Sometimes life's most magical journeys bring you back to where it all began...From USA Today bestselling author Emily March comes The Christmas Wishing Tree, an enchanting account of the magic and miracle of Christmas.
A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn't hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.
Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications --until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they'll both find the miracle they've been looking for all along...
With a story filled with the Christmas spirit, charming characters, a touch of suspense, and an adorable, ardent, purely awesome romance story, The Eternity Springs holiday novel wraps around the heart and mind of the reader, delivering feel-good smiles and wishing for the Christmas season to start.
The story has such a solid, wholesome vibe to it, all the characters are likable, the romance takes its time to develop over a years time, the adults take the kid's needs into account, and respect him, setting boundaries for him, while building a life together that involves compromises while fulfilling life goals and dreams.
Some of the things that happen in the story raised my eyebrows, stretching my imagination, yet somehow it fits the environment the book creates.
Devin Murphy is a considerate, kind-hearted man, generous, and loving, the kind of man who will jump into a freezing water to save a neighbor's life, or pretend to be a Santa to a kid who needs a miracle on Christmas Eve.
Jenna Stockton is a dedicated mom to her son Reilly. Her job creates challenges and takes her away from her time with Reilly, but he is her heart and focus, the reason why she works so hard. Reilly just won my heart over. He is smart a young man, who knows what he wants and cares for his mom something fierce.
The story flows effortlessly from the pages and the stalker who has been harassing Jenna gives a slight edge to the cheerful, romantic holiday tale.
An entertaining and adorable story that delivers smiles, grants Christmas wishes and brings forward the magical, mystical ambiance of the yuletide.
~ Four Spoons
AVOIDING THE BADGE
Arizona K9 #1
by Dorothy F. Shaw
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pub Date: 9/4/2018
Rayna Michaels may be a veterinarian, but she knows a little something about the human heart—especially when it comes to worried pet owners. Law enforcement’s bonds with their K9 partners are legendary, and Derek Hansen is a perfect example—he’s had his dog Axle in more times than she can count in the last few months. And Derek’s sculpted muscles and heart-stopping smile would be truly irresistible, if only he wasn’t an officer of the law…
Derek can’t get Rayna’s stunning face and no-nonsense smarts out of his mind. Any excuse to see her will do, until he works up the nerve to ask her out. He’s not sure where her resistance to cops comes from, though he’s more than willing to prove he’s one of the good ones. But when casual dating turns into explosive lovemaking, Derek knows he has to come clean about his past before the woman he loves finds out what he’s been hiding and turns tail to run…
“Ahem... Heeeee’s heeeere.”
At her head vet tech’s declaration, Doctor Rayna Michaels looked up from the lab report she was reading in the back of the main treatment area and furrowed her brow. “I’m sorry. Who is ‘he’?”
Andrea leaned her hip against the counter and dipped her chin. “Seriously?”
“Always.” Careful to keep her expression blank, Rayna stared at the woman.
Andrea sighed and rolled her eyes. “He as in the hottest pet owner we have.” Even as Rayna returned her focus to the lab report in her hands, Andrea continued. “Come on, really? He as in ‘the cop’ who’s so freaking hot we could fry an egg on his unbelievable abs. We haven’t seen the abs, but we all know he’s got them. In spades. The same he who’s so totally into you—so into you that the rest of us are green with envy.”
He was not and they were not. Rayna sighed and set the report back on the counter. Yes, she knew exactly who Andrea was talking about, but no way was Rayna going to let her vet tech know that.
And yes, Officer Derek Hansen was handsome—very handsome in fact. The kind of handsome every hot-blooded woman, self-assured man, or more specifically a gay man—her receptionist Billy had pointed out last time Officer Hansen had been in—on the planet took notice of. If they didn’t, they were likely dead, because very handsome was not only accurate, it was also an incredible understatement.
Dark, close-cropped hair, just a little longer on top. Dark, straight brows. Green eyes. Full lips. Always clean-shaven, but Rayna bet he looked good with a five o’clock shadow, too. His nose wasn’t perfect, but it fit his face perfectly. And then there was his body...
Rayna sighed. Great. The mere thought of how good-looking Hansen was had heat spilling through her system like warm syrup. If she hadn’t put the report down, she could’ve used it as a fan—though that would’ve been way too obvious. “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to be a bit more specific.”
“I swear, Doctor Michaels. Sometimes I don’t even know what to do with you.” She threw her hands up in the air with a harsh sigh, then let them flop back down at her sides. “Fine. Officer Derek Hansen is here with Axle for yet another ‘checkup.’ Specific enough?” Andrea smirked.
“Well then, let’s hope Axle is okay. I know Officer Hansen has been a tad...cautious, possibly overly so, since his canine partner was injured. But honestly, as you know, there is nothing wrong with taking good care of your animal. Especially one as important as Axle.” She smiled, knowing her statement was only going to annoy Andrea further. Which served as a fantastic distraction from the heat rising in her body. Rayna cleared her throat. “What room is he in?”
Andrea let out an exasperated groan and grabbed a file off the counter. “Exam room four. And not for anything, but he’s been in twice already this month. This makes visit number three. I think it’s a sign.” Andrea grinned and started to turn away, but then stopped. “All professionalism aside, enjoy the view for the rest of us, please? You know we’re all going to want a full report when you’re done in there.” After a wink, she headed for the short hallway leading to the front of the office.
Rayna watched her go before picking up the lab report and reading it over once more. Deep breaths, in and out. In and out. In and--
It wasn’t working. Desperate for some relief, she fanned herself with the lab report.
Around six months ago, Officer Derek Hansen’s canine partner, Axle, had been injured in the line of duty. Apparently, her clinic had been the closest place to where the injury happened, and when he’d burst in the front door, of course she’d immediately treated the animal.
The injury hadn’t been anything too serious, thank goodness. Axle had needed a small laceration stitched up, but the animal had also popped his kneecap out of joint on his left hind leg. Leg injuries could lead to hip issues with many big dogs, but shepherds especially. Ensuring Axle was healed properly was essential for his career as a police dog, but more importantly, the animal’s overall well-being and quality of life.
However, after the dog had healed, Officer Hansen continued to bring Axle into the clinic—to the tune of every three weeks, give or take, for what he called “regular checkups.” It didn’t mean anything more than that the man was caring for his animal. Rather typical for an officer and their canine partner. Those teams never left each other’s side.
Besides, who was she to turn away a patient?
Hansen wasn’t a man of many words, but he was always polite, respectful. And, of course, considering Rayna was counted as a red-blooded woman, she’d also noticed he was gorgeous. How could she not? She had a pulse, after all.
Still, checking out her patients’ owners wasn’t something she made a habit of, or ever did, so she made sure to keep their dealings strictly business. It would be unprofessional and highly inappropriate for her to act in any other way.
Every time he’d been in the office, Rayna tried for all she was worth to not focus on how beautiful he was or how incredibly well built his body was, but with each visit, she failed. Plus, whenever she was in one of the exam rooms alone with him, her skin got warm all over, and without a doubt her face was the shade of a fire truck, her spray of freckles becoming little red spotlights.
Worse, each visit, she emerged with the effects he had on her nervous system on display for all to see. As if she were having some sort of allergic reaction, the skin covering her sternum and neck was completely flushed and blotchy. Her entire office staff would not let her forget it.
Frankly, not noticing the officer wasn’t possible. After all, how could anyone with a set of functioning eyes not notice a well over six-foot-tall, hard-muscled, incredibly gorgeous cop?
The answer was plain and simple: they couldn’t.
Rayna grabbed her mini medical bag filled with doggie treats and moved to exam room four’s entrance. With another deep breath to cleanse her mind and hopefully cool down her body, she pressed her palm to the metal panel of the door.
As she was about to push it open, Andrea sauntered back into view, a stack of files in her arms. “Good luck! He looks really, really good today,” she whispered.
Rayna’s eyes went wide. She was going to kill Andrea if Officer Hansen heard the woman’s comment. “Are you done yet?”
Andrea grinned from ear to ear. “Nope. I have to get these files updated in the system.”
Reining in the nervous tension crawling up her spine, Rayna switched topics. “How many more appointments are on the schedule for today?”
“Lucky you, none. He’s your last one. You get to take all the time you need.” Andrea placed the files on the counter and sat in front of the computer.
“Great.” What on earth did luck have to do with it? And wait, he looked good today? How was that different from any other day? The man always looked good. Like when he crossed his thickly muscled arms over his very broad chest, the veins in his forearms stood out in harsh relief against his tanned skin.
A flash fantasy of running her tongue along all those perfect veins made—oh dear, she hoped like hell the heat rising from her stomach to her chest like a wildfire would settle enough for her to do her job.
And do it without her face glowing bright as the Arizona sun.
Dorothy F. Shaw lives in Arizona where the weather is hot and the sunsets are always beautiful. She spends her days in the corporate world and her nights with her Mac on her lap. Between her ever-open heart, her bright red hair, and her many colorful tattoos, she truly lives and loves in Technicolor!
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!
For the Duke’s Eyes Only by Lenora Bell
Series School For Dukes (Each book is a standalone story.)
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Books
Publication Date September 18, 2018
If adventure has a name…it must be Lady India Rochester. The intrepid archaeologist possesses a sharp blade and an even sharper knack for uncovering history’s forgotten women. Unfortunately, she has one annoying weakness: the dangerously handsome Duke of Ravenwood. Former best friend. Current enemy. And the man who dared to break her heart.
Daniel Bonds, the Duke of Ravenwood, is a thrill-seeking antiquities hunter who only plays by one rule: Never fall in love. He’s in it for the fortune and glory. At least that’s what he wants the world to think. He’s sworn to hide his tangled web of secrets, especially from the one woman he cares about and will protect at any cost.
But when a priceless relic is stolen from the British Museum, the rivals must align forces. Racing to recover the stolen antiquity and avert an international disaster? All in a day’s work. Avoiding their buried feelings? More and more impossible. For love is about to become the greatest treasure of all. The grand adventure begins…now!
“We’ve reached an impasse.”
She brushed strands of dark hair away from her cheek with an impatient gesture. “As I predicted.”
“We’re like oil and water, you and I.” He drew a shaky breath. “Never the twain shall mingle.”
“You’re the North Pole,” she declared, “and I’m the South.”
“You’re fire and I’m ice.” He stared into her eyes, held her gaze locked with his.
She tilted up her chin, moving closer. “I hate you.”
He stayed completely still, not daring to breathe.
Stretched taut like a rope, fraying beneath the weight of his desire.
If he allowed himself to breathe, he would take her lips, as he’d dreamed of doing so many times, with fierceness and certainty.
Learn their lush contours by heart. Delve inside to taste her sweet, tart tongue. Swallow the I hate you and tease his name from her lips.
Say my name. Say you want me.
Raven. I want you.
He should say harmful, hurtful things. Push her away.
He wrapped his arm around her slender waist. Dragged her against him.
And kissed her.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY by Lenora Bell, we’re giving away a paperback set of the School For Dukes series thus far!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback set of the School For Dukes series this far. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 10/1/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Lenora Bell
LENORA BELL is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of historical romances. She blames the long, dark winters in her tiny Alaskan hometown for making her a lifelong bookworm. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing who has lived on five continents, Lenora currently shares an old farmhouse in the Pacific Northwest with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties. She loves to hear from readers!
Got It Bad by Christi Barth
Series Bad Boys Gone Good Series
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date September 18, 2018
In USA Today bestseller Christi Barth’s last Bad Boys Gone Good novel, the brother who’s always followed the rules finally gets to be a little bad.
Kellan Maguire was a semester away from becoming a lawyer when his life imploded. Now he’s in Witness Protection, hiding from the mob and mad as hell that his brothers lied to him about, oh, everything. The only bright spot in his new life is their drop-dead-gorgeous U.S. Marshal handler. Yeah, he wants to handle her... a lot.
Federal Marshal Delaney Evans has protected her fair share of dangerous criminals. But Kellan is a whole different kind of dangerous—dangerously hot, to be specific. The charming, handsome, and utterly law-abiding Maguire brother got under her skin the moment they met and the more time she spends with him, the harder it is to deny their attraction. Delaney’s willing to give Kellan one night—to get him out of her system—and then it’s over.
Except one night isn’t enough and soon they’re breaking every rule of WITSEC to be together. Kellan’s got it bad for her, but Delaney’s career, her entire life, would fall apart if anyone found out. And then the biggest complication of all hits…
“You have my word.”
“Great. The word of an almost lawyer,” Delaney said mockingly. “That and twelve dollars will buy me a martini.”
Then she instantly regretted pushing his buttons. It was habit. It was fun.
It was dangerous.
One thick, dark eyebrow winged up, like an arched frame around his stunning ice-blue eye. “First you call me spoiled, and now you’re insulting my near-lawyerness? If I didn’t know better, I’d say the lady doth protest too much.”
“The lady has her hands full dealing with your troublesome brothers. She doesn’t need to waste her energy constantly fending you off, too.”
“I think you do.” Kellan set his cup down.
Delaney gaped at him. Because she’d been oh-so-careful never to give away with so much as a flicker the fact the she was still interested. How could he tell something that Delaney barely admitted to herself? “You think I want to keep fending you off?”
“Yes.” Kellan stepped closer. In fact, he moved in way past what would be polite. Invaded her personal space just as much as he’d been invading her mind. “You like fighting with me. You could ignore my compliments, my flirty remarks. You don’t. You rise to the bait every time. I think you’re every bit as frustrated as I am.”
“You don’t know anything about my life outside the time I spend working on your case.” Heat flashed across her cheeks and chest. And she stepped in, too. To where the tips of her breasts brushed his chest, and her feet bumped against his. “Don’t begin to think you know me.”
“I don’t think. I know. I know that you may have been on dates since you met me. But none of them distracted you from whatever’s simmering between us. You want to turn back the clock to the day I asked you out and follow through on it.”
“I don’t.” Her words were the verbal equivalent of a foot stamp. Then, softer, as if she didn’t mean to speak it out loud at all, Delaney said, “We can’t.”
In response, Kellan framed her face with his hands, tilted her head back more, and kissed her.
Not the light, polite, introduction kiss they’d shared the first time. Delaney had obviously pushed him past that step. Kellan kissed as if he needed her to know just how badly he wanted her. His lips worked across her mouth, moving and kneading. Kellan nipped at her wide bottom lip. It felt like punishment for her making him wait so long
It also felt like a reward for waiting so long, and she rewarded him with a tiny moan.
Delaney’s hands fisted in his thick hair, pulling and tugging. It undoubtedly showed him the insta-heat burning her up inside as much as the way her leg wrapped around his calf.
She wanted more.
His tongue teased at the seam of her lips, and Delaney opened for him like they’d already done this dance a hundred times. She tasted the sweetness lingering from his drink. Desire rocketed through her, turning her nerves to lava. From the way his penis had hardened to pure steel against her belly, Kellan felt the same.
He streaked the backs of his knuckles down the undersides of her raised arms. Kept going to just lightly brush them along the sides of her breasts, her ribs, the flare of her hips to finally land on the curve of her ass.
Kellan dug his fingers in and lifted. Just high enough to press her center against his penis. Instantly, she got on board with the position, rocking against him even as her tongue twined and teased.
It was impossible to stop the little, breathy moans that kept escaping from her. It was impossible not to undulate against his rock hard abs and dig her fingers into the sculpted muscles of his back. Kissing Kellan wasn’t foreplay. It was a sex act all by itself. Utterly satisfying even as it drove her hunger up immeasurably.
And while Delaney would’ve sworn it was impossible, he was a million times better in reality than all the ways she’d fantasized being with him over the past months. Kellan ripped his mouth away to burn a trail of kisses down the side of her neck.
A semi rolled by, and the driver honked for a long time. It had been easy to ignore the white noise of the cars passing, but the horn broke through to Delaney. It reminded her they were on the edge of a green-scummed pond, across from a strip mall. The world could see them making out. And they’d already shot way past a reasonable stopping point.
So she unwound her leg and put her foot back down on the ground. Kellan seemed to get the signal. He dialed back the intensity on his kisses and rained them up the side of her face, down her nose, to end with a light peck on her mouth before easing back. Then he moved his hands to her shoulders.
It took a moment for her eyes to re-open. When they did, it took another moment before Delaney fully focused on him.
“Not only can we kiss,” Kellan said with enough authority to make her realize he wouldn’t allow her to pretend this hadn’t happened. To pretend that she hadn’t just climbed him like a tree and responded with a fervor that matched his own. “We’re absolutely doing it again.”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of GOT IT BAD by Christi Barth, we’re giving away three paperback copies of Never Been Good!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. Three winners will each receive a paperback copy of Never Been Good by Christi Barth. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 9/7/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Christi Barth
USA Today bestseller CHRISTI BARTH earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.
Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.
Hot Winter Nights
Heartbreaker Bay – Book 6
By: Jill Shalvis
Avon Books – Sept 25th, 2018
Who needs mistletoe?
Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .
Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas . . .
With lots of heat, heart, and humor the Hot Winter Nights is just perfect escape reading in a cold autumn night. The touch of suspense with the Santa Village is written with such a delightfully witty way, at the most intense moments, you could have seen me cracking up.
Lucas's reputation as a man whore got the same reaction from me as they always do, but as he opens up to Molly, and gives glimpses to his heart and mind, the losses in his past and the pain of broken heart is not only tangible, it also gives an insight into the way why he has avoided any serious relationships or feelings. Lucas turned out to be a refreshingly honest and open as he fumbles with his feelings with Molly.
Molly is a firecracker, she is fiery, sassy, sweet, and kindhearted. I loved her spunk, her determination, her way of dealing with the overpowering men in her life.
The connection and attraction between Lucas and Molly are tangible. I loved the banter, the teasing, and sizzle between them. Both of them acted a bit immaturely at times, yet I could not hold it against them, as they made me laugh.
With one of the best definitions of what it means to be in love, with the moments of holiday magic, unexpected twists, and laugh out loud moments Hot Winter Nights is wildly entertaining, adorably touching, delightfully charming, and merrily sizzling story.
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
A Rose in the Highlands by Heather McCollum
Series Highland Rose School Series
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Entangled Amara
Publication Date September 24, 2018
1684, Scottish Highlands
Englishwoman Evelyn Worthington is resolved to build a school for ladies in her brother's newly purchased Scottish castle. But when she arrives, not only does she find the castle scorched by fire, but a brawny Highlander bars her entry.
Clan chief Grey Campbell would rather die than see his family home, Finlarig Castle, fall into English hands, so Grey must win the battle of wills with the beautiful Sassenach who flashes a bill of sale before him.
When the war between Evelyn and Grey escalates, passions flare. But outsiders have their own plans for Finlarig. After secrets are revealed, and muskets are lit, the fates of the Campbell Clan, the school, and a possible future for Grey and Evelyn are in as much jeopardy as their lives.
The slowing rain tapped upon her lips. She rubbed them together. Lord, she was thirsty and exhausted. They needed to get inside. Yanking the bill of sale out of her leather receptacle, Evelyn flashed it up at the Highlander before hiding it in her cape to keep the ink from running in the rain. “Proof that the Worthington family of Lincolnshire owns Finlarig Castle and the fifty acres surrounding it. Now kindly step aside,” she said, though she doubted the huge man was given to any type of kindly action, unless one was a pup.
In the quickest of movements, the Highlander turned to shove the puppy back in through the door, shutting it. He grabbed up the torch. “Show me this proof,” he said and stepped to the side to give her room to join him under the narrow eaves.
Finally. First obstacle met and nearly conquered. Evelyn’s knees felt weak with relief. She climbed the steps, her sodden slippers squishing in obvious ruination. Bumps rose along her arms, and she shook from the cold. Coming level with him, she realized that the top of her head barely reached his chin, which was covered with the short growth of a beard. A slight steam came off the hot, bare skin of his shoulders where the dampness hit.
God help her, just being close to the half-naked, brawny man made her stomach flip. The girls back at court would surely swoon from such raw male power, although Evelyn was quite above such ridiculous attraction. It was a man’s mind and convictions that interested her.
As she drew out the document that had been signed by the solicitor, the king’s representative and Nathaniel, she stepped closer into the light of the man’s torch. Evelyn opened her mouth to breathe, expecting the man to stink of sweat or some off putting odor, like everyone else they’d encountered on their journey. But as she came into his circle of light, she realized that his hair was damp, and the skin of his face and neck were clean. The faint smell of pine and rosemary came from him. He’d obviously just bathed. With soap.
She swallowed. Just because a man bathed and was gentle with a puppy, did not make him safe or honorable. She looked down into the pool of madly flickering torchlight, and unfolded the document, the royal seal still attached to one edge. “Once we settle all of this, you can explain to me what happened to my castle.” She barely kept the chill-induced chatter from her words, and her heart thumped hard in her chest.
A low sound, almost like a growl, issued from deep within the man, but he didn’t say anything, just held out his large hand for the paper.
Evelyn held it up so he could see it. “I will read it to you.” She touched it with her fingertip. “Right there. Finlarig Castle and—”
The man snatched the paper out of her fingers and, without a glance at it, lifted the brittle paper to the torch flame. Evelyn’s lips fell open in numbed shock as the parchment caught fire. The Scotsman stretched his arm high above his head, holding it out of her reach as the fire ate up the paper, blackening it.
Evelyn stared, her entire being, body and spirit, trapped in motionlessness. Was this really happening? Had she packed books and teaching utensils, planned for a new life, traveled in dangerous territory for weeks, argued in the freezing rain only to have her future turn to ash before her eyes? She couldn’t even draw in breath as the horror washed through her.
The man kept the paper aloft and glanced down to capture her gaze. His voice was deep, stern, and powerful. “Finlarig Castle has always, and will always, belong to the Campbells of Breadalbane.”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of A ROSE IN THE HIGHLANDS, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 9/28/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Heather McCollum
HEATHER MCCOLLUM is an award winning, historical paranormal and YA romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology, much to her English professor’s dismay. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart finalists. The ancient magic and lush beauty of Great Britain entrances Ms. McCollum’s heart and imagination every time she visits. The country’s history and landscape have been a backdrop for her writing ever since her first journey across the pond. When she is not creating vibrant characters & magical adventures on the page, she is roaring her own battle cry in the war against ovarian cancer. Ms. McCollum recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own Highland hero, rescued golden retriever & 3 kids in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.
A small-town Texas Christmas story, where hearts are lost, love is found, and family always brings you back home.
Griffin Holloway is desperate: the Maverick Ranch has been in his family for generations, but lately, it’s a money pit. He’d sooner marry one of his horses than sell the ranch. Marriage, though, could be a solution. If he can woo a wealthy bride, he might save the ranch—just in time for Christmas.
Jaxon O’Grady likes his solitude just fine, thank you very much. But when a car accident brings the unexpected to his door, he realizes just how much one person can need another.
Crossroads is the perfect place for Jamie Johnson: avoiding nosy questions about why she’s single, she’s happy to keep to her lakeside home. So she’s baffled when she gets the strangest Christmas present of all, in the form of a Mr. Johnson, asleep on her sofa. Who is he, and why does everyone think he’s her husband?
In this uplifting novel, three unlikely couples discover just what Crossroads, Texas, can offer: romance, belonging, and plenty of Christmas spirit.
I read hundreds of books each year, and there are a few authors who stand out from the crew, each for different reasons with their own style of writing. Jodi Thomas is a true storyteller. She has such a handle on the words, the ways to pull the readers into the tale, to build up characters that are easy to connect with and fall in love with, care for like they were your best friends. The vivid images she paints with her words draw the pictures so clear that they come to live in the reader's mind. I adore this series and Mistletoe Miracles, it was just as marvelous as the rest of the books, with three couples finding their destinies, love, and soulmates over the miraculous time of Christmas.
Each of these tales is unique. The lives the characters have lived have been challenging, their lone existence in a way satisfying yet the longing for a mate is there somewhere deep in their souls. Nothing comes easy, each couple has to face their own challenges, and with some, it is an instant connection under false pretenses, with other a marriage of convenience, and with the third, it takes a longer time to heal the wounds in their souls and bodies before they are ready for a new relationship. Yet in each story, there is the magical wonder of the holidays, where everything seems possible, and falling in love seems so natural.
The book is build so that each couple takes turns to tell their tale of falling in love. The intervals are clearly marked, and there is never a question who's story it is at the hand. With the intertwined tales, the interest, and intrigue of the romances allure, and I inhaled the book at once, smiling, sighing, swooning, and even tearing up several times because of the touching, compelling, nearly spellbinding way the stories unfold.
With the clean and sweet romance stories, this book is easy to recommend to all romance readers.
From heartbreak to dreams come true, from saving lives to risking them, from small-town charm to adorable four-legged friends, the book with its three couples and their stories covers life, loving, and living in a fluently flowing, brilliantly written, pleasing tale that delighted, captivated, and mesmerized all at the same time
~ Five Spoons!
Jodi Thomas is running a contest for a reader to spend a vacation in her New Mexico condo where she spends time writing.
USA TODAY bestselling author Janie Crouch writes what she loves to read: passionate romantic suspense. She is a winner and/or finalist of multiple romance literary awards including the Golden Quill Award for Best Romantic Suspense, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the coveted RITA© Award by the Romance Writers of America.
Janie recently relocated with her husband and their four teenagers to Germany (due to her husband's job as support for the U.S. Military), after living in Virginia for nearly 20 years. When she's not listening to the voices in her head (and even when she is), she enjoys engaging in all sorts of crazy adventures (200-mile relay races; Ironman Triathlons, treks to Mt. Everest Base Camp) traveling, and movies of all kinds.
Series Dare to Defy Series
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date September 11, 2018
Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders, has secrets and ambitions of his own. Although under pressure from his mother and gravely ill father to marry his cousin, Charles cannot find the words to propose. But this fascinating American visitor does not figure into his plans, either.
Thrown together unexpectedly at Trevelyan Manor, Madeleine and Charles struggle to rise above their intense attraction. But as things heat up between them over a summer that becomes increasingly scandalous, Madeleine and Charles will both be forced to make a difficult choice. Can two dreamers dare to defy convention and find their own happily ever after?
Bolton, Cornwall, England
June 21, 1889
The brisk wind bit Madeleine Atherton’s cheeks as she stepped down from the train. Cornwall might be known for its temperate climate, but it felt more like November than June. At least the rain had stopped—for the moment.
The rural station at Bolton was much smaller than Madeleine had remembered. Just a redbrick building that resembled a cottage, with a single wooden bench facing the tracks. The platform was empty. Beyond the station stretched a single street lined with small houses and shops. Beyond that, wide green meadows were bisected by a narrow road as far as the eye could see. There was no sign of an approaching carriage.
Where was Alexandra?
Madeleine had spent the entire seven-hour train ride from London thinking about this moment, how wonderful it would be to see her sister again, and how happy Alexandra would be that Madeleine had dared to come. But no one was here to meet her.
Madeline pulled her velvet cloak more closely about her, worried. She had sent a wire yesterday to inform her sister of her plans. I’m stealing away, she had written, just like you did last year. Well, stealing wasn’t exactly the right word. She had simply left a note, packed a trunk, donned her best green traveling suit, and slipped out of Brown’s Hotel early that morning while her mother was sleeping.
As the second of three daughters of one of the richest men in the United States, Madeleine understood that she was expected to make an exceptional match. The quest for a titled husband might be her mother’s ambition, to further the family’s standing in New York society, but Madeleine had agreed to give it a try. It had worked out so well for her sister, after all. Alexandra had fallen madly in love with Thomas Carlyle, the seventh Earl of Longford, and was now happily married and a countess.
Madeleine wasn’t actually opposed to the man her mother was urging her to marry. In fact, she rather liked him. The problem was, unlike most of the girls unleashed on the London Season, Madeleine wasn’t a wide-eyed, immature debutante. She was twenty-four years old. She was a college graduate. This was her second Season in London, taking into account last year’s half Season, when she’d hastily crossed the Atlantic to take part after Alexandra’s impromptu exit.
And Madeleine had specific goals in mind.
Like her sister, Madeleine wanted love to figure into the equation in any match she made. And not just any love. Madeleine wanted a man who adored and respected her, but who also understood her and would be supportive of her dreams.
Was Lord Oakley that man? She wasn’t certain.
Her abrupt departure from town would no doubt enrage her mother, but Madeleine desperately needed a few weeks away to clear her head. She had a life-altering decision to make. And she needed her sister’s advice.
“Is this everything, then?” The query from a mustachioed porter broke into her thoughts. He and another man had deposited Madeleine’s trunk and two bags onto the platform.
“Yes, thank you so much.” Madeleine tipped both men, who touched their caps in thanks.
She was trying to decide what to do, when she caught sight of an approaching carriage on the horizon. Thank goodness. Alexandra was coming at last!
Just then, from another car further along the train, a tall, well-dressed gentleman descended, carrying a leather satchel. Madeleine’s breath caught in her throat.
It was Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders. The best friend of her sister’s husband.
A man she had no desire to see, much less speak to.
But he had already spotted her. His eyes widened in surprise as he closed the distance between them, then greeted her with a bow. “Miss Atherton!”
Madeleine gave him a terse smile and a dutiful curtsy. “Lord Saunders.”
“I had no idea you were on this train.” His voice was just as deep as she’d remembered, just as cultured and refined. He regarded her with calm detachment and a hint of something like curiosity, as if unsure where he stood with her or what to make of her. “I spotted you last month at the Fitzhughs’ ball,” he added, “and another time at the races. But each time I sought you out, you seemed to disappear.”
“Did I? I’m sorry,” Madeleine replied noncommittally. There was a good reason he hadn’t connected with her on either of those occasions. She’d gone out of her way to avoid him.
Looking around, he asked, “Did you travel alone?”
“Yes.” She knew it wasn’t the “done thing” for a woman to travel by train unaccompanied, but she’d had little choice in the matter. She and her mother were sharing the same lady’s maid while in England, and Madeleine couldn’t very well have robbed her mother of her only servant. She silently dared Lord Saunders to reprove her. But he only said:
“So did I. My man Evans came up yesterday with most of my things. But why have you left the Season? I pray you are in good health?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
A cloud of steam emanated from beneath the great locomotive, and the smokestack belched a dark, filthy blast.
“I hope you are not here to see your sister?” he further prodded.
His expression and tone sparked another dash of worry within her. “Why do you say that?”
“Because I received a wire from Longford yesterday morning. He and his wife and sisters are away at Bath.”
“Oh!” Madeleine’s spirits sank. “Then Alexandra never received my telegram.” What a fool she’d been to leave London on such short notice, without waiting for a reply! But it had never occurred to her that her sister wouldn’t be home. Alexandra was seven months pregnant, and had said she intended to remain at home until her child was born.
A new thought worried her. “People go to Bath for their health, don’t they? Do you know if my sister’s all right?”
“I haven’t heard otherwise. Bath is also a popular holiday destination.”
Madeleine wished she felt more reassured. The train whistle blew, a bell clanged, and the huge wheels began to turn. With a rhythmic chug-chug-chug, the locomotive moved out of the station. Leaving Madeleine alone on the platform with Lord Saunders.
“Do you know how long my sister and Lord Longford intend to be away?” she asked.
“A fortnight, I believe.”
Two weeks! Madeleine’s mind worked on the problem. If she could learn where Alexandra was staying in Bath and contact her, maybe her sister would return earlier. Assuming—praying—that she was all right. If not, Madeleine would go to Bath. In the meantime, she could wait at the Longfords’ estate, Polperran House. The carriage she’d noticed earlier was making its approach.
“Well,” Madeleine observed, “it looks as though the staff at Polperran House opened my telegram, and have sent a coach for me.”
“I am afraid that is my coach, Miss Atherton,” Saunders pointed out.
Indeed, as the coach—a smart equipage, painted red and black, with large glass windows—drew up, Madeleine recognized the Trevelyan coat of arms and the coronet of a British marquess emblazoned on the side.
“Please, do not distress yourself.” Saunders’s smile was polite. “It would be my honor to escort you to Trevelyan Manor. You will be most welcome to stay there until Longford and his family return from Bath.”
“Thank you, but no,” Madeleine replied quickly. She had no desire to spend time with this man, nor to stay at his family’s estate. “I would not wish to impose.”
“It would be no imposition, I assure you.”
“I appreciate the offer, my lord. But I would rather find a way to get myself to Polperran House and remain there, while I send word to my sister.”
He nodded. “In that case, pray allow me to offer you a ride thither.”
Madeleine considered. It was a two-hour drive from the Bolton station to Polperran House. She could try to find a cab, but she knew it would not greatly inconvenience Lord Saunders to do her this favor. Although she’d never been to Trevelyan Manor, Alexandra had told her that it was situated near the coast some five miles beyond Polperran House, which was more or less on the way.
Still. Did she want to be cooped up in a carriage with this man for such a long period of time? It was bad enough that she’d traveled unaccompanied all the way from London. But to ride in a closed carriage with a man to whom she wasn’t related or engaged? An Atherton girl, her mother would insist, did not behave that way.
Noticing her hesitation, Saunders added: “There are no more trains today. Your only alternative is to take shelter at the Inn at Bolton—and I would not wish my worst enemy to stay at that establishment, nor even have a meal there. Unless you are absolutely famished?”
“I had something to eat on the train,” Madeleine admitted.
“Well, then?” He quirked an eyebrow. His eyes, she noticed, were an arresting shade of hazel. As he looked at her, it seemed as though he was working hard to take the measure of her, as if she were a problem that needed to be solved. Despite herself, she felt a ripple of sudden interest run the entire length of her body from her head to her toes.
Don’t let him charm you, Madeleine.
She’d spent the past two months at endless balls and parties, subjected to the calculating scrutiny of every fortune-hunting bachelor in London. She’d learned to grin and bear it, and after meeting Lord Oakley, to actually enjoy it. But Lord Saunders’s gaze made her feel self-conscious somehow. And . . . rattled.
A low rumble of thunder rent the air, recalling her attention to her predicament. Raindrops began to patter against the pavement. It was quite apparent that no one was coming for her. It seemed she had little alternative but to accept his offer.
Madeleine swallowed a sigh. “Thank you. I’d very much appreciate a ride to Polperran House.”
Lord Saunders directed two porters to load Madeleine’s luggage onto the back of the carriage. As the men struggled under the weight of her trunk, Saunders asked her, “What have you got in here? Bricks?”
He eyed her with amusement as the coachman secured the trunks and covered them with a tarpaulin. “Did you bring an entire library?”
“Not quite.” She’d only packed two dozen or so of her favorites novels in with her clothes. All the other books she’d brought from New York, she’d been obliged to leave at Brown’s Hotel. In truth, she felt a bit bereft without them. But, she reminded herself, this was a short trip. She’d be back in London in a few weeks.
“May I assist with your satchel?” Saunders gestured toward the tapestry bag Madeleine carried.
Instinctively, she clasped the carryall to her chest, feeling the weight of the precious cargo within. “No thank you.”
He smiled agreeably, then offered his gloved hand to help her board. She took it. His grip was strong and firm, and once again, she felt a sizzle of sparks dance up her arm. Drat the man for being so charming.
She climbed inside, withdrawing her hand and settling on the forward-facing upholstered seat. Saunders took the seat opposite. As the carriage pulled out of the station, rain began pouring down in earnest. Saunders removed his top hat and set it down beside him. Madeleine dared a glance at him across the carriage.
She had to admit, he was very good-looking. His nose wasn’t perfect, but its slight bend gave it character. His cheekbones were, well, high. His curly hair looked soft and was a lovely shade of dark caramel brown. His three-piece suit was perfectly tailored to his broad shoulders, trim waist, and long legs. It was too much, really. No wonder the debutantes had called him “swoon-worthy.”
Madeleine had no intention of swooning before any man, however. Especially this one. No matter what the other ladies had said about him, as they tittered and gossiped behind their fans.
“It is a shame that he makes such infrequent appearances during the Season, and is so skittish about settling down,” one of her acquaintances had intoned breathlessly at a dinner party. “He is still young, just a year shy of thirty, and he will one day inherit the title of Marquess of Trevelyan. The way he flirts! Why, he almost married an American heiress a few years ago! Thank goodness that did not come to pass.”
Madeleine knew all about that scandalous affair. It was the reason she disliked him.
“So,” Saunders quipped, breaking into her reverie as his eyes lifted to hers, “have you run away from town as your sister did?”
His voice held a teasing lilt to it. Madeleine realized she’d been caught staring and in embarrassment looked away, the question setting her on the defensive. “No! I haven’t run away. I have merely taken . . . a small break.”
“In the middle of the Season? How unusual. What prompted your departure? Other than a sudden impulse to visit your sister?”
“What prompted yours?” she challenged.
His smile fled. After a pause, he replied: “My father is unwell.”
“Oh!” Madeleine had only met Lord Trevelyan briefly, the summer before, but had the impression that he was well-liked and respected in the community. “I’m so sorry.”
“He has been ill on and off for years, but never this seriously. It is why my parents remained in the country this Season. The physician and my mother are very concerned.”
“I’m very sorry,” Madeleine said again. “I do hope he recovers fully and quickly.”
Saunders sat in worried silence as the carriage rumbled along, rain beating against the windows. Madeleine felt bad that she’d deflected his question with one of her own. Hoping to fix her mistake and lighten the mood, she said, “You asked my purpose in coming to Cornwall.”
He replaced his frown with a look of genuine interest. “I did.”
“I’ve come because I’ve had an offer of marriage.”
“Congratulations! Who is the lucky gentleman?”
“The Marquess of Oakley, eldest son of the Duke of Courtenay.”
“Ah! I know him well.”
“We roomed together for a year at Oxford. Philip is an excellent fellow.”
Madeleine hesitated. “Yes, he is.”
“You sound uncertain.”
“I don’t mean to. I’m honored by his proposal.” Lord Oakley was handsome, upright, intelligent, thoughtful. Everything Madeleine wanted in a husband. Her mother was thrilled with the match, and Madeleine knew that where titles were concerned, she couldn’t do better than the eldest son of a duke. “But it’s a big decision,” she added.
“Indeed it is.”
“He’s gone off on a tour of the Continent, so I have time to consider the matter. I didn’t want to accept until I’d discussed it with my sister.”
“I understand why. The Countess of Longford is a paragon among women. I should very much like to consult with her myself before making a decision, were I a woman.”
The comment made Madeleine’s hackles rise again. “Were you a woman?”
Her tone seemed to take him aback. “Er . . . Yes.”
Madeleine reminded herself to see the humor in the situation. He was, after all, a man. Most men viewed the world as though it were their exclusive dominion, convinced that women were a weaker, less worthy, less intelligent gender. “Are you saying that a man can only turn to another man for advice? That you would never seek a woman’s counsel on any matter?”
“I . . . did not say that.”
“Yet you implied it.”
“Forgive me, Miss Atherton. That was not my intention.”
“If you think about it carefully, you will see that what you said was condescension, thinly veiled.”
He nodded solemnly as he considered her remark. “Perhaps it was. Again, forgive me. I see that I shall have to mind my p’s and q’s with you.”
“P’s and q’s. That is such an interesting expression.”
“It is, isn’t it? Now that I said it, I realize I have no idea what it actually means.”
“It’s thought to be a schoolroom phrase,” Madeleine told him. “When pupils were taught to write the alphabet, they were reminded to place the letters in the proper order. P comes before Q.”
“That makes sense.”
“There are two other theories, though, that I recall.”
“Please enlighten me.”
“One is that it’s short for ‘mind your pleases and thank-yous”--the latter of which sounds a bit like the letter Q. My favorite insists that the phrase derives from English pubs of the seventeenth century, when bartenders were obliged to keep an eye on the pints and quarts their patrons consumed.”
Saunders chuckled. “How on earth did you come to know all that, Miss Atherton?”
“I had a rather remarkable English professor in my second year at Vassar.”
He paused. “Ah, yes. Your sister mentioned that you just graduated from college. May I congratulate you on your accomplishment?”
He cocked his head slightly, regarding her with what appeared to be a mixture of esteem and curiosity. “I find you most unusual, Miss Atherton.”
“Do you? Why?”
“Your father is one of the wealthiest men in America. You have no need to work. Yet you chose to attend university.”
“Every member of the peerage goes to college,” she pointed out, “and you don’t engage in a profession.”
His brows furrowed at that and he seemed perturbed. After a moment, he commented, “Yes, but that’s different.”
“Why is it different? Why shouldn’t I educate myself? Because I’m a woman?”
An awkward laugh escaped him now and he seemed incapable of a reply.
Madeleine leaned forward in her seat, passion fueling her words. “Women are just as smart as men, my lord, and sometimes smarter. We are equally as capable. We can do anything men can do.”
He studied her. “Is that so? Anything?”
“Anything. Women are doctors and surgeons now—highly skilled ones. And we have women lawyers now in America.”
“So I have heard,” he admitted. “But you must admit, there are some limits as to what women can do.”
“Well, for example, a woman could not dig ditches.”
“Give me a shovel, and I will prove you wrong.”
His eyes twinkled. “Something tells me you would. All right, then. A woman could not be a police officer.”
“She does not have the physical prowess the job requires.”
“I beg to differ. You’d be surprised how strong a woman can be, my lord, when the circumstances demand it.”
He took that in, seemingly considering it, but shook his head. “I do not see it. In the same vein, a woman could never serve in the military or go to war.”
“Untrue!” Madeleine protested. “Absolutely untrue.”
“How so?” He pointed a finger at her. “And pray do not use Joan of Arc as an example. She was an anomaly.”
“Joan of Arc was not an anomaly. Women have served in combat since the dawn of history!”
“Have they? Who?”
“Chinese General Fu Hao, for instance, a woman, led thousands of people into battle in the thirteenth century BCE, and defeated the Shang. In the eleventh century CE, Matilda of Tuscany, an accomplished archer, commanded armies to defend the pope and made kings kneel before her. In our American Civil War, hundreds of women concealed their gender so they could fight alongside their Union and Confederate counterparts. And that’s barely scratching the surface of the—”
“Truce! Truce!” Lord Saunders laughed again and raised his hands in defeat. “I stand corrected. This is clearly a subject which you have studied and I have not.”
“Given the opportunity, women can accomplish great things, Lord Saunders. And one day—I hope to see it in my lifetime—we will have that opportunity. When we have the vote, men like you will be obliged to accept us as your equals.” She paused, conscious that she’d put a somewhat negative emphasis on the words men like you, and worried that she’d gone a bit too far. After all, she was a guest in his carriage, and beyond expressing doubts about women’s physical capabilities, he hadn’t said anything too terribly chauvinistic.
He went quiet for a moment as he stared at her. “Miss Atherton, since the first time we met, I have had the sense that you do not like me very much.”
“Oh, my dislike for you began long before we met, Lord Saunders.” The words tumbled from Madeleine’s mouth before she had a chance to stop them. She stifled a gasp at their brazenness, instantly regretting them. “Forgive me, I should not have said that.”
“No, I appreciate honesty, Miss Atherton,” was his astonished reply. “But pray tell me, what did I ever do to give you offense, before we had even met?”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of SUMMER OF SCANDAL by Syrie James, we’re giving away one paperback copy of Runaway Heiress!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Runaway Heiress by Syrie James. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 9/24/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
SYRIE JAMES is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.
And yet he’s the last man she wants to see….
Paige Riddell never expects her relaxing hike to end in gunfire…or in Rob Allerton’s strong arms.
The handsome DEA agent arrested her troubled brother years ago. Now he suspects a connection to a prominent Colorado developer’s death.
The feisty blonde vows to prove her brother’s innocence, until she becomes the murderer’s target. But when her greatest adversary becomes her live-in bodyguard, protecting her 24/7, Paige wonders what will be the cause of her undoing: the killer…or her fierce attraction to Rob.
The energy between Paige Riddell and Rob Allerton is sizzling. The attraction between them is strong, nearly visible force, even though Paige is doing all in her power to deny it.
Paige is a strong, smart, passionate woman who loves her brother, her hometown, and the environment surrounding it. She is known as a straight-talking activist, who avoids relationships after being burn in a marriage.
Rob loves her passion, her ability to stand up for herself, and the fierceness she looks after her brother.
Parker, Paige's brother, turns out to be as protective of his sister, as well. I loved how Parker formed a relationship with Rob, how he didn't hold his own past mistakes against Rob, who arrested him.
All the main characters are charismatic and likable, the supporting cast and crew having important roles in the development of the tale, as the plot thickens and the mystery surrounding the Eagle Mountain Resort gets new twists.
I enjoyed the story, and the romance developing between Rob and Paige had the spark and fire that I have come to expect in the relationships in this series. There wasn't that much about the background of Rob revealed, just that he was dedicated to his career, loved his extended family, and was a charming and protective man.
The mystery and suspense were twisted and deadly, yet all the strings are brought together at the end, every crime and the culprits coming to the light all the way from the beginning of the series.
A fiery and violent crime spree in a small mountain town comes to a tense conclusion. An entertaining series that held me captive from the very start with heightened tension, sharp twists in the plot, and ardent romance stories that warmed the hearts of the readers.
~ Four Spoons
Former president of San Antonio Romance Authors, Cindi is a member of Romance Writers of America, Novelists Inc., and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.
She and her husband and their two dogs live in the mountains Southwest of Denver. When she's not caught up in creating new characters and stories, Cindi enjoys reading, quilting, gardening, skiing and hiking. She's also in demand as a speaker, teaching workshops and making presentations to both local and national writing groups.
She knew the exact night she’d conceived the baby. Her body had felt ‘different’ after the lovemaking session with Henry that had lasted the better part of a late winter night after they’d won a particularly challenging case. At first she hadn’t been able to pinpoint it and blamed her exhaustion on prenuptial jitters. The week before the wedding her breasts swelled, her nipples became sensitive to the shower spray, and she’d felt as though her period was about to start at any moment. But of course it hadn’t. She’d known two days before the wedding for sure. Thank God she’d only shared it with Poppy. If Henry had known she didn’t think she’d have been able to walk away from marrying him as she had.
The memory of leaving her soulmate at the altar made the pastry feel heavy in her stomach and she paused, closing her eyes and breathing in and out slowly to ward off a wave of nausea. Anytime she remembered their wedding day she felt sick all over again.
“Is it that good?” Her eyes flew open at the sexy baritone that only a few weeks ago had coaxed an orgasm out of her as he spoke dirty words into her ear while he moved over her, inside her, again and again.
“It’s delicious.” She put the croissant down on a napkin, next to her stack of files. Henry’s gaze dared her to look away and she never backed down from anyone, so she stared back. A quick flash of disgust shadowed his face before Henry looked away and sat in the seat opposite her, reaching over for his files. Usually they sat together, ready to work until whenever it took to get the day’s items checked off. It wasn’t going to get easy, ever, to know he thought so little of her. Knowing she deserved it for something he didn’t even know about yet—the baby—made it worse.
“I imagine you need time to go over these.” A deft verbal pitch to see how she’d react. Would she go high, admit she should have been back in the office last week, or go low and blame him for her staying away, or ignore it? “Alesia sent me the files last week. I’ve read through them all.”
He had to be playing her—Alesia told Henry everything. He’d know she’d had copies to analyze. Their roundtrip tickets to Bali had gone unused, so it wasn’t as if she’d been out of the country and unable to do any work.
“Any concerns?” He kept his face low, focused on the paperwork, but she saw the blood vessel just above his collar, pulsing in rhythm to his heartbeat. Whenever Henry was agitated that was his tell. She used to like to lick it right before he came. Heat erupted between her legs and made her squirm. Apparently her guilt over not telling him about the baby wasn’t the only reaction she couldn’t shake. She clasped her legs together under the heavy mahogany table, grateful Henry didn’t have x-ray vision.
“No, nothing to speak of.” Her voice was low and throaty and she wished she’d tendered her resignation. It would be so much easier, especially now when every damned hormone in her body was setting off emotions she didn’t even know she was capable of. But a deft noncompete clause she’d signed when his father had hired her prevented her from going out on her own just yet.
Brilliant blue eyes watched her with usual alertness. “You sure about that, Sonja? You’re acting like something’s not sitting right with you.”
“It’s just this.” She motioned very slighting between them, using her finger. “Awkward with a capital ‘A,’ am I right? We didn’t talk about it as much as we probably should have this morning.”
Of course dearest Deidre’s appearance had shut down any chance of the conversation they needed to have in private. The curiosity in his eyes turned to frosted crystal.
“Let’s get it out on the table, then.” He splayed both hands on the dark polished surface, and she wondered if he’d forgotten about the time they’d both arrived to work early, too early. They’d ended up here, naked, in under five minutes. Did he see her naked body as she’d knelt on all fours, waiting for him to take her?
“There is nothing here. Whatever we shared was wiped out when you decided to ignore my attempt to explain my actions to you.”
“Wait a min—”
“No, hold up.” He shot down her attempt to interrupt him with a flick of his hand. “You made your choice. And you’ve decided to continue on at this firm. We both need to raise the funds to get the house rehabbed well enough to sell. Fine, I get it. But don’t think for one minute that there is anything other than our working relationship at stake. We’ve always enjoyed that, correct? And I’m willing to work with you, until the day you decide to leave the firm. Because, let’s face it, I’m not going anywhere. This is my family firm. You, you’ll go out on your own or take a better offer elsewhere. That’s okay. Until then I expect the best you have to offer, and for you to kindly refrain from referring to what we shared. It’s over.”
Sonja stared at the man who’d hung the moon for her and only saw the stamp of Boudreaux on his expression. The same look his father had when she’d told him to take the money and referral he’d offered her to quit when she and Henry announced their engagement and shove them up his tight white racist ass. He’d never fire her, not as a black woman in his otherwise very white, very male firm. And regardless of his racist views, Sonja brought in a lot of business for their firm that they’d otherwise never catch. She’d expected Henry’s father to give her a hard time, but not so much Henry. She’d been a fool.
“Our professional relationship never had anything to do with our personal life. Why should it now?”
Henry didn’t respond but instead glared at her. He may as well have thrown a machete at her for how his silent gesture pained her.
The door clicked open and Alesia entered with trays of lunch food, followed by two clients and Rick, the firm’s other NOLA attorney. As she and Henry stood to greet them she eyed her almost-husband. Her ex-fiancé. The man who’d broken her heart.
Henry was tall and professional looking, whether dressed in a classic suit as he was now or in cargo shorts and a t-shirt like yesterday. He’d been born to inherit his father’s firm, a lawyer’s mind part of his gene pool. And until their wedding weekend, she hadn’t seen that he’d also inherited the insatiable need to make everything appear perfect. Hence the pristine wedding they’d almost gone through with.
Henry wasn’t a people pleaser though, especially not to his parents. He’d bucked their sensibilities and desires by choosing to marry her, a black woman from a bayou family. Henry had never seen her as anything other than the woman he’d decided to marry. She believed that. What Henry had refused to see, however, was that his father was never going to leave the firm to Henry as long as Sonja was his wife. The firm was going to be dissolved and all of his father’s money given to charity, eschewing being generous to either of his sons. Henry’s younger sister, a social worker, was in the naval reserves and somewhere overseas, so she wasn’t even on the family radar. She hadn’t gone to law school; neither had Henry’s younger brother Brandon. It wasn’t about the money, which was significant, but about family legacy. Henry was the man to change it, to turn the law firm into a contemporary, relevant part of the community, serving diverse clients and causes. He saw that corporate law didn’t have to mean serving the same good ol’ boys his father had.
But Henry would never have the chance to improve upon his family legacy if she were around. The younger siblings had gotten the hell away from the family dynasty. But not Henry. Henry needed to be part of his father’s legacy in a way the other two didn’t. Because Sonja saw this, saw the need in the man she loved so desperately, she’d had no choice but to back out of their marriage. She’d do anything for Henry’s happiness, and Henry would never be happy without knowing he’d made a difference in what his father had began. He’d never forgive her for leaving him the way she did and that was all right. Sonja didn’t want Henry’s forgiveness. She’d wanted his love, understanding and trust, but her expectations had been too much.
Henry didn’t have it to give.
And as she watched him, the one man she’d ever pinned all her hopes on, she had to face the cold hard truth. She was as unworthy of trust as Henry.
…even if it costs him his life.
Five million dollars for rescuing a kidnapped heiress?
To reclusive Jason Hunt, the job’s about redemption, not money.
But when the troubled former marine finds megarich Samantha Eddington, opposites attract as they escape her captors. Odds are they won’t survive the brutal Teton Mountains or the mercenaries after them.
And if they do, will Jason’s reward be redemption or heartbreak?
Samantha Eddington might have access to more money than most, but she is very down to earth kind of person. She is smart, capable, kind-hearted woman. She is funny, she is witty, and when sorting out her thoughts, she talks a mile a minute, not necessarily expecting you to listen to her mumbling.
Jason Hunt is reclusive and anti-social, yet he has dedicated his life to helping others, rescuing people from the wilderness, his atonement, after losing the woman he loved and his teammates in an ambush at the war.
I loved the chemistry between Sam and Jason, while completely opposite of each other, they complimented each other well. Together they made the perfect unit, a team, partners that got each other. The attraction is obvious and tangible. They do not have much time to build a relationship while on the run for their lives, but the author cleverly wraps up the story so that the relationship and romance between Sam and Jason get a fair and believable chance, a truly swoon-worthy ending to the explosively exciting story.
A smoothly yet rapidly flowing tale of severe action while vigorously running for your life and being fervently attracted to the one rescuing you and saving your life. A fragile relationship that started in the midst of danger and fear yet gets a chance to prove that it is lasting and true.
Julie Miller always delivers unputdownable, well-written tales with charming and intriguing characters that are easy to fall for and cheer throughout the tale
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Defeated, Rhea slid back behind the wheel and began racking her brain to try and remember the remaining directions. How far was she? Could she make it on foot? She remembered her oversized suitcase and its wheel-less base. If she had to, she would make the trek, but she had to know where she was going first. Perhaps there was a store up ahead she could stop in and ask for directions. She looked out the windows and only saw farmland to her left and the River Shannon to her right. And rain. “Okay, Rhea, think. Think, think, think, think, think.” Jitters began to take over and she absentmindedly drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. A knock sounded on the window and she jumped in her seat with a small squeal as a man peered into the car. The hood to his raincoat covered most of his face, but a pair of teeth flashed in a warm smile. “You alright there, lass?”
Rhea stared a moment before she realized the man was standing in pouring rain waiting for her response. She reached for the window and rolled it down. “My tire is flat.”
His brow furrowed as he looked at the tires on the passenger side of the vehicle. He then held up a finger as he rounded her car and looked at the other two. Nodding, he made his way back to the passenger window. “Definitely have a puncture back there,” he motioned towards the direction of the tire. “Whereabouts are you headed?”
Rhea shrugged and pointed to the sloppy stack of papers next to her. “Those were my directions.”
He motioned for her to get out of the car. “Best give you a lift then, come along.” He did not wait for an answer but expected her to climb out in the middle of a storm and drive away with a stranger. Rhea continued to sit in her car. He appeared on her side of the vehicle and opened her door and she jumped in her seat. “I see you have some bags, I’ll grab those if you want to just head towards my lorry.” He motioned to the vehicle parked on the other side of the road. She didn’t move.
“Not here to hurt you, lass. Just trying to help.” He offered his hand and then turned away to yell as a vehicle sped by and splashed him in its wake. Turning back towards Rhea he waved her out. “Come along, I haven’t all day.”
She caught a glimpse of the devastatingly handsome face beneath the hood and felt herself sliding out of the car. “I have bags in the trunk as well.”
“Aye, I’ll fetch them. Hurry now, before you get soaked.”
Rhea darted across the road and hopped into the passenger seat, only it was not the passenger side. Rolling her eyes, she quickly darted back into the rain to slide into the opposite seat.
A deep laugh filtered through the door as the man opened it. “Yanks always take time to adjust to the vehicles.” He handed over her purse. “I’ll go get the rest of your bags.”
She watched as he patiently walked back across the road unaffected by the downpour and grabbed her two giant suitcases out of the back seat of her rental. She heard them plop into the bed of his truck. He then fetched her remaining bags out of her trunk and tossed them into his truck bed as well. She then saw him unroll a blue tarp to cover them. He slid into the truck and heaved a contented sigh. “That ought to do it.”
“Thank you,” Rhea said.
He turned as he slipped off his hood and his bright blue eyes sparkled as his raven hair dripped with what little rain bombarded him beneath his hood. “Riley O’Rifcan, at your service.” He held out a hand and she shook it.
“Rhea,” she introduced.
“Nice to meet you, Rhea. Based on the vehicle and the luggage, I am assuming you just arrived in Ireland?”
“You would be correct.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. The screen lit up. Pursing her lips, she slipped it back into her bag.
“No service here, lass. You will have better luck closer to town.”
“Where exactly am I?” She grimaced at the stupid question, but the stranger responded in kind.
“You’re at the county crossing, love.”
“The county crossing? As in Clare to Limerick?”
“That would be the one.” Eying her, he turned to face her. “I take it that is not where you planned to go?”
“Well, yes and no. I know I’m supposed to be near here, but in County Clare.”
“Do you have a village name for me?”
“No, unfortunately I don’t. All I know is that I was to cross the O’Brien’s Bridge and head northeast. I’m to stop at a bed and breakfast there.”
“Would it be Sidna’s Bed and Breakfast you’re after?”
Relief washed over her face. “Yes! Yes, that’s it!” She gripped his hand as if he were her lifeline. Realizing her action, she dropped it immediately. He grinned before turning to face the front. “It just so happens I just left the B&B. We aren’t too far off the mark.”
She placed a hand over her heart. “Thank you. Thank you for stopping to help me and for knowing where I am.”
He laughed. “I’d best know where you are. I grew up here.”
He nodded as he drove, the sound of the windshield wipers and peddling rain filled the silences.
“Do you still live around here?”
“Aye, but closer to Limerick. My family is all about though. In fact, I imagine you will meet plenty of them in a few minutes.”
Confused, she glanced over at him and he smiled. Rhea couldn’t think of ever seeing a man so handsome, even when he was dripping wet.
“Sidna is my mam.” He chuckled at her surprise. “She’ll be pleased I stumbled upon her guest.”
Dani Capelli seized a chance to start over in a small town with her daughters. Now, facing her first Christmas in Haven Point, she wonders if leaving New York was a mistake. Dani loves working alongside veterinarian Dr. Morales, but her two children aren’t adjusting to small-town life. And then there’s Dr. Morales’s son, Ruben—Dani’s next-door neighbor. Gorgeous, muscled and dependable, the deputy sheriff is everything she secretly craves and can’t bear to risk loving…and losing.
Ruben never pictured himself falling for a big-city woman like Dani. But beneath her prickly facade, she’s caring and softhearted and she needs all the love and protection he can give. When Dani’s teenage daughter starts acting out, Ruben draws on family traditions to show the girls just how magical a Haven Point Christmas can be. But can he convince Dani that she’s found a home for the holidays—and forever—in his arms?
The Christmas season is part of the story yet set at the background, so it didn't bother me to read holiday romance this early in the year. The romance story is filled with love and adoration with no physical lovemaking on the pages of the book. And yes, the book is part of a series but easily to be read as a stand-alone story.
The characters are engaging and easy to like and relate to. Dani Capelli hasn't had an easy life, but she has made the most of it, accomplished great things in her life, and as a smalltown vet, she has been able to build a life to her daughters that many in her situation couldn't have. Dani can come off as a little distant, even prickly at times, hiding her past that she feels ashamed of, choices she had made in the past better not shared with the people in Haven Point to spare herself and her daughters from the judgment and blame.
Dani's daughters are delightful, a sweet bit of sunshine six years old and on the verge of a teenage angst thirteen years old, who gets into trouble bringing the deputy sheriff on their doorsteps.
Deputy sheriff Ruben is a solid man, a kind and generous neighbor, who has had his admiring eye on Dani ever since she moved into the town. The chemistry and attraction between Dani and Ruben is a tangible force, like a live wire in between them, yet Dani's past press her to keep Ruben at the arm's length, even when the whole Capelli family falls for him head over the heels.
The story is warmhearted and endearing, with the dash of teenage angst and the difficulties and temptations youth get into while trying to fit in and make friends in a new town. The story is well written, with a natural flow and charm that you can count on Ms. Thayne's books.
A great, entertaining and uplifting kickoff for the holiday readings this year
~ Four Spoons
#1 Publishers Weekly, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including seven RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.
A bead of sweat broke out on his brow, and he wiped it away with his sleeve. Despite the cool air, he was roasting in his black camouflage gear.
She should be home and in bed by now. Last Saturday night she’d been home by midnight, and even earlier on other nights of the week that he’d conducted surveillance. His pulse beat steadily against his eardrums with impatience. It didn’t matter. He’d be waiting for her when she decided to come home. There was no chance in hell he was backing out of this job now.
Headlights cut through the night as a car pulled up to the front gate.
Determination tensed his muscles, and his lips curved.
It’s about damn time.
The passenger door opened. He sunk lower in the shadows, pressing his back against the outside of the garage. He was out of sight, but still had a direct view of his target. Satisfaction brought his breath to a steady pace. Once she got inside, he’d give her some time to fall asleep, and then he’d make his move. Her delicious bare leg stepped out of the car, revealing a barely-there miniscule dress. She laughed hysterically and pitched forward, nearly doing a face-plant on the pavement. He closed his eyes and shook his head. Just great. She was wasted.