by Shewanda Pugh
Genre: Romantic Suspense
On the night of her brother's murder, Deena Hammond stumbles upon Takumi Tanaka, lost and on the wrong end of a .32. After rescuing him from the certain fate driving through her neighborhood in a Porsche will bring, a sweet kind of friendship begins. A balm for her grief.
Maybe, Deena likes to think, it happened the day her mother killed her father. Or maybe, it was always a part of them, like DNA gone bad. Whatever the case, Deena knows that her family would never approve, hell, never acknowledge, her fast-growing love for Tak. And had he never made love to her in that unraveling, soul-searching sort of way, she could've done the same. But loves a devil that way. So, their game begins. One where they hide what they are from everyone. Anyone.
Tak understands this for now. After all, Deena's career hinges on the favor of her mentor and boss: his hard-ass of a father. And the Hammond family is already stretched thin with grief. Yet, each step Deena takes toward family and career brings her closer to an acceptance she’s never had—and away from him.
“So, what does my little architectural scholar think of the Atlanta skyline?” Tak asked as he took a sip of sweet tea.
Deena lowered her gaze. It was the right question, a distraction from the jitters she felt from being hundreds of miles away from home with a man who made her wake up in desperation.
She shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. There’s a lot of modern and postmodern stuff here, but that’s not surprising. Atlanta’s a southern city, but it’s a hybrid one. In a time when much of the south rejected what they saw as an encroachment on an old way of life, Atlanta was going through a transformation, if you will. They wanted to be seen as a progressive city, a sort of beacon of the ‘New South’. You know how some of the best architecture reflects the values of the people around it? Well, Atlanta’s no exception. You can see the rejection of antebellum roots and—”
Deena paused, her cheeks coloring. “I’m so sorry. Before this is over you’ll wish you asked some other girl to come with you.”
Silence followed. Her words implied more than she’d intended about their reasons for being there, implied more than the careful friendship they’d maintained to that point.
A slight smile played across Tak’s lips. “Don’t be silly, Dee.” He watched her as she shifted, before apparently deciding she’d squirmed enough. “You’re a genius. My otosan must love talking to you.”
Deena shrugged. “It’s a big firm. I don’t really spend time with your father.”
Tak laughed. “You do. You just think you don’t.”
“Now what in the world does that mean?”
“My dad’s a brilliant man whose whole life is wrapped up in that firm. He hired you because he saw something. While you were his intern, he studied you, figured out what you were made of, and decided that he liked it. In other words, he was spending time with you even if you weren’t spending time with him.”
Before Deena could respond, the waitress returned with their food. Pecan waffles and scrambled eggs, biscuits and country gravy and two unidentifiable piles on saucer plates were placed before them.
“What in the hell is this?” Deena said, lifting the edge of a saucer for inspection. Her nose crinkled at the mass.
“It’s hash browns. Try it.”
Tak grabbed a bottle of syrup and went to work on his waffles.
“Hash browns where?”
Tak grinned. “Hash browns there.” He jabbed at the mass with his syrup-covered fork. “There’s also onions, ham, cheese, chili and tomatoes.” He pointed at each item with the utensil before returning to the slicing of his waffles. “And it’s all quite good.”
She looked at the red and yellow goo that covered the potatoes in distrust. She didn’t want to think of how many calories might be in that little saucered dish, with its fried potatoes and ooze of cheese. She didn’t want to think of what her ass would look like in a swimsuit after a bite of that stuff.
“Come on, Dee. Open up already.”
Tak stuck his fork into his mouth to clean it before taking a stab at her hash browns. He came away with a thick wad, and trained it towards her mouth. “Just a little now.”
With a hand beneath her chin, he guided the gooey hash into her mouth. An explosion of flavor slipped between her waiting lips, and with it the fork that had once been in his mouth. She blushed.
“Uh oh,” Tak said as he caught chili with his thumb. Quickly, he returned the finger to her mouth, her lips parting to accept it. He gasped loud enough to draw the eye. Their gazes connected, locking for too long. Staring, neither speaking, breathing as the seconds passed until he receded. Wide-eyed, Deena cleared her throat and looked away, red-faced and stiff. Tak stared, a sober, blinking astonishment on his face. Both finished their meals in silence.
Shewanda Pugh's a tomboy who's been writing romance since an inappropriate age. While she's been shortlisted for a few awards and snagged a bestsellers list or two, there's nothing she enjoys more than hearing from her readers.
In another life, she earned a BA from Alabama A&M University and an MA in Writing from Nova Southeastern University. Though a hardcore native of Boston, MA, she now lives in Miami, FL, where she sulks in the sunshine, guzzles coffee, and puzzles over her next novel.
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Don't Let Him Go
I Want Morrison Book 1
by Kay Harris
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When a strict and careful corporate lawyer collides with a laid-back, risk-taking activist they find an unexpected, unexplainable, and possibly, an unemployment-risking kind of love.
Candace Gleason is making all of her dreams come true. She passed the bar, landed a great job, and is making a killer salary as a corporate attorney. Everything seems to be working out perfectly. That is until she’s assigned to keep the boss’s petulant son out of trouble.
Jack Morrison is the rebellious black sheep of a mighty real estate family. He runs a non-profit whose mission is to save poor people from evil corporations, like the one his own family owns. He is obnoxious, horrible, ridiculously charming, and insanely hot. He is the bane of Candace’s very existence.
Candace has more to worry about than just keeping Jack from chaining himself to bulldozers, though. She has to keep him from locking up her heart, too.
This contemporary romance has a touch of sweet, a little-bit sexy, and a whole lot of fun. It does not have a cliffhanger and contains a perfect HEA!
‘Don’t Let Him Go’ is part of the three-book series ‘I Want Morrison.’ Each book in the series deals with a different Morrison sibling and each can be read as a stand-alone.
I am a college professor, former park ranger, and anthropologist. People observation is in my blood. I write contemporary romance novels that emphasize character development and dialogue. The situations my characters find themselves in might not be everyday, but they could happen.
I have always loved romance novels of all kinds, and I've been writing love stories since I was kid. It wasn't until I was approaching a very significant birthday that that I decided to write down some of those stories in full length novels.
The Love on Tour series is a coming together of my love of romance and my love of rock n' roll. In particular I am a fan of classic rock (which might be obvious if you read my books). The titles of the books in the series are actually the song titles from one particular artist. If you can guess which singer/songwriter it is you get a gold star!
I grew up in Michigan, have since lived all over the west, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, and Nevada. I love to hike, am obsessed with museums, and take my 6'5 husband on 'adventures' all over the West.
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I had to keep my distance…
Sawyer Briggs could admit that she was all he ever thought about, but the tall, sexy alpha knew that if he truly wanted what was best for her, he would stay away…
It's now or never…
Delilah Turner was ready to go for who she really wanted! The curvaceous beauty had a plan and she was all in, whether he was ready or not…
After years of pent up attraction, lust, desire, and passion, he won’t know what hit him when Delilah puts it all on the line in… Seducing Sawyer…
Oh my goodness, Sawyer Briggs and Delilah Turner are amazing together! This might just be my favorite Melanie Shawn book and I have read and loved each and every one of them! There are so much emotions, deep devotion, protectiveness, brokeness, desire, and passion it just took my breath away while I was glued to my Kindle till the early morning hours. It was impossible to put down until The End.
Delilah Turner is a big, beautiful woman and I loved it. And I loved how she carried herself, stood up for herself, was willing to risk it all to go after what she wanted. She has always been a kind, considerate, sweet, and caring person, and that does not change, as she finds her inner strength, and the guts to finally approach Sawyer, the man she loves.
Sawyer, now he is... Wow. The man of few words and the deepest, most profound feelings that you can imagine. He is the oldest son, the caretaker, the protector, the helping hand to whom even might need it. But he is no pushover. He is a big man by his physical size, by his character as a man and by his heart. And he might not smile too much or talk too much but when he does you better pay attention because those words have so much meaning and feeling they will sweep you away.
His desire, devotion, dedication towards Delilah left me in awe. The whole story is an astonishing, deeply felt, passion filled, emotional journey for Sawyer and Delilah, to find the balance of minds and hearts to be able to build something amazing that will be a lasting and profound foundation for their future.
Take a deep breath and jump right into the heartfelt story. I loved it. Absolutely everything about it.
~ Five Spoons
MORE THAN A SOLDIER
by Irene Onorato
Genre: Inspirational Romance
Pub Date: 6/6/17
There’s more than one way to be a hero . . .
Former Special Forces soldier Hank Fleming is living a safe, quiet life in upstate New York, but there are days he isn’t sure he’s going to make it. The sole survivor of a devastating grenade attack in Afghanistan, he is still scarred, physically and emotionally. He hangs on to his faith and tries to keep moving forward, waiting for the day that something—or someone—can make him feel whole again.
Cindy Giordano is searching too—for her biological family and a fresh start. When her journey to find her brother, Edward, leads to Hank’s front door, she is instantly drawn to Hank . . . and instantly wary. With her ex-fiancé’s betrayal still fresh in her mind, friendship is about all she can muster.
When shadows from Cindy’s past threaten, Hank’s protective instincts shift into high gear, and he realizes everyone has their own battles to fight. But the road to healing would be much sweeter with the right person by his side . . .
More Than a Soldier is the second installment of the Veterans Heart series, an inspirational romance with a touch of suspense in the tale. The mix of the character's growth in their faith in God, their struggles and triumphs in life, and the developing romantic relationship are all well mixed together in an intriguing storyline.
Former Special Forces soldier Hank Fleming is easy to like. He is kind, considerate, fun, protective, a good man, who doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, likes to be active and laugh. He is an attentive son, a good brother, and a friend you can count on. The events in the army that caused his disability are hunting his sleep. He is struggling to find his place, and worth, after the military life, and grow in his faith in God.
Cindy Giordano is a sassy daredevil who loves to be challenged physically. But currently, it is her life that is challenging her to the max. She is heartbroken and devastated for the reasons of her broken engagement. She lost her job, she is fighting with her family, and she seems to have a violent stalker after her.
Cindy and Hank have a great connection. They click, they got each other, understand each other, there is a lot of fun and laughter, 'non-dates' where they get to know each other. I liked the chemistry between them, how their friendship was founded first until the deeper feelings took a hold of their hearts.
When the danger Cindy is in escalates, and the fear intensifies, the story starts to move at a rapid pace. With all the stress Cindy is in, it is no wonder that she is a bit of a mess, and acts out of character that causes a conflict between her and Hank.
It was effortless for me to connected with characters, understand their struggles, feel their pain, hope, and joy. All the different aspects of the story, Cindy finding her brother, the developing relationship with Hank, the suspense, and danger from the stalker, the character development, both as a person and in their faith made an alluring story that was easy to get lost in and enjoy immensely. I wish there would have been more to the ending, it seemed abrupt to me and left some questions in my mind.
A poignant, encouraging, and touching story about trust, faith, and love that touches the emotions, entertains and inspires.
~ Four Spoons
Hank Fleming peeled off his cold, wet T-shirt and tossed it aside in
the dark. The nightmare clung to his psyche even as he stood at his hotel
room window staring into the night illuminated by only a stingy sliver of
moon. Whitecaps danced like ghostly apparitions across the pitch-black
ocean surface, adding to his uneasiness.
Was this reality, here, now, with his toes deep in the plush carpeting
of a resort hotel in Miami Beach with the air conditioner humming? Or
was the real Hank Fleming still lying on the ground in Afghanistan, a
soldier bleeding from multiple wounds with his left eye dangling off his
cheekbone by a few threads of nerves?
If only he could erase the images. The sounds. The RPG blast. The
roaring fire consuming what was left of the truck he’d been driving with
four men inside. But most of all their horrible deaths.
Hank willed his breaths to an even cadence and reined in his galloping
heart. The rat-a-tat of M4 rifles, acrid smell of burning rubber, and the unit
medic’s face started to dissolve as if being sucked, particle-by-particle,
feature-by-feature, back into another realm.
Hank brought his fingers to the eyepatch that covered his left eye socket
and pressed the fabric into the hidden void. Reality, harsh and merciless,
stung him to the core. He’d lost an eye, hearing in one ear, and bore fading
scars where the explosion had hurled shrapnel into his flesh. But, he’d
survived while four of his fellow soldiers perished.
Hank lifted his gaze to the crescent moon. “Why, God? Why?”
Irene Onorato was born and raised in 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.
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by Chloé Duval
Genre: Fiction, Sweet Romance
Pub Date: 6/13/17
In a rural French village, a letter is delivered decades late, inspiring a young woman to try to reunite two star-crossed lovers . . .
Middle school teacher by day, romance writer by night, and group knitter on Tuesday evenings, Flavie Richalet leads a fairly uneventful life—until she receives a long delayed letter meant for a total stranger. Postmarked 1971, the yellowed envelope, addressed to an Amélie Lacombe, holds a fervent message of love and a marriage proposal, signed only with the initial E. Given her own fractured family history, Flavie is dreamily determined to learn what became of the couple . . .
Flavie’s inquiries lead her to a French seaside inn—and to E. himself, a true romantic who never forgot the girl who got away so many years ago. But his protective nephew, B&B owner Romaric, isn’t sure that trying to find Amélie after all these years is good for his uncle. At odds with the tall, dark, and impossibly passionate Romaric, Flavie must show him, and perhaps herself, that true love is timeless—and always worth waiting for . . .
September 4, 1975
It was the most important day of her life.
She’d been waiting and preparing for this day for weeks, and she
should have been deliriously happy. She should have been lighthearted
But instead, she felt strange and uncomfortable. As though she was
forgetting something important. As though she was about to make a
It’s just apprehension, she told herself. The usual jitters all women
feel before they commit for life.
But did all women think of their first love on their wedding day?
Amélie closed her eyes, and Erwan’s beautiful face appeared in
her mind. She pictured his irresistible smile, his gray-blue gaze, his
unruly hair, always too wild to lie flat. She felt his rough hands on
her skin, his lips on hers, as though it were only yesterday that they
had lain together on the beach.
She shook her head, willing herself to dismiss the memory. It was
foolish to think of him, especially right before her wedding. It had
been so long ago . . . four years, almost to the day. He’d obviously
forgotten her, moved on with his life. He’d never written to her,
never phoned her, never gotten in touch with her. She’d waited
weeks, months even, for him to reach out to her, before she’d accepted
the truth. It had only been a summer fling. So she’d grieved,
but then looked to the future. She’d thrown herself into her studies in
fashion-design school to forget. Forget all about him.
And now she was finally happy. She’d finished school and gotten
the job of her dreams with a small fashion company that appreciated
her style and her slightly extravagant ideas. It was almost more than
she’d ever expected. Moreover, she was about to marry a wonderful
man, one who loved her more than anyone and whom she loved very
much. She knew they’d have a great life together.
So why? Why was she thinking of the past, of a painful, bestforgotten
period of her life, on the day she was going to marry Paul,
for better or for worse?
She took a deep breath, trying to calm her heart, her nerves, her
mind. She patted her veil, smoothed a few nonexistent creases in her
satin and lace wedding dress. She’d designed it herself, and it was
stunning, even if she said so herself. It was the dress of her dreams.
Again, Erwan appeared in her mind’s eye.
“For God’s sake!” she swore, cutting herself off immediately.
Someone knocked on the door and her mother peered in. “Are
you ready, sweetheart?” Viviane Lacombe asked, beaming.
Amélie cast a last glance into the mirror, took a deep breath, and
nodded. “I am.”
It was no longer time to wonder about the past.
So, she left her home, the home where she grew up, and, lifting
the hem of her dress in one hand, her father at her side, her mother in
front of her, beaming much more than her daughter was, Amélie
slowly walked the short distance to the beautiful church of Karouac,
where her parents had been married. Paul was waiting for her there.
Her family was waiting for her. The minister, and all their friends,
were gathered here today to celebrate her wedding to the love of her
life. She couldn’t wait to go in and marry Paul, the man who had always
been there for her. Who loved her more than anything else. She
couldn’t wait to start her life. The life she had chosen for herself.
Yet before she walked into the church, she couldn’t help stopping
to gaze around, searching for a face, a smile. She shook her head and
cursed the damn memories trying to spoil the happiest day of her life.
She turned back and smiled at her father, took hold of his proffered
arm, and waited for her cue.
Hidden in the shade of a porch, unseen, Erwan watched as the
love of his life walked into the church on her father’s arm to marry
He’d been too late, and he’d lost her once again—forever.
2 • Chloé Duval
He tamped down the urge to enter the church and beg Amélie, on
his knees if need be, to come with him, repeating what he’d written
in that unanswered letter four years ago, and walked away, his heart
breaking, leaving Karouac behind him.
Once again, and forever.
Stolen Time •
As a little girl, Chloé Duval dreamed of knights slaying terrifying dragons and damsels in distress. Today, she’s still seeking, in her stories, to find again the sweetness and the enchantment of the fairy tales she absorbed as a child. A Frenchwoman by birth, Canadian by adoption, and Québecoise in her heart, Chloé lives in Montreal with her prince charming and dozens of characters jostling around inside her head.
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After an attack at a military charity gala, navy commander James Darius learns someone wants to kill him—and kidnap his two daughters. And there's nothing the recently widowed single father won't do to protect his girls…even if it means asking a beautiful bodyguard to pose as his girlfriend.
Though security expert Zoe Dean agrees to handle the threats and near-fatal assaults, she refuses to get attached to the handsome commander and his lovely daughters.
But with the would-be kidnappers closing in, saving James and the little girls, while protecting her heart, may be one mission Zoe can't master.
An action packed story with an engaging plot and charming characters. It was easy to embed myself into the story, and the fact that I had not read the previous installations in the series didn't hinder my enjoyment of it.
Zoe Dean is a great heroine, she can handle herself in any situation and is a tough competitor when fighting against the culprits. She has a history that she would rather hide, staying off from the limelight and anonymous is what she prefers. Her connection with the Darius family is immediate, James' daughters accepting and welcoming her presence in their lives, trusting her to keep them safe.
James Darius is a single dad of two precious daughters. He had a difficult marriage, with a lot of baggage and promises he can not break. He is fighting to keep his family safe while trying to get hold of highly sensitive material for his job. To fall for Zoe is the last thing he expected or has time for right now in his life. He is stubborn, capable, fierce protector, with a soft spot in his heart for his girls.
I liked the connection between James and Zoe. It felt authentic and even though rather instant, it was believable. The action is constant, the threats multiple and twisted keeping the reader on their toes, and the plot moving forward with great tempo. The characters faith in God is a natural part of the story. They rely on Him to guide them, to keep them safe. The prayers are constant and well embedded into the storyline.
A splendid, entertaining, intense, Christian faith-based romantic suspense
~ Four Spoons
Some mistakes can never be fixed and some secrets never forgiven . . . but some loves can never be forgotten.
Charlotte Gibbs wants nothing more than to put the past behind her, once and for all. But now that she's back at Firefly Lake to sell her mother's cottage, the overwhelming flood of memories reminds her of what she's been missing. Sun-drenched days. Late-night kisses that still shake her to the core. The gentle breeze off the lake, the scent of pine in the air, and the promise of Sean's touch on her skin . . . True, she got her dream job traveling the world. But at what cost?
Sean Carmichael still doesn't know why Charlie disappeared that summer, but after eighteen years, a divorce, and a teenage son he loves more than anything in the world, he's still not over her. All this time and her body still fits against his like a glove. She walked away once when he needed her the most. How can he convince her to stay now?
A story about family, loyalty, forgiveness, and falling in love, learning to make compromises, and building up the kind of life that suits you despite the circumstances and expectations from others.
Charlotte Gibbs has faced tragedy and loss several times during her life, not only as a reporter but in her personal life as well. She is tough and resilient until her cup runs over, and she needs time to heal, not only from the wounds in her body but in her mind and nightmares as well. Charlotte never felt that she was enough for her parents, and to prove that, to get the acceptance and approval she pushed herself hard to be the best, to show that she can.
Sean Carmichael has worked hard to make the family business the success it is today. He is looking after everyone in the family, keeping it going, keeping them employed, safe, and happy. His heart was broken by Charlotte long time ago, and those wounds are still sore, the doubts, the mistrust, and hurt still linger in his mind.
The story has a large cast of characters, and it is told from several points of view. Even Sean's son and Charlotte's niece gets their time in the limelight with the teenage crush. There are secrets that shatter hearts and minds, trust is not easy to come after being stretched and abused so many times. The characters are likable, yet far from perfect. I grew to care for them and wanted them to succeed, but they also frustrated me several times. I missed a little spark in the dialogue, little more depth with the characters, to connect with them on an emotional level as well. Charlotte had had to make some difficult decisions during her life, that still had the power to hurt others, and it was not always easy to like her or accept her choices.
There are lots of happening in the story, the small town events and life decisions weighing the characters minds making the plot move forwards on a leisurely tempo.
The activities made me remember the childhood summers and the fun to be had at the lake, making me smile. I think this is a great novel for vacation, or if you want to escape to the hot, unhurried, summer days with a little romance, family drama, and life troubles on the side.
~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
The Cottage at Firefly Lake is the first book in the Firefly Lake series. The next book, Summer on Firefly Lake, comes out on July 25, 2017.
Growing up under the big sky of western Canada and spending summers in a little Ontario town, books were my passport to other worlds. Pioneering Laura Ingalls, Jo March and her sisters, the English girls in Noel Streatfeild’s books and L.M. Montgomery’s independent, nature-loving heroines all became friends.
I started writing poems and stories in elementary school and, as a teenager, reached the semi-finals in a local short story contest. Even after all these years, I still remember the thrill of the judge encouraging me to keep writing.
I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, setting fiction writing aside to teach at universities, write and publish academic research and work in marketing communications and international business development.
Along the way, I read romances, escaping into a world where a happy ending was guaranteed. One day, though, I realized that by losing my creative writing, I’d also lost part of what makes me who I am.
Now I write the kind of stories I like to read–heartwarming romances about finding home, family and community–where ordinary women overcome sometimes extraordinary challenges to earn their happy ever after.
I’m an RWA® Golden Heart® finalist 2015 in Contemporary Romance, and that manuscript sold to Hachette Book Group USA, Grand Central Publishing, Forever. It releases on January 31, 2017 as THE COTTAGE AT FIREFLY LAKE.
I’m a member of RWA® and the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). And despite a few detours along the way, I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do since childhood.
After many years in England with my husband, a tech guy who’s still a small-town boy at heart, and our tween daughter, an English rose, who teaches me to cherish the blessings in the everyday, I’ve come home to my roots and live in a small town in Ontario’s Rideau Valley.
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THE BAD LUCK BRIDE
by Jane Goodger
Pub Date: 6/13/17
Welcome to St. Ives, the charming seaside town where even a down-on-her luck bride might find her way back to love . . .
As if being left at the alter for the third time isn’t bad enough, Lady Alice Hubbard has now been dubbed “The Bad Luck Bride” by the London newspapers. Defeated, she returns to her family’s estate in St. Ives, resolved to a future as a doting spinster. After all, a lady with her record of marital mishaps knows better than to dream of happily-ever-after. But then Alice never expects to see Henderson Southwell again. Her beloved brother’s best friend disappeared from her life soon after her brother’s death. Until now…
Alice is just as achingly beautiful as Henderson remembers. And just as forbidden. For the notorious ladies’ man made one last promise to Alice’s brother before he died—and that was never to pursue her. But one glimpse of Alice’s sorrow and Henderson feels a powerful urge to put the light back in her lovely eyes, one lingering kiss at a time. Even if it means falling in love with the one woman he can never call his bride . . .
If only her fiancé had died five minutes after the ceremony instead of five minutes before, Alice wouldn’t be in her current, unfathomable, situation.
A terrible thought, yes, but there was never a truer sentiment to go through her mind.
He was late. Her current and very much alive fiancé was terribly, horribly, embarrassingly late, and the vicar was giving her sad looks and the congregation was whispering, and Alice felt like she might scream for them all to just shut up. Harvey Reginald Heddingford III, Viscount Northrup, whom she actually liked (the first of her three fiancés whom she actually had liked) had apparently grown ice cold feet.
It wasn’t much of a surprise, actually.
The night before he’d seemed…off. Distracted. Overly nice. Guilty. That’s when the first niggling feeling of doubt touched her but she forced herself to ignore it. Certainly three men couldn’t leave her at the altar. Though to be fair, Bertram Russell, her second ill-fated fiancé, was ousted by her enraged father long before she’d set foot in the church. Bertram had been found out—not one week before their planned nuptials—to be a complete fraud. He made ordinary fortune hunters seem like innocent children dabbling at seducing marriage out of highly placed, rich women.
One dead. One fraud. One very, very late.
This could not be happening again. She stood in the vestibule with her father and sister, dread slowly wrapping around her like a toxic fog, making it almost impossible to breathe. As she waited for her groom to make an appearance, knowing he would not, Alice vowed she would never, ever, be put in this position again. When she saw Vicar Jamison coming toward the spot where she stood with her father, Alice knew it was over. She couldn’t seem to gather the energy to cry and in fact had the terrible urge to laugh, something she sometimes did at the worst possible moment. Actually, other than feeling a bit off kilter and extremely humiliated, she felt nothing at all. Certainly not heartbroken.
“Lord Hubbard,” the vicar said, giving her father a small bow. “It may be time to address the congregation.”
Her dear, dear, papa looked at her, his eyes filled with sorrow. “I think I must.”
Alice nodded and pressed her hands, still holding her silly bouquet, into her stomach. God, the humiliation. This was far worse than Bertram and, well, poor Lord Livingston was deemed a tragedy, not a humiliation. People at least felt sorry for her when her first ill-fated husband-to-be dropped dead waiting for her to walk down the aisle. Just five more minutes and she might have been a widow, and a widow was a far better thing to be than a jilted bride.
It was all her sister’s fault. Christina had been fussing with her gown, fixing something in the bustle, insisting that Alice would never get the chance to be a bride again (what a lark) and everything must be absolutely perfect for that most important day when Alice would have become a baroness. And then Lord Livingston died, right then, right as he walked toward the front of the church. Dropped like a stone without warning and was dead before he hit the hard marble floor with a sickening thud. Instead of Lady Livingston or Lady Northrup, she was still Miss Hubbard and it looked like she would be Miss Hubbard for the rest of her days.
Christina stood, eyes wide with horror, as their father walked slowly to the front of the church. The large room became deathly quiet, and Alice turned, grabbed her sister’s arm, and walked out the front door of the church. She couldn’t bear to see the pity in their eyes, nor the tears in her mother’s. Certainly Mama had never suspected her eldest daughter would once again be abandoned by her groom. Thank God they’d decided to get married in London and not St. Ives, where the villagers would have likely gathered to celebrate her marriage. No one was about except for the normal crowds.
“I’ll murder him,” Christina said feelingly when they reached their carriage. The startled footman hurriedly dropped the steps and then handed the sisters into the carriage, which was meant to carry the happy
couple to their wedding breakfast.
Alice tore off her veil then gave her ferocious sister a weak smile. “I think he was in love with Patricia Flemings.”
“No!” Christina said with the conviction of someone who cannot accept the fact that anyone could choose a Flemings over a Hubbard. Their father, Lord Richard Hubbard, was the third son of the fifth Duke of Warwick, and though he held no title, his connection to the great duke had put their family firmly in the lofty realm of the ton. Christina adored working “my grandfather, the Duke of Warwick” into as many
conversations as possible, no matter what the topic. At eighteen, Christina was looking forward to her first season and was no doubt wondering how this latest wedding debacle with her sister would hurt her chances of
making a good match.
Alice realized she was officially a hopeless case, and would no doubt become the terrible punch line to jokes told from Nottinghamshire to Cornwall. You’ve heard of Alice Hubbard—or is it Miss Havisham? Charles Dickens had done her no favor by portraying a jilted bride as such a bitterly tragic character. Alice didn’t feel bitter, at least not at the moment, but she suspected she could not escape the label of ‘tragic.’ Now she would have to hide away for a time at their country estate in St. Ives, which wasn’t such a sacrifice, as St. Ives was her favorite place in all the world. Perhaps in her elder years she could be chaperone to her sister’s beautiful daughters. She would be known by them as “my poor spinster aunt who never found love.”
Three fiancés and she had hardly tolerated any of them, never mind loved them. She’d only loved one man in her life but he, of course, did not love her. And that, perhaps, was the most humiliating thing of all.
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.
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A Temporary Betrothal
Pregnant widow Ellie Jameson is hiding a secret: her betrothal is a sham to keep her safe from her interfering in-laws. It's simple friendship that prompts her reclusive boss to pose as her fiance. But can Ellie keep her feelings for Alexander Copeland from developing into something more?
When he moved to Gatlinburg after losing his wife and child, Alexander had one rule: stay out of other people's lives. Easier said than done with the cafe owner's eternally optimistic cook interrupting his enforced solitude. He only intended to protect Ellie, not propose to her. But with a little trust, and a helping of forgiveness, this temporary arrangement could be a recipe for lasting happiness...
Smoky Mountain Matches is a series that I have enjoyed immensely. The readers have met the characters previously, and the forever so grouchy cafe owner Alexander Copeland has intrigued my mind in previous books. And he has a good reason for his behavior, no doubt about it.
Ellie Jameson, the talented cook the town hired to help Alexander while he was sick, has more in common with Alexander than she could have believed. They both have suffered losses in their lives, difficult circumstances and deep sorrow is no stranger to either of them. I liked the bond they had, the fragile friendship turning into a protection from harm and danger, looking after each other, and taking care of each other. The sweet tenderness that was tangible between them was adorable.
Alexander had lost his faith and hope for the better days and a brighter future with his wife and son. He would have rather sulked in his office to avoid people, but Ellie was determined to be his friend, to make that connection. Both Ellie and Alexander are stubborn yet kind and good hearted people, who only wanted the best for each other and the people around them.
The healing process Alexander had to go through to be able to move on, to live again, and to trust and love again is a remarkable thing that stands out in this story. The development of his faith in God with Ellie's guidance is a beautiful thing to witness, as well as his healing heart and opening mind.
There is a lot of going in the town, the threats from Ellie's former in-laws are frightening, the going on's at the cafe and with their friends, Alexander's relationship with his family, and Ellie's pregnancy all give a lot of juice and vigor to the tale that I read on one sitting. It is an interesting, intriguing, and alluring story that I didn't want to put down until I came to the very satisfying ending.
A delightful mix of life and love, with a hint of danger and threats to give it a bit spice, faith in God to give it meaning, and growth in characters as they heal, mend their fences with their past, and nourish their souls with love that is showered upon them as they open their hearts to the people around them. A lovely, encouraging story about forgiveness and healing, finding love and blessings in life when we least expect them.
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
This Texas cowboy has come home to Copper Ridge to put down roots…but will he risk his heart again?
Asked where he'd be at this point in life, Cain Donnelly would have said anywhere but Copper Ridge, Oregon, living with his estranged brothers. But since his wife abandoned them, both he and his daughter, Violet, are in need of a fresh start, so he's back to claim his share of the family ranch. Local baker Alison Davis is a delicious temptation, but she's also his daughter's mentor and new boss. That makes her off-limits…until she offers a no-strings deal that no red-blooded cowboy could resist.
Alison has worked tirelessly to rebuild her life, and she won't jeopardize her hard-won independence. Especially if it also complicates Cain's relationship with Violet. But with Cain offering a love she never thought was possible, Alison has to find the courage to let her past go…or watch her future ride away for good.
I have been following the people at the Copper Ridge since the beginning and enjoyed the visit there. They have always been entertaining, steamy, and fun reads with charming characters finding their destinies. I am at the point that when I see 'Copper Ridge' I get excited.
Both Cain and Allison have appeared in previous stories, so I was super excited to see them finding their happily forever after with each other, those two really deserve it, if anyone. I just didn't expect them to break my heart in the process.
Allison, Cain, and Cain's teenage daughter Violet all touched my heart with their brokenness, their hope for the better tomorrows, willingness to work on themselves to achieve the better days, to open up, to learn to communicate, to learn to love and trust again.
The story touches many issues most of us have struggled at one point or another, making it easy to relate to the characters and to their situation, to their feelings. There is the teenage angst, finding yourself, feeling that you are not enough, accepted, or loved. The problems of parenting and with our parents, the ever so fragile balance on those parental relationships as we grow and mature and rebel against the authority. There is the aftermath Allison has to go through after living years with an abusive husband. The whole process with Allison is dealt with tender yet honest way, respecting the victim as a true survivor that she is.
All this just resonated with me so that I was holding my breath, just wishing and hoping that they find their balance, their happiness, and acceptance, feel the love that surrounds them. Yet it was Cain, his loneliness, his history of being abandoned, not feeling loved, his fear of intimacy and rejection that stood out. The utter devastation of his feelings, the raw honesty of them, his struggle to connect with Violet, and Allison, even with his brothers, his willingness to do the hard things, have the difficult conversations and put himself out there open and vulnerable just hit me hard. His growth to be the man he wanted to be, the best version of himself, to be the man his loved ones needed and wanted him to be, knew that he could be, the author lays all the fragile emotions there, and let me feel each and every one of them as the story progress.
Yes, there is all the fun banter, the warm family connections, and the friends who would do anything for you that are some of the trademarks of the series. There are the passion-filled moments that steam the windows, and cake baking that could be considered foreplay. There are moments with the brothers that had me chuckling, and teenage angst that had me groaning, but it is the deep emotions that cut me to the core, that still makes me tear up as I write this review, that makes this story stand out for me, that makes it one of the treasured ones that will stay with me, that puts it into the thin folder of 'My Favorites from 2017'.
A must-read book, in my opinion.
~ Five Spoons
After the Kiss
Sex, Love & Stiletto #1
By: Lauren Layne
Released August 26, 2013
Lauren Layne kicks off her Sex, Love & Stiletto series with a delightful short novel! In After the Kiss, the star columnist of Stiletto magazine will do anything for a story. Anything . . . except fall in love.
Julie Greene loves flings. Loves steamy first dates, sizzling first kisses, and every now and then, that first sexy romp between the sheets. Comfy pants, sleepy Sundays, movie nights on the couch? Shudder. But when Julie gets assigned the hardest story of her career—a first-person account of that magical shift between dating and “I do”—she’ll need a man brave enough to give a total commitment-phobe a chance at more.
Normally, Mitchell Forbes would be exactly that man. A devastatingly hot workaholic who tends to stay in relationships for far too long, he should be the perfect subject for Julie’s “research.” But what Julie doesn’t know is that Mitchell is looking to cut loose for once in his life. And the leggy journalist notorious for avoiding love is exactly the type of no-strings fling he’s looking for. In other words, Mitchell is the polar opposite of what Julie needs right now. And, at the same time, he’s exactly what she wants.
Lauren Layne is the USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband (who was her high school sweetheart--cute, right?!) and plus-sized Pomeranian.
In 2011, she ditched her corporate career in Seattle to pursue a full-time writing career in Manhattan, and never looked back.
In her ideal world, every stiletto-wearing, Kate Spade wielding woman would carry a Kindle stocked with Lauren Layne books.
For a list of all her works, please be sure to check out her official website!
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