typed, after thinking though the possible impact to their already hostile relationship.
The response didn’t take long.
John Brown could do that. He turned over the phone and got up from his chair. He had plenty of other things to do today, and there was no point in worrying about what might happen next. He didn’t like worry. It made things complicated.
He locked up his gun and headed for the shower. A shower was always a good way to start the day. A shower always made him feel better. He emerged from the steam a few minutes later, fresh and clean, and took a look in the mirror. He liked what he saw.
His hair was a medium brown, neither too straight or too curly. His hazel eyes picked up the colors around him, but never caused comment. His body was good, but not overbuilt or worthy of immediate notice – at least with his clothes on. He wasn’t model handsome, but that suited him just fine. Being too good looking wasn’t an asset in his line of work.
He changed expressions a few times and then grinned. He could be whoever he needed to be, and that was perfect. His grin turned into a smile as he studied his reflection for a second more. John Brown was ready for a new day.
Hard Job. Copyright © 2016 by Jeffery Craig Schwalk
Reightman & Bailey Book 3
In Skin Puppet: Reightman & Bailey Book Three, the whole gang from Capital Street is back and almost ready for business. It’s just two weeks until The Reightman & Bailey Agency officially opens, but Melba Reightman and Toby Bailey have things pretty much under control. After the horrific events of the last six months, things are starting to feel normal again.
An inconvenient lisp from a busted lip isn’t slowing Toby down, but it makes him sound embarrassing like a cartoon character. And there’s the whole awkward situation with Jon Chiang. One minute Zhou Li’s nephew is cold and distant, and the next minute…well, Toby could swear the guy might be interested in something more. It’s all very confusing.
Melba’s got her hands full completing last minute paperwork so they can open for business. There’s the huge stack of invitations Madame Zhou dropped off, all needing to be hand-addressed. Melba doesn’t see the need for a huge grand opening party, but there’s no point in arguing with the bossy owner of Green Dragon. To top things off, Zhou Li is strongly hinting that Melba needs a new dress.
With so much going on, the reports of children missing from the local area haven’t really registered on anyone’s radar. The single flyer posted by a desperate mother looking for her daughter was disturbing, but it’s really a matter for the local police, not the Reightman & Bailey Agency. Right?
Wrong. Things are never that easy.
WARNING: This novel deals with mature subject matter.
Toby’s head bounced as he hit the wooden floor. He rolled and pulled himself to his knees, groaning at the effort. He had to get on his feet fast, or he’d be finished. He shook his head, trying to clear his dazed mind and, in the process, scattered bright, ruby-red droplets around him. The sight distracted him for a minute, bringing to mind a host of images and bad memories from the last time there’d been blood on the floor. He touched his split lip gingerly, then struggled to his feet and turned to face his attacker.
The man standing a few feet away was sizing him up with emotionless gray eyes. He was about the same height as Toby, but probably had twenty or so pounds on him—all of it muscle. The gray eyes narrowed, and the man shifted his blunt wooden stick from hand to hand. Before Toby was anywhere near ready, he attacked again. Toby dodged out of the way, trying to get into a position he could defend. “Damn! This guy is fast!” he thought as the thick wooden stick came at him from the side. “I don’t think I can hold out much longer.” He quickly glanced to the side where his friend and partner, Melba Reightman, was trying to pull herself up from the floor. She looked in pretty bad shape herself. He didn’t have the time or the energy to spare her much thought. He had to keep his attention on the stick. She’d have to look out for herself.
They’d been ambushed the minute they’d walked through the door. Neither of them had been prepared for the fury of the surprise attack and barely managed to fling themselves out of the way. They’d regrouped and, for a minute or two, it looked like they had the upper hand. After all, there were two of them and only one bad guy. Boy, were they wrong about that!
He dodged again, trying to avoid another hit and flinched as a fist came from the side. He lunged out of the way, desperately trying to catch his breath and thinking about his next possible move.
He’d been fighting a losing battle for the last few minutes, and he knew it. He’d tried to protect his head and face and, at the same time, keep his focus on the man in front of him. The stick came flying again and narrowly missed his temple. To avoid the jabbing foot that followed, Toby dropped to the ground and rolled. The man was on him in a flash. Toby knew he had to get up and put more distance between them. “I could use some help here!” he yelled, hoping Melba was ready to step in. At this point, he wasn’t ashamed to admit he needed reinforcements.
To his relief, she was ready. She launched herself into the fray with fists flying. She gave a blood-curdling yell, attacking the man from behind. He turned like lightning and, with two swift jabs, she was back on the floor. Quicker than Toby believed possible, the man was in his face again. “Think, dumb ass! What are you supposed to do in situations like this?” He knew he needed to focus, but was having difficulty just staying out of the man’s reach. “Think!” he commanded himself again. There had to be something he could do. He surveyed the room, hoping to spot anything he could use to defend himself. There were a couple of possible weapons at the side of the room, but he had to figure out how to get to them. Before he could come up with a plan, the stick struck him hard across the left shoulder. Toby cried out in surprised pain. He only had one option left. “When it’s time for a last stand and you’re almost out of gas, focus and then give it everything you’ve got. And remember--fight dirty.” He took one more breath, then narrowed his eyes and went on the offensive. He barreled his way into the man’s space and dropped to the ground. He kicked out with one leg and made contact. The man stumbled for a minute and, taking advantage of the unexpected opening. Toby levered himself up and punched him in the back of the knee. The man grunted in surprise.
Toby felt a surge of elation. “Take that, asshole!” he shouted. He punched his fist into the back of the other knee and moved to the side as the man went down. “I think I’ve got him now!” A thrill of excitement rippled through him, and he thought maybe he’d survive after all. He started to stand, but lost his balance when he stepped in a few drops of blood. The man jerked upright and swept a foot in front of him, catching the back of Toby’s ankle. Toby stumbled and tried to regain his footing. He started to panic and looked away for a moment, trying to locate Melba. He never saw the fist that laid him out cold. The last thing he remembered before he passed out was that he forgot to protect his head. Again. Jon Chiang was going to be so pissed off about this.
Skin Puppet. Copyright © 2017 by Jeffery Craig Schwalk
Jeffery Craig is the writing pseudonym of the author, used for fictional works. Jeffery resides in the southeastern United States and shares his life with his husband and partner, and a menagerie of much-loved pets. For several years, he worked as a executive providing technology and consulting services to help clients meet business needs. He's an avid supporter of the arts and co-owns a local art gallery/gift store that provides an outlet for area artists to showcase and sell their works.
When he isn't writing, he might be found working on a painting or enjoying the covered front porch of his historic southern home with a good book in hand
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WOMAN WITHOUT A PAST
Amnesia may be keeping Ella Weiss from remembering her past--but not from saving the little boy who's been her fellow prisoner the last seven years.
After managing to escape her cell, all she wants is to find where little Joseph is being kept. Instead she runs straight into CIA agent Kyle Jennings.
Kyle isn't sure if Ella is actually a kidnap victim or if she's working for the gunrunner he's been after. One thing he is certain of is her uncanny resemblance to the wife he thought he'd buried.
To save a child's life and stop a terrorist from slipping through his fingers, he'll need to uncover the secrets of Ella's past--and whether or not she's really the woman he's never stopped loving.
“It’s snowing,” she said in amazement.
Some of the worry eased from his face and he smiled. Ella couldn’t get over the feeling that she recognized that smile from...somewhere.
“It is,” Kyle said in agreement.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen it snow. It must have been...” The memory disappeared and she closed her eyes trying to recapture it. In her heart she knew it was real and important, but it was gone.
“What do you remember?” he asked.
Her face creased into a frown. “I don’t know.”
“It’s getting colder out. Let’s get you warm.”
They were halfway to the SUV when the sound of tires squealing close by captured her attention. A nondescript beige car with blacked-out windows charged through the parking lot straight for them.
“Run!” he yelled and grabbed her hand, all but hauling her along with him to the vehicle. They’d just reached the cover of the SUV when the occupants of the car opened fire.
Mary Alford grew up in a small Texas town famous for, well not much of anything really. Being the baby of the family and quite a bit younger than her brothers and sister, Mary had plenty of time to entertain herself. Making up stories seem to come natural to her. As a pre-teen, Mary discovered Christian romance novels and knew instinctively that was what she wanted to do with her over-active imagination. She wrote her first novel as a teen, (it’s tucked away somewhere never to see the light of day), but never really pursued her writing career seriously until 2012 when she entered the Love Inspired Speed Dating contest and sold her first Love Inspired Suspense, Forgotten Past.
You can connect with Mary on her website or on Facebook
by Melissa West
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pub Date: 5/30/17
Farming family land on sunny Crestler’s Key, the sweet, sexy Littleton brothers are notorious bachelors. But all that will change when the right woman comes along…
There aren’t many things Charlie Littleton values more than his lifelong friendship with his buddy Lucas, currently home from a tour in Iraq. But when he discovers that Lucas’s younger sister, Lila, is back to assist the town’s overburdened veterinarian, Charlie is torn. She’s no longer the skinny, awkward kid he remembers, but a gorgeous woman—one Lucas would never approve of him dating. When Lucas asks him to watch out for Lila when he’s called to duty again, Charlie can’t say no—but he can’t pretend it’s easy to ignore his feelings either.
As a teen, Lila crushed on Charlie—hard—and the man he’s grown up to be is even more wonderful than she dreamed. Relationships are a tricky business, though, and too much history is at stake to risk one now. But every moment they’re together is heated by their simmering attraction—and one day an impulsive kiss leads to much more. What’s tangled in a matter of loyalty soon becomes a question of the kind of love worth chasing…
Melissa West is a new author to me, and I am so happy I found her! I enjoyed her voice, the way she told the story and the many different elements that the story was made of, and in such a clever way twined together. The characters are complicated, with inner depth, strengths, and weaknesses, people I wanted to get to know and spend time with. The small town has its crazy and its sweet, with firm family bonds, and people who look after you.
I love Charlie Littleton, he is a hot alpha mixed with a sweet guy, who is humble, loyal, and always wants to do the right thing. He won me over with his protective love towards his dog, and from there it was just one swoon moment after another. His feelings towards Lila are profound, honorable yet passionate. Even though Lucas was being a brick about Charlie's feelings towards Lila, I had to admire Charlie's honesty and loyalty towards Lucas.
Lila has always had feelings towards Charlie, even before she knew what those feelings meant. He holds a special place in her heart and getting to know him as an adult is just making those feelings to root even more deep-seated. Lila is fighting against the demons she faced in Charlotte, part of that danger making its way to the story as well. She is starting a new job, in a new place to live, a new chapter in life with old baggage weighing her down.
I liked the humor, the one-liners, that burst out at the most unexpected moments, I was laughing out loud while reading in a public place. I enjoyed the way the story is built, how it flows effortlessly, stealing your mind away. The romance is ardent and so solid, Lila and Charlie has a great foundation to build upon a relationship. There is a bit drama, a bit trouble, even malice and danger. I highly recommend adding Chasing Love to your summer reading list!
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
“Nah-ah, boy, you better take that dog on out of here.”Charlie Littleton tightened his hold on Henry’s leash and shot
Patty a look. “You know he doesn’t bark.”The bakery owner placed a hand on her hip and cocked it for ef- fect. Like always, she wore an apron with the AJ&P Bakery yellow- and-blue logo on it, though you could scarcely see it through the flour and spices smeared across the apron.
“Right,” Patty said now. “A dog that don’t bark. Is that sort of like a man who don’t eat? Because as far as I’m concerned that’s a fic- tional being. Like the dog. But if you do find a man who will share his sandwich, you be sure to point him in my direction, okay? But seeing as how that man don’t exist, kind of like that nonbarking dog don’t exist, I don’t expect you to be introducing me to him anytime soon.” She winked at him and clucked her tongue. “Now, you take that cute bottom of yours out of here, leave the dog in your truck, then come back and I’ll make you a roast beef with extra au jus.”
Charlie peered around the bakery, the smells of fresh baked bread and toasted hot sandwiches hitting his nose. His stomach grumbled. Of course, the small bakery and sandwich shop was packed today, half the town there to witness Charlie getting put in his place. A part of him wanted to remind Patty that his family’s farm supplied most of her produce and could just as easily refuse to deliver, but he’d learned long ago to retreat slowly and carefully when dealing with the bakery owner.
“Fine, but I’m holding you to that extra au jus.”
Patty flashed him a grin. “It’ll be waiting for you, honey.” Then she waved her hand through the air in a sign that he better get mov- ing, and then she went to greet someone else. Someone without a dog.
Resigned, Charlie pushed out of the glass door and eyed his old Husky. “Sorry, boy. I’ll bring you some leftovers, though.” He un- locked his Silverado, cranked the truck, and rolled down the win- dows. It was a mild sixty out in Crestler’s Key, Kentucky, a perfect early spring day, but Henry meant more to him than most of the peo- ple in the town, and if he was going to be forced to stay in Charlie’s truck, then he’d do it with a nice breeze.
With a long glance down Main Street at the row of shops— Southern Dive, his family’s sports and outdoors shop at the very end—Charlie couldn’t help wondering if he was making the right de- cisions in his life.
He’d moved back to Crestler’s Key after living in the Florida Keys for five years. There, he’d operated a small scuba diving busi- ness, his life as much under water as above it. And he loved every moment of it. Then there were the women, too many to count, al- ways around, always eager to occupy a little bit of his time. He’d been content with that life, never asking for more and never wanting it. He was a typical twenty-something and enjoyed every bit of his young age.
Then he met Jade, and hell if he didn’t fall hook, line, and sinker. Still to this day, years later, he remembered with painful clarity her walking down the dock at the marina and stopping outside his houseboat, long sun-bleached blond hair and even longer legs. She was beautiful in that natural, God-made way—his kryptonite, when
it came to women, so all it took was one look and he was gone.
It took mere days, maybe even hours, for her to rope him into her world. She had innocence behind that beauty that he couldn’t refuse, and weeks passed with them tangled in each other’s arms, a new kind of happiness swirling in Charlie’s chest. She would never fill the spot someone else had once filled, someone he was never allowed to care for, someone he told himself he could—would—forget, but Jade made him feel good. They meshed together perfectly, peanut butter and freaking jelly.
Until that fateful day when he woke to discover she’d taken every- thing he owned. His dog. His wallet, which she used to drain his checking account. His prized possessions. Even the coin collection his grandfather had left him. Every. Single. Thing. Hell, if he hadn’t been on the houseboat, he felt sure she’d have sailed off with it, too.
And while, yeah, the money thing sucked, and the coin collection sucked even more, what really dropped him into the depression bucket was losing his old dog, Rocky.
He’d rescued Rocky as a puppy from the pound, more mutt than anything, and with a broken left leg. Thousands of dollars in vet bills later, and that dog was his only friend down there. And his idiotic self had let some vixen walk in and steal him.
The thought brought on a fresh wave of guilt, and he contem- plated going to talk to Patty again, convince her that they could sit out on the back patio, but then he’d been through this argument with her before. Besides, this was Crestler’s Key, not Florida, and he knew everyone in town. No one would take his dog.
Still, just to be safe, he hit the locks on his truck twice, before heading back into AJ&P, determined to rehash this with Patty before he left if she hoped to continue to get discounted produce from the farm.
“There you are, cute bottom.”
Grimacing, Charlie pivoted to find his best friend, Lucas, already seated at one of the white-washed wooden tables, a giant smirk on his face. “Funny,” Charlie said. “You know, I was excited to see you and then you had to go and open that big mouth.” The men laughed, then hugged, because it’d been too damn long.
They took their seats and Lucas joked, “Thought you were going to cry there when she said you couldn’t bring Henry in here.”
Charlie peeked out the window at his truck before returning his gaze to his friend. “Well, she ought to remember who’s supplying all her produce.”
“So you’re going to hold her produce ransom until she lets you bring in your dog? Dude, you need a chick in your life. Stat.”
Charlie laughed, until he glanced around and noticed several of the women he’d dated off and on eating at the bakery, half of them glaring at him. “Yeah . . . think I’ll pass on that one. Thanks, though.” “What’s the deal with your insane overprotectiveness of Henry
anyway? He’s a giant dog. He can take care of himself.”
Yeah, well, Rocky had been a big dog, too, and that didn’t save him from that thieving witch of a woman. Charlie had searched for the dog for nearly a year, all to no avail. Jade was probably halfway across the world now, with his money and his coin collection and his dog. Damn woman. No, damn women. They were more trouble than they would ever be worth.
Lucas continued to stare at him with a questioning look, but all Charlie could say was the same excuse he always said. Because no one, not Lucas, not his brothers Zac or Brady, no one knew about Jade or what she’d done to him. The humiliation would be too much.
“Henry had a rough childhood. Gotta protect the boy now.” “Right . . .”
MaryAnn, one of AJ&P’s waitresses, came over then to get their order, and Lucas smiled a little too wide at his former high-school flame before clearing his throat and trying for mock-cool. Charlie suppressed a grin. MaryAnn, with her wavy blond hair and deep brown eyes, still looked exactly as she did in high school. And just like in high school, she was still 100 percent in love with Lucas. “Hey, there,” MaryAnn said, matching his smile. “I didn’t know you were home.”
Lucas shrugged. “Three-day leave before going back.”
“When is your tour over?” she asked, her eyes filling with a bit of hope that she probably wished wasn’t there. She and Lucas had mu- tually ended their relationship when she realized he intended to be a career soldier, and having lost her brother in Iraq, she said she couldn’t live that life. It was a mature decision, they had both said, but now ten years later, they both still looked like they regretted it. And come to think of it, Charlie couldn’t remember a single woman Lucas had dated seriously since ending things with MaryAnn.
With another careful glance at his old girlfriend, Lucas relaxed into his chair, the single thing between them now back front and center. “Three months, then I’ll have a few weeks off, before another one.”
MaryAnn nodded slowly, and then flipped her attention over to Charlie for the first time, like she couldn’t bear to look at Lucas an- other second. “Your regular?”
“Yeah, though Patty promised extra au jus if I left Henry in the truck.”
“What’s up with you and that dog?”
Lucas laughed. “Didn’t you know? He’s married to that dog. Pa- pers and all.”
Both MaryAnn and Lucas laughed, until they made eye contact with each other and both went mum. She took their order and saun- tered off, her shoulders drooped a little, and Charlie couldn’t stand it anymore.
“What?” Lucas asked.
Charlie deadpanned. “What? Are you freaking kidding me? The whole town could feel that tension. Why not try?”
Lucas took a drink of his sweet tea, set it down, then did it again, like he wasn’t ready to speak yet. Or maybe he didn’t know what to say. “She made her intentions clear years ago. Her mind’s not changing.”
“She’s older now. Y’all were teenagers then. Maybe she wants you to make the first move.”
“Says the dude who hasn’t been on a real date since . . .” Lucas cocked his head. “Come to think of it, I don’t think you’ve ever been on a real date.”
“Whatever. I date.”
“Sure you do,” Lucas said, relaxing now that the spotlight wasn’t on him. “You sound just like Lila, always deflecting.”
And just like that, just the mention of her name, and Charlie sat up taller, eager to hear anything that might have to do with Lucas’s little sister. “What’s up with Lila these days? Still in vet school?” He thought of Lucas’s only sister, two years younger and forever tag- ging along with the two boys when they were kids. She’d always been pretty in a sweet, natural way, her smile and laugh infectious. Charlie looked after her when Lucas left for basic, but then Charlie moved to the Keys and Lila moved away to college, and he hadn’t seen her since.
“Actually she finished school. Went to work in Charlotte for a while, but she moved back to town a week ago.” He took another drink of his tea, his look distant now, and Charlie got the distinct im- pression that Lucas was keeping something from him.
“Why’d she move back to town?” Charlie asked. He wondered what Lila looked like now, if she’d kept her black hair cropped short like she had when she was little. But then most women changed their hair all the time, so it could be long now—beautiful. She probably had men waiting in lines to get her attention, that bright smile of hers forever turning the eye of everyone she passed. It had certainly caught his eye.
Lucas shrugged. “Work stuff.”
MaryAnn returned then with their food, saving Lucas from ex- plaining, but something was definitely going on. Still, it wasn’t Char- lie’s business, and he was never one to pry.
“She ever marry?” All right, so maybe he was one to pry. “Nah, not her thing.”
Charlie perked up at the thought, his heart light—happy. Wow, Lila wasn’t married. He’d expected her to be--
But before he could finish the thought, Lucas pointed at him. “Don’t even think about it.”
Charlie threw up his hands. “Think about what?” “Lila. And you. You and Lila.”
A sarcastic laugh broke from his lips, despite the uneasiness in his chest. “You go insane again? This is me. She’s like a little sister to me.”
Lucas settled in his chair again, but his face was still tense. “Right . . . just like the last time. My thoughts on this haven’t changed.” Cringing, Charlie thought of that fateful day in high school when he’d asked Lucas about his sister. It was a simple question—Is Lila around? Three words, nothing more. He and Lucas had always been best friends, but somewhere along the way, Charlie started noticing Lila more and more. Curious where she was, how she was doing. But needless to say, the conversation with his friend didn’t go well.
Lucas went ballistic, shouting all the reasons Charlie wasn’t to touch his sister, and their friendship meant enough to him that he didn’t.
“Relax, man. I’m not going after your sister.”
Besides, Lila was the furthest thing from Charlie’s type now. He wasn’t into doctors or the professional type. Lucas had nothing to worry about. Nothing. But still, he couldn’t deny that he was curious what adult Lila looked like and whether she would remember the time they’d almost . . .
No, surely not.
Even if he would never forget.
Melissa West writes heartfelt Southern romance and teen sci-fi romance, all with lots of kissing. Because who doesn't like kissing? She lives outside of Atlanta, GA, with her husband and two daughters and spends most of her time writing, reading, or fueling her coffee addiction.
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Three Weeks with a Princess
The Improper Princesses #2
By: Vanessa Kelly
Releasing June 27, 2017
In Vanessa Kelly s captivating series, three young women are descended from royalty in the most improper way. But that doesn’t stop them from pursuing lives rich in adventure. . .
Lia Kincaid, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York, comes from a long line of notorious women. Raised by her grandmother, formerly mistress to the late Marquess of Lendale, she has little hope of a respectable marriage. But the new Marquess, her childhood friend, Jack Easton, would make a very desirable protector . . . if he weren t too honorable to take her to bed.
It s bad enough being saddled with a title he never desired. Now Jack must resist the beautiful woman he desires far too much. Duty calls, and he is duty-bound to choose a wealthy bride. But then Lia makes another outrageous suggestion: asking Jack to devise some tests to find her the perfect paramour. Tests that involve flirting, kissing, and other pleasurable pursuits. Tests that, in a matter of weeks, could transform friendship into the ton s greatest scandal, igniting a passion even duty can t deny. . .
They heard a quick footfall out in the hall. A moment later the door opened and Lia rushed in.
“Oh, confound it, Jack,” she said. “I had no idea you were here. I ran down from the big house as soon as Merton told me he’d seen you cutting through the gardens.” She rested a hand on his arm and stretched up on her toes to give him a soft kiss on the cheek. “It’s shocking that I wasn’t here to greet you. Please forgive me.”
Jack stared down at her, slightly disoriented, as if someone had given him a knock on the brainbox.
He hadn’t seen her since his uncle’s funeral, when grief and worry had left her pretty face pinched and wan. Enveloped in mourning clothes and heavy shawls to keep out the chill spring rains, Lia had seemed almost like a sad child, sorely in need of a mother’s love and comfort.
Today, though, there was nothing childlike about her, and she was more than merely pretty. His Lia was now full-grown and simply beautiful.
She gazed up at him with peacock-blue eyes alight with affection. Her skin glowed with the warmth of the summer sun and the flush of her exertions. Her enchanting face, with its tip-tilted nose and lush pink mouth, was framed by silky dark hair, some of it falling haphazardly from the simple knot on top of her head. As for her figure, her faded green riding habit with its trim bodice showcased a graceful body that held more than its share of pleasing curves.
When the hell had Lia developed breasts that he actually noticed?
His visits to Stonefell had been rare these last three years, given the fact that he’d spent much of that time on the Continent with the army. In the meantime, his little friend had matured into a woman, with results that were rather astonishing.
Her brow creased and her smile slid into one of perplexity. “Jack, you look as if you don’t know me,” she said with a self-conscious laugh. Then her smile snuffed out completely. “Oh, am I being too familiar?”
She took a quick step back and dipped into a curtsy. “Forgive me, my lord. I let my enthusiasm run away with me.”
Her anxious response jolted him back to himself. He pulled her into a bear hug, all too conscious of how delightful her soft breasts felt against his body.
“Goose, of course not,” he said, planting a brief kiss on the top of her head before letting go. “I was just a bit surprised to see you, that’s all. You’re looking very well, I must say.”
She wrinkled her nose. “That’s a complete plumper. I look a wreck, but I didn’t want to take the time to change and risk missing you.”
Rebecca ran a critical eye over her granddaughter. “You do look rather disheveled, my love. I wasn’t aware you were planning on shoeing the mare yourself, but the soot on the hem of your habit would suggest you were.”
Lia burst into laughter, and the light, clear sound of it loosened the tangled knot in Jack’s chest that had moved in some weeks ago. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed her laughter.
“I know,” she said. “But poor Markwith is so busy these days. I thought I’d help him by taking Dorcas down to the blacksmith and saving him the trouble of the trip.”
Jack mentally grimaced. In the last year his head groom had been forced to let go two stableboys. That Lia was now acting as a stable hand had the knot in his chest twisting tight again.
“I’m sorry, Lia,” he said. “You shouldn’t have had to do that.”
“You know I don’t mind,” she said as she folded herself onto the footstool at her grandmother’s feet. Rebecca reached out to stroke Lia’s thick hair. They were so close. With the death of Jack’s uncle, the two women truly now had only each other.
“Next time you need something, just tell me,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”
Her eyebrows arched up. “I will when you’re in residence. But that’s not very often.”
Rebecca gave her an admonishing tap on the shoulder. “That’s no way to speak to his lordship, my love.”
Lia’s eyes rounded with mock horror. “Oh, I do hope I haven’t offended him.” She gave him a comical bow, her nose almost touching the floor. “Forgive my impertinence, Lord Lendale, I beg of you.”
He shook his head. “Brat.”
She grinned. “Sorry, but I can’t help teasing. It’s just so good to see you.” She glanced over her shoulder at Rebecca. “We missed him greatly, did we not, Granny?”
If you could sit and write in a different country where would it be?
England, probably the Lake District or the Cotswolds. My fantasies generally do not involve sexy guys—they involve peaceful little cottages on a hillside overlooking a beautiful lake. Oh, and tea, scones, and a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. LOL!
Co-writing: have you done it with another author, if not, would you?
I co-write with my husband as VK Sykes. We’ve written a number of books, including contemporary romances and romantic suspense. Hubby is also my critique partner for my historical romances. I enjoy the process and we work very well together—likely because we know each other’s weak spots and how to deal with them. It’s really fun to work creatively with him; plus, it keeps us busy so we don’t kill each other from boredom! I don’t know if I could actually co-write a book with another author, although I’ve worked on interconnected anthologies with other writers. I enjoyed that process, too.
Can you tell us a little about your book?
THREE WEEKS WITH A PRINCESS is the second book in The Improper Princesses Series, which is a spin-off from my previous series, The Renegade Royals. That series featured the illegitimate sons of England’s royal dukes, who fought for their rightful places in the world—falling madly in love with some pretty swell gals along the way, of course. In this new series, the illegitimate daughters of royal dukes take their turn, surmounting all the obstacles that society put in their way in that time period, and winning the hearts of their own heroes. There’s love, laughter, adventure, and just a little bit of danger to spice things up!
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
Aside from the fact that it’s a spin-off, THREE WEEKS WITH A PRINCESS is based on the famous movie musical, Gigi. My heroine, Lia Kincaid, is the daughter and granddaughter of notorious courtesans and is expected to follow in their footsteps. There are a few problems with that plan, however—she has no desire to become a courtesan and she’s madly in love with her childhood friend, Jack Easton, Marquess of Lendale. But events conspire to push Lia in the direction she doesn’t want to go, and Jack is pretty much losing his mind trying to stop her. Jack, unfortunately, also has big problems, which include a mother who hates Lia’s guts and a debt-ridden estate all but falling down around his ears. Needless to say, Lia and Jack have more than a few obstacles to a happily ever after!
What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
I just read a great book called BITTER SPIRITS, a paranormal romance set in San Francisco during the Roaring Twenties. The hero is a bootlegger and the heroine is a spirit medium, and they meet under very unusual circumstances: the hero is under a curse. They have tremendous chemistry and I loved the atmospheric setting. I’m halfway through the second book in the series by Jenn Bennett, and I’m enjoying it, too. I’m kind of a sucker for unusual historical settings for romance, and this one really fit the bill.
What do you like best about being a writer? What is the most challenging part?
The best part for me is writing The End. I relish having a finished book in my hands, and it’s still a thrill to know I created a new story with characters I’ve invariably come to love. The most challenging part is actually sitting down every day and getting words on the page. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not. There are days when I feel like being lazy or reading a book, but deadlines mean butt has to get into chair, regardless of inspiration striking or not.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
The theme I most frequently come back to, whether I realize it or not at the time, is family and finding home. It’s just the one that sticks with me. I do have a number of characters I’d like to return to at some point, mostly secondary characters from my Renegade Royals Series. There are a pair of children in my recently released short story, THREE RENEGADES AND A BABY, who I think are demanding their own story when they grow up. So, stay tuned for that!
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
My next book is called THE HIGHLANDER’S PRINCESS BRIDE, and it’ll be out in November. It’s Improper Princesses 3, and it moves the action to a remote castle in Scotland. My heroine finds herself trying to teach a very rambunctious family of Highlanders how to be proper gentlemen, a la Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This book segues into my next series, which will feature the Kendrick brothers—a wild group of Highland rogues! I’m really excited to be moving in that direction.
Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance.
Vanessa’s previous series, The Renegade Royals, was a national bestseller. She is currently writing a spin-off series called The Improper Princesses. My Fair Princess, book 1, was named a Goodreads Romance of the Month. Vanessa also writes USA TodayBestselling books with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.
Author Links: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
KISS THE SKY
by MK Schiller
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pub. Date: 1/2/2018
Strong, athletic, and driven, Tristan Sinclair is determined to fulfill his late brother’s wish to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain. He never expects part of the challenge will be getting along with one of his fellow climbers—or that the greatest peril may lie beyond the summit . . .
A passionate, life-long climber, Pakistan born Farah Nawaz is skeptical of the hotshot from Arizona. But as she and Tristan help each other conquer obstacle after obstacle, they find they have more in common than they thought—including a simmering attraction. And when suspicious deaths put them in the sights of a ruthless killer, they’ll have to cover their tracks long enough to find out why—and stay alive for a future together . . .
MK Schiller is a hopeless romantic in a hopelessly pragmatic world. In the dark of night, she sits by the warm glow of her computer monitor, reading or writing, usually with some tasty Italian…the food that is! She started imagining stories in her head at a very young age. In fact, she got so good at it that friends asked her to create plots featuring them as the heroine and the object of their affection as the hero. She hopes you enjoy her stories and find The Happily Ever After in every endeavor. M.K. Schiller loves hearing from readers. Find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @MKSchiller, and visit her website at mkschillerauthor.com.
Riki Maddox is not your average tomb-raiding treasure hunter. Her targets are carefully chosen to wound her father's killers, the Japanese Yakuza. To thwart their quest to recapture World War II loot initially stolen by Japanese forces, she puts herself in constant danger--and in the sights of a man as driven and as daring as she is.
Working for the Department of Homeland Security, Special Agent Dallas Landry is a rare breed: an academic with an unmatched lust for adventure. He had a perfect success rate recovering stolen art and antiquities--until he came up against an intriguing menace known as Riki Maddox. She's placed his reputation on the line, and stopping her becomes his number one priority.
Now the two will cross paths once again in Australia--on a quest for the legendary Phantom Pearl, a priceless mammoth tusk carved by 15th century monks. Barely one step ahead of the Yakuza, it's a three-way race to recover the long lost treasure. One Riki is hell-bent to win. But playing games against a federal agent like Dallas will cost more than her freedom. The chase will demand she risk her life and her thirst for revenge--but it just might offer something more to live for...
What a suspense and danger filled adventure!
With vivid images, the author paints a world where I wanted to step in and be part of.
The story is riddled with history and mystery from the WW II and the current date with an intriguing point of view and a clever twist as the fiction is built upon facts, making Phantom Pearl captivating and exciting read. Add the combustible attraction simmering between Riki Maddox and Dallas Landry and you have a sure winner, a summer read for all romantic suspense fans.
It was easy to enjoy and to be entertained by the story as it has a natural flow with witty dialog. Unexpected humorous moments had me chuckling, the romantic moments swooning, and the action biting my nails.
Dallas Landry is a charming character, used to maneuver in the big, dangerous world. He has a romantic side that comes as surprise. He is generous and kind, capable and confident. Completely a swoon-worthy hero!
Riki Maddox is a complex character. She is tough as nails, she can take down the biggest thug, she is used to dealing with life on her own, being fueled by revenge and payback. She is sarcastic to the bone, a person I would not turn my back on. Yet there is brokenness inside her that makes her more human, easier to like. The spark between Riki and Dallas is palpable, yet the results manage to surprise, and all the intimate moments are just between them, left to the imagination of the readers.
There's a moment right there in the middle of the story that things are less combustible and explosive in nature, where I felt the story took a little lull, but not to worry, things pick up again, with a grand finale that leaves you breathless.
As all the books in the series are completely standalone novels, with just a theme of treasure hunting and romance in common, you don't have to read the previous books before you join the hunt for the pearl.
If you enjoy action and suspense with a dash of romance, an exotic background of Singapore and Australia to the tale, love stories that have a multitude of layers, part being fact and part being fiction, twists you never expected, and characters you want to be friends with you are going to enjoy to feast on the Phantom Pearl!
~ Four Spoons
In the town of Haven Point, love can be just a wish—and one magical kiss—away…
Computer-tech millionaire Bowie Callahan is about the last person that schoolteacher Katrina Bailey wants to work for. As far as she can see, he's arrogant, entitled and not up to the task of caring for his young half brother, Milo. But Kat is, especially if it brings her closer to her goal of adopting an orphaned little girl. And as her kindness and patience work wonders with Milo, she realizes there's more to sexy, wary Bo than she'd ever realized.
Bo never imagined he'd be tasked with caring for a sibling he didn't know existed. Then again, he never pictured himself impulsively kissing vibrant, compassionate Katrina in the moonlight. Now he's ready to make her dream of family come true…and hoping there's room in it for him, too…
A well written and heartwarming story that made me smile and touched my heart. Ms. Thayne knows how to pull the readers into a story, like always, I enjoyed the visit to Haven Point immensely.
The story tells about Katrina Bailey, Bowie Callahan and his young brother Milo. This story had more of a Woman's Lit feeling with romantic touches, as most of the tale focused on Kat's relationship with Milo, and his development as an autistic child.
Bowie is a very charismatic and charming character. I found it easy to like him and relate to him. He is way over his head with the challenging younger brother whom he has just found out about. But he is trying, he really is. Of course, at the same time several problems at his work are demanding his attention, and he is stressed out to the max. Bowie does what he can to make Milo's life as easy and successful as possible. I admired his dedication, his generosity, kindness, and honesty. His obvious attraction towards Kat was passionate and endearing.
Milo just stole my heart. I loved every single scene where he was a part of. I have been very happy to read several stories lately with an autistic child as part of the plot. I believe it is important to bring the attention and information forward.
Kat comes off as a rather prickly person. At the beginning of the story, she was judgmental towards everyone around her. I understand she was doing something wonderful with the adoption, but her thoughts reflected at times like she thought that made her somehow better than the rest. She is stubborn and opinionated, yet she has a kind, caring, protective heart towards those she takes under her wing. The character development with Kat is remarkable through the story. She finds herself, finds a balance between the past and the present and learns to accept the issues with her childhood regarding her mother.
I would have liked to see the relationship developing between Kat and Bowie since now they mostly avoided each other through the couple short weeks Kat was taking care of Milo. The story is clean, there are few ardent kisses between Bowie and Kat, resulting them staying apart each time. The strongest connection in the story is developing between Milo and Kat, and I could not help but wonder if part of the 'feelings' Bowie was having towards Kat were because of her ability to center Milo and understand his needs. The story does have satisfying ending leaving a lot of the progress with the romantic relationship to the imagination of the reader.
A heartfelt and encouraging story of life in the small town, growing up to be the person we are supposed to be regardless of our past. It's about family, life, and learning to love, doing the right thing by inspiring to use our resources to make a difference whenever possible.
With each visit to the Haven Point, I take home a life lesson, something that I am left to ponder. When those lessons are delivered with an adorable, emotional story of living and loving, you can't help but admire the storytelling talent of the author.
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Heart's Temptation #4
By: Scarlett Scott
Released May 9, 2017
Not the average lady
Lady Helen Harrington is a spinster by choice. She hasn’t any desire to entangle herself in romantic nonsense. Instead, she prefers to spend her time championing the causes nearest to her heart through writing articles for the London Beacon. When a ruthless American tycoon suddenly buys the struggling paper with plans to turn it into a business journal, Lady Helen isn’t about to stand idly by or put down her pen. Even if the ruthless tycoon in question happens to be the most maddeningly handsome man she’s ever met in her life.
Not the average man
Levi Storm built his empire the hard way, spending years working his way out of the slums where he grew up. He won’t allow a spoiled aristocrat like Lady Helen to interfere with his plans to further his brand with the newspaper he’s just acquired. It doesn’t matter how lovely she is or how persuasive her arguments or how perfectly she fits in his arms.
One sweet scandal
When scandal looms and Helen discovers a shocking secret about Levi, she does what she must to protect herself. But Levi isn’t the sort of man who admits defeat, and he’s not ready to give up on the plucky Lady Helen, especially when he discovers that she has secrets of her own…
Everything sounded as if it were very far away, carried to her on a lush summer breeze. Maybe she should not have consumed quite so much champagne. She’d lost count of how many flutes she’d drained over the course of the ball. Good heavens, had it been more than five? A fresh wave of dizziness assailed her and she stumbled against his powerful, lean frame. He smelled divine, she thought fuzzily.
“Come,” he ordered, ushering her hastily away.
She collected her thoughts enough to protest. “Where are you taking me?”
He couldn’t simply escort her out of the ballroom and into a private room. Propriety certainly didn’t allow such a thing. She ought not to allow such a thing. Would not if it weren’t for the spinning of her head. As it stood, she was ineffectual as a fly at the moment.
“Hush.” He steered her around a tittering countess and a footman bearing a tray of champagne flutes.
“My lady, hush.”
“Someone will see.”
“No one will notice. Everyone here is either far too inebriated or preoccupied.”
Casting a quick look about, he led her from the ballroom, down the hall, and into another chamber. As the door closed at their backs, stifling the cacophony of sound from the ballroom beyond, Helen realized they were in Jesse’s study. Alone. Still dizzied, she clutched Mr. Storm’s arm. “We are in our host’s private study. We cannot be here together.”
“Jesse won’t mind,” he assured her, guiding her to an overstuffed chair and easing her into it. He sank to his knees before her, his expression for once unguarded. “Are you unwell, my lady?”
He was concerned. A strange, new warmth stole over her. The world came back into crisp focus but her heart hammered furiously against her breast. She still felt off-kilter, almost as though she were out of her own skin, almost as if she were giddy.
Oh dear. He was before her like a knight of old, so striking and elegant, so unlike the arrogant stranger who had unceremoniously removed her from his offices the day they’d met. This Mr. Storm was different. Or maybe she was different. Or the night was different. Or she was hopelessly, thoroughly in her cups. She didn’t know which.
“I am fine,” she forced herself to say. “I daresay I sampled too much of the champagne this evening and that is all.”
“You don’t seem fine, my lady.” He frowned. His hands bracketed her skirts, near enough to her that he almost touched her, and the thought of those big hands of his on her made her quite weak. “Can I fetch you something? Some water, perhaps? Some ice?”
She licked lips that had suddenly gone dry. “There is nothing I need other than for you to return me to the ball. This is quite scandalous, sir. If someone should come upon us, it would cause us no end of trouble.”
“No one will come upon us. I’ve locked the door.”
His casual pronouncement did wicked things to her body that she was sure had everything to do with the blasted champagne. The door was locked. No one could disturb them or happen upon them. They were free to do what they chose.
Yes, she was in her cups alright, she had to be. There was no other reason for her to lean forward, set her palms upon Mr. Storm’s shoulders, and press her mouth to his. No other reason save for the fact that she had been thinking about him all day, about how he had touched and kissed her, how he had made her feel, how he had wanted her in his bed. She kissed him just for the feeling of his mouth upon hers once more, because she couldn’t help herself, because she couldn’t not.
Award-winning author Scarlett Scott writes contemporary and historical romance with heat, heart, and happily ever afters. Since publishing her first book in 2010, she has become a wife, mother to adorable identical twins and one TV-loving dog, and a killer karaoke singer. Well, maybe not the last part, but that’s what she’d like to think.
A self-professed literary junkie and nerd, she loves reading anything but especially romance novels, poetry, and Middle English verse. When she’s not reading, writing, wrangling toddlers, or camping, you can catch up with her on her website. Hearing from readers never fails to make her day.
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The Walshes #7
By: Kate Canterbary
Releasing June 13, 2017
Two lonely hearts.
Just once, she'd like to be someone's first choice.
She's strong-willed and spunky, but she's left picking up the pieces from her ex's lies and manipulations, and daydreaming about taking a scalpel to his scrotum.
Flying under the radar is what he does best.
He's laid-back and loyal, but he wants the most off-limits woman in his world, and nothing will ever make that a reality.
An arrangement of mutual benefit.
Two months, four dates.
Five, if things go well.
Five at the most.
But possibly six.
Definitely no more than six dates.
Only the appearance of a romantic relationship is required, and they expect nothing more from their time together. There will be none of those benefits involved.
One wild weekend.
After waking up in bed together—very naked and even more hungover—the terms and conditions of their arrangement no longer apply. Now they're faced with something riskier than exposing their fake relationship: letting go of the past and zipping up the future.
Some things have to fall apart before they can be put back together.
Riley pointed at the plate between us. "These are my favorite pretzel bites in the city. Try some."
I shot him a sharp look. "Are you just trying to get me in a good mood?" I asked. "I did eat lunch today."
"Oh yeah?" he asked, dipping two pretzels in the accompanying sauce. "What did you have? Based on you yelling at me about noticing your shoes, I'd say it was an iced venti skinny latte."
"Almonds," I replied. And an iced venti skinny latte but I wasn't copping to that just yet.
Riley tried to fight a laugh, and failed. "Almonds?" he repeated.
"Chocolate covered almonds, yes." I folded my arms across my chest. "It was an appropriate amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbs."
He shook his head and ate another pretzel. "I don't want to live in a world where a few almonds—chocolate or otherwise—are lunch." He pointed to the plate and pushed his beer toward me. "Eat. Drink. Please."
I glared at the pilsner and pretzels. I hated being told what to do. Just fucking hated it. But then my stomach growled—goddamn it—and Riley shot me a pointed glance.
"People think that a rumbling stomach is the sign of hunger," I said, reaching for his glass. I drained the beer and then selected a pretzel for dipping. "It is not."
Riley gazed at me, his expression flat. It gave me a moment to study him while choosing another pretzel. He was wearing jeans, a tailored shirt with the cuffs rolled up to his elbows, and a pinstriped vest, and his hair was a wreck. It looked like he'd been tugging the dark strands in every conceivable direction. His eyes were rimmed with a bit of red and his lids heavy, as if he'd been rubbing them or hadn't gotten much sleep. Perhaps both. There was a small notebook beside his phone, and a mechanical pencil tucked into the spiral binding.
And he was still more attractive than I knew how to handle. Even tired and irritable, and ordering me to eat his pretzels and drink his beer, he was hot as fuck. I bit into another pretzel and offered him a small smile.
"Would you say the chip on your shoulder is massive or epic?" he asked. There was no hint of amusement in his tone, and he was staring at me with more ice than I'd believed he could muster. It didn't feel like we were sniping at each other anymore. "It might be semantics to you but I'm trying to get a feel for what I'm dealing with here."
But then one of his big hands found my leg under the table. He squeezed and rubbed his thumb along the hollow of my knee, and I started to believe I'd been all wrong about this man. There was the player and there was the overgrown kid, but there was so much more than that.
Kate Canterbary doesn't have it all figured out, but this is what she knows for sure: spicy-ass salsa and tequila solve most problems, living on the ocean--Pacific or Atlantic--is the closest place to perfection, and writing smart, smutty stories is a better than any amount of chocolate. She started out reporting for an indie arts and entertainment newspaper back when people still read newspapers, and she has been writing and surreptitiously interviewing people—be careful sitting down next to her on an airplane—ever since. Kate lives on the water in New England with Mr. Canterbary and the Little Baby Canterbary, and when she isn't writing sexy architects, she's scheduling her days around the region's best food trucks.
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