Monday, September 9, 2019

The Daddy Coach Release Day Blitz

Today we have the release blitz for Karen Muir’s THE DADDY COACH! Check it out and be sure to grab your copy today!

About The Daddy Coach:

Hoping to vindicate her brother, botanist Gina Dunn poses as a nanny to the man she believes framed him. Even though she grew up in a dysfunctional home, how hard can it be looking after twin four-year-old boys? If she can nurture rare orchids, surely she can handle this.   Instant fatherhood hits contractor Will Sinclair hard when his twin sons he didn't know existed come to live with him. The rebellious boys reject Will as their real dad, forcing him to turn to Gina, his new nanny, for her "expert" help.   Interacting with Will and his boys as a “daddy” coach, Gina starts to crave the family she's always longed to have. But Will's reaction when he learns of her deception isn’t her biggest fear––one of two men she loves is lying…  

Get Your Copy:

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Exclusive Excerpt:

On the family room couch, Ian and Harry flopped down on either side of Gina and snuggled close. She put her arms around them and read Where the Wild Things Are. The boys grew quiet. Good sign. They were drowsy.

When she finished a second story, their eyes were closed. Finally. I've worn them out.

 She'd give them a minute to sink into deep sleep, then resume what might be her last search of the house. Leaning her head back on the couch, she closed her eyes. She would start with Will's black filing cabinet. In her mind's eye she saw herself opening the top drawer.

 A swarm of butterflies flew out, and Harry and Ian leaped to catch them, squealing and knocking over several block towers. The center drawer of the desk began spewing black smoke. She grabbed a potholder to wrench it open with one hand, while picking up the jangling phone with the other. Will's velvet voice purred in her ear. "How's it going?"

"Just great!"

The boys became burning bundles in her arms, and she grew uncomfortably warm. She lifted her head and opened her eyes to check Harry. Sleeping soundly, he looked innocent and sweet, not at all the bratty beast who'd confronted her yesterday with his water gun. She ran her fingers through his hair and across his damp brow. She turned to do the same to Ian, then sensing movement, glanced up to see Will approaching slowly.

Caught in the cross-hairs of his gaze, she froze. He stopped in front of her and slowly loosened his tie. A surge of attraction stirred low in her belly. Why did she find this man so compelling? Framing Kyle meant he had the morals of a snake.

"Sorry to wake you." His midnight soft voice held a hint of laughter.

"No problem." Damn. He was here, and her chance to search the rest of his house was gone.

The twins stirred at her sides and awoke.

"Hi, guys," Will said. "How was your day?"

Harry rubbed his eyes. "Ian broke the window."

"Gina broke the washing machine," Ian countered.

“We had ants for lunch.”

Stunned, Gina looked from one boy to the other.  The debrief continued.

"Gina said a bad word."

"Two times," Ian confirmed.

At the shock in Will's eyes, she groaned. She was toast.

He knelt to examine the stack at her feet. "I see you got some books.

"Yeah, we went to the library," Ian said."

Harry was not done ratting her out. "We made cookies and got flour all over the floor."

Ian frowned. "They were black."

"We had a water fight."

"Gina wore your pajamas." Hands over their mouths, the boys snickered.

Will stood, his brows raised. Her cheeks burning, Gina studied the carpet. "Sounds like you had a busy day," he said.

"Yeah," Harry agreed. "It was cool."

Gina smiled. It had been cool, but she was going to be fired for a dozen reasons. Time for a quick exit. She scooted off the couch and turned to the boys. "Thanks for letting me spend the day with you guys."

She shook their limp hands. "Goodbye, Harry. Goodbye, Ian."

Disappointed frowns replaced their smiles, and guilt gnawed her. She had earned the boys' trust and now she was leaving. 

“I’ll see you out,” Will said.

“No need.” But he and the boys trailed her to the door, as she kicked herself for botching her one-day trial. Maybe it was for the best. Ian and Harry were troubled boys who needed a real caregiver with lots of kid skills, not a clueless pseudo-nanny who was out to nail their dad.

She reached the front door and turned to give the boys a parting wave.

About Karen Muir:

A sense of humor was a must when Karen taught elementary grades and Head Start, and she's always loved books and movies that make her laugh. Karen's Fish Out of Water series from Entangled Publishing deals with heroines thrust outside their comfort zones. Their first meetings with their heroes tend to be quirky. An English Lit major at the University of Washington, Karen now reads mostly genre novels. Contemporary and historical romances and mysteries are my favorites. She loves camping--out in the wilds and close to nature--with all the comforts of our motor home. Sitting by a clear mountain stream with a good book to read is her idea of heaven.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

* * * *

All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review

It doesn't get much cuter than this: girl makes a temporary move to a small town and thanks to the magic of Ren Faire ends up falling for one of its organizers. 

It's the wrong kind of sparks that fly on their first meeting when Emily agrees to be her niece's chaperone at Ren Faire and she has to work under the ever present scrutiny of Simon who took over the reins as organizer from his brother. He runs a tight ship and has no idea what to do with Emily's easygoing and sarcastic nature. They goad each other constantly. At first Emily sees Simon as a humorless drill sergeant with no people skills but changes her mind when she sees how he exuberantly inhabits his role as a pirate at the faire. She also starts to develop a soft spot for him after learning about his family's history. For some odd reason, they get along better when they're in costume. During Ren Faire weekends Simon becomes lively and charismatic - totally opposite from weekday Simon. He woos Emily who has been cast as a bar wench and their dalliance (purely for the show, of course) is a smash with the regulars and visitors. Emily doesn't know what to make of this other side to Simon and begins to appreciate what the Faire and its participants mean to him. 

Emily is at a strange crossroads in her life and living here has also given her ample time to consider what her next step should be. She always thought her stay was temporary but she's a natural people person and has been happily getting to know its inhabitants and assimilating to life there. The bonus is that it's brought her closer to her sister and this is something she ultimately cherishes. But it's one thing to be a visitor. Falling in love, remaining in town and embracing a full life here is a huge next step. If she does this it has to be for herself and not because of some guy. Been there, done that. It's her time now!

Having been to a couple of Ren Faires in the past I enjoyed the various references and images the story conjured up. It made me want to go to one again soon. Emily is also a huge Shakespeare nerd who'd instigate stuff with Simon which was highly entertaining. I admired Emily for her introspection as she as looked back on her own history and debated about her next course of action. There's also something about being in costume that releases inhibitions because it allows someone like Simon, who shoulders so much responsibility, to let loose. Emily and Simon are a good team and it was nice to root for them as a couple. The story is also full of side characters that added to the fuzzy feels of this book.

Well Met is all sorts of good fun with a happily ever after befitting its central characters. It also has me wishing that summer would never end!

~ Bel

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

* * * *

Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.

As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.

Source: purchased copy

Amira decides to return home to finish her graduate thesis from the comfort of her home and finds that there's now a barbershop quartet residing there. Can you even imagine? It sounds so ridiculous but it is the setup for one of the most endearing stories I've read this year. The unexpected renters in her home upend her calm sanctuary and it turns out to be not  a bad thing. As much as she's unwilling to admit it, being around these oddballs is shaking things up for her. She's been so consumed with school and getting her paper done that she hasn't exactly allowed herself to take a breath. Being forced to recognize that there's life happening beyond her is an eye-opener which eventually leads to her viewing her future differently. 

I enjoyed the heck out of this story and seeing Amira grow from an insulated character to one that sees and feels along with others around her. She transitions from being always on the defensive to some willing to giving the benefit of the doubt. I did take delight in her sparring often with Duncan, the gorgeous ginger of the barbershop quartet. They can't quite figure each other out but still have fun needling the other, nonetheless. I liked that Amira was confused by her feelings for him because it shattered her orderly black and white way of looking at life. And Duncan of all people gives it to her straight even if he doesn't know her as well. Amira also helps Duncan open his eyes to new experiences and certain tough realities about his own family. Sometimes an outsider or someone new to the situation offers a different angle that you haven't considered before. On the home front, Amira reconnecting with her family was very sweet. This is where her own awakening comes in handy as she starts seeing below the surface of things especially with regards to familial and cultural expectations within their tight knit community. Amira does a lot of growing up in the little time she's been home.

I had been looking forward to The Chai Factor for months and it didn't disappoint. Heron tackles current headlines such as bigotry and sexism through Amira's evolution. This is a marvelous debut from Farah Heron and I can't wait to read more from her!

~ Bel

Friday, August 30, 2019

Outmatched Cover Reveal

Outmatched - CR banner.jpg

Outmatched by Kristen Callihan and Samantha Young


Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publishing date: November 19, 2019
Cover Designer: Hang Le

What happens when a boxer finds chemistry with a geek?

Parker Brown can’t believe she needs to hire a fake boyfriend. When she landed her dream job in renewable energy, she thought she’d be entering a world at the forefront of progressive thinking. But the head boss prefers to promote employees who are “settled.” Thankfully, she’s found the perfect candidate, a fellow intellectual looking for some quick cash. What Parker gets is his protective big brother—Rhys Morgan. The tall, muscled ex-boxer with a foul mouth shows up just as her boss does, and now she’s stuck with the manipulative jerk.

Responsibility weighs heavily on Rhys. Now permanently out of the ring, he’s trying to hold together his late father’s gym and keep his younger brother, Dean, on the straight and narrow. To save Dean from himself, Rhys takes his place, ready to give this society girl a piece of his mind. Instead, he finds an opportunity. Even though they can hardly stand each other, posing as Parker’s boyfriend is a win-win deal. She gets to keep her job, and he’ll charm her star-struck boss into sponsoring his gym.
Problem is, they can barely keep their hands off each other. And what started as an easy deal isn’t so easy anymore. Because what future can a rough ex-boxer, afraid to open his heart, and a polished society geek, who has sworn off real relationships, possibly have?

They say opposites attract. These opposites are about to combust on impact.

Copy of Outmatched Cover .jpg

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Outmatched - CR.jpg

About Kristen:

Image source: Amazon

Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she'd rather be. She is a RITA winner and three-time nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer's Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine's Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher's Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

Connect with Kristen:

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About Samantha:

Image source: author's website

Samantha Young is a New York Times and #1 International bestselling author from Stirlingshire, Scotland. On Dublin Street was Samantha's first adult contemporary romance series and has sold in thirty countries. She has since published over thirteen romance titles including the New York Times Bestsellers Into the Deep, Hero, and her most recent contemporary romance Play On. When writing Adult Paranormal romance she writes under the pen name S. Young.

Connect with Samantha:

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Rock and a Hard Place Blog Tour

Today we are celebrating the release of A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE by Nikky Kaye with a blog tour post. This is a contemporary romance, standalone title. You can read it now as part of Kindle Unlimited! Join Nikky's reader group for more details about her upcoming releases.


Grab your copy (read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited)

Read it now ➔ Amazon



Available Now | Standalone title


Grab your copy (read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited)

Read it now ➔ Amazon

Book Blurb:

Looking for the ultimate summer treat? Try this recipe for A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE!

First layer! 
1. In one bowl, pour one dark, devilish billionaire and one smirking, ex-SEAL charmer. 
2. Stir in one curvy, innocent blonde with student loans and a crazy idea of how to pay them off. 
3. Mix all three until combined. Beat at medium speed until frothy. 
4. Pour into a prepared marriage of convenience. Set the oven to “secret baby.” 
5. When half-baked, remove from heat and poke holes in it. Second layer! 
6. Whip together a sexy single dad and a sassy waitress until smooth and creamy. 
7. Add a pinch of little girl cuteness and a dash of creepy stalker. 
8. Pour batter over first layer in pan. Don’t worry if the pan seems too small—the contents are supposed to be over the top. 
9. Season liberally with spicy situations, salty language, and sweet moments. 
10. Finish baking at a high heat until the happy ending buzzes. 
Enjoy while hot and fresh but be careful not to burn your fingers and mouth.

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Nikky Kaye likes to read and write feverish, fearless books for your funny boner, such as A Model Fiancé and the Billionaire Book Club series. A former college professor, she has worked with movie stars and the United Nations—but prefers happy endings. She has young twin boys, loves living where there are four distinct seasons but loathes getting out of bed, has a terrible addiction to diet cola, and hates talking about herself in the third person.


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Now this was the craziest thing I’d ever done. 
No, the stupidest, I thought to myself as I walked through the lobby of the gleaming skyscraper.
I was here to meet with Dominic Stone—Mister Whole-Lotta-Zeros. 
We’d emailed back and forth to discuss the terms of my “deflowering.” He’d encouraged me to do an Internet search on him, which provided me with a visual of my potential, uh, “gardener”—a smoking hot one. 
Dark hair, dark eyes, dark look. 
There were pictures of him at charity events, in business magazine profiles, and the odd paparazzi shot of him coming out of the gym. Dominic Stone looked good in gym clothes. And suits. And tuxedos. 
There weren’t a lot of pictures of him with dates, though. Maybe he was gay? I thought that might have been the case when I saw another ridiculously attractive specimen beside him in a lot of the pictures, but that turned out to be his brother Jacob. 
I didn’t get it. Neither of these men needed to buy a virgin online. They were, quite literally, panty-droppers. If their square jaws and bedroom eyes didn’t do it for the ladies, then their suggestive grins certainly would.
It did for me, anyhow.
I’d spent a long time looking at the pictures. Even in thumbnail size, Dominic Stone’s power and magnetism practically radiated off the screen. Would he be the one? The idea made my body heat up and my nipples tighten. My breath shortened and a curling, pulsing sensation built low in my belly.
Okay, I wished he had sent a dick pic.
After a lot of back and forth, I’d agreed to meet him at his office. It was actually his building, I realized as I saw the signs in the lobby. 
Dominic and Jacob Stone ran one of the biggest retail conglomerates in the country. It owned a boutique department store, a chain of high-end media stores, a ubiquitous box store, and god only knew what else. The zeros he’d offered in his email were totally legit.
I once promised myself that I’d never work in retail. That could change.
As instructed, I told the man at the security desk that I was there to see Mister Stone.
He didn’t even take his eyes off his magazine. “You can go up to the twelfth floor, ma’am. They’ll help you there.”
“He said he’d come down to meet me.” Ma’am? Really? I was twenty-two, not twice that!
Mister Stone—Dominic—had insisted we meet first in the lobby, as a kind of show of good faith and safety. Meeting in a public place, he’d written, was a good idea for all parties concerned in this potential transaction. With dozens of people floating in and out of the elevators of the thirty-story building, it couldn’t be much more public.
With a sigh, the guard reached for the phone. “Have a seat.” He gestured towards a leather bench.
No, thank you. I needed to move. 
My nerves were getting the better of me, my hands shaky and cold despite the summer heat. If I stood, my sleeveless red sheath dress wouldn’t wrinkle. 
When I got up that morning, I had to decide what one wore to an interview as a… what? Mistress? No—that sounded too committed. Hymen vendor? Ugh. In the end, I decided to dress as though going to work, which was kind of true.
My heels clicked on the polished stone floor as I walked over to an abstract metal sculpture on display. It stretched nearly twenty feet in the air, shining in the morning sun bending through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“What do you think?” a man asked from behind me. 
“It’s beautiful.” I held up my hands. “I promise, I won’t go any closer.”
“Hmm.” His voice was nearer. “What was the first word that came to mind when you walked in?”
I frowned at the odd question. “It looks delicate.” Like it could fall over any minute, like metal pick-up sticks stacked dangerously high.
“There’s over a thousand wire coat hangers there.”
“Huh.” So there were.
“You are Evie, correct?”
Swallowing hard, I turned to the voice. And looked up. 
Dominic Stone stood before me, his tall, dark and handsome figure like a shadow in the sunlit lobby. 
He was even hotter in person. 
Even if his charcoal suit came from a discount store—which it clearly didn’t—his attitude would be enough to command my attention. All those fanciful words, like charismatic, magnetic, and imposing, were all very appropriate when describing Dominic Stone.
My three-inch heels barely took me to his shoulders, and I wobbled a little as his gaze ran over me. Just when I was about to turn my ankle, his hand shot out. The feel of his muscular forearm under my fingers had the exact opposite effect of steadying me.
“Thanks.” My face burned, but I forced myself to look him in the eye. 
They were rich, dark brown, as heady as strong coffee and gave me a similar jolt. When he tilted his head and his lips curved at the edges, I couldn’t tell if I amused him or he was just being polite.
A furrow appeared between his dark eyebrows. “You are Evie, right?” 
“Yes!” I squeezed his arm, as though I subconsciously expected him to run away. 
Instead of shrugging me off, he used his other hand to tug my fingers down his wrist to end in a warm, tingling handshake. Both his hands were around mine, and he didn’t let go. 
I didn’t mind.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said smoothly. “Shall we?”
Shall we what? I blinked at him.
“Go up to my office?” He nodded toward the elevator bank. “Unless you’d feel better staying here? Or we could go get a coffee or something.”
I stared at him, the absurdity of this situation dawning on me. And then my big smart mouth got ahead of my brain. 
“Coffee? Does my virginity come with an espresso and a muffin?”
His laugh sounded like a sharp bark, echoing off the stone floor. My face probably matched the crimson of my dress as I looked down. With his hands still wrapped around mine, he pulled me closer. I shivered as his warm breath caressed my bare shoulders.
“No, Evie, I’ll pay extra for the coffee. But I like it sweet and milky, not dark and bitter.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari

* * * * *

Two best friends rewrite the rules of friendship, love and family…and change everything they thought they knew about motherhood

Paris Kahn Fraser has it all—a successful career as an assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York City, and a handsome, passionate husband who chose her over having a family of his own. Neal’s dream of fatherhood might have been the only shadow in their otherwise happy life…until Paris’s best friend comes to town.

Naira Dalmia never thought she’d be a widow before thirty. Left reeling in the aftermath of her husband’s death, all she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York, and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of her best friend. After all, there isn’t anything she and Paris wouldn’t do for each other.

But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, they’ll learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy society, their families and even their own biology as these two best friends embark on a journey that will change their lives forever.

Wry, daring and utterly absorbing, The Object of Your Affections is an unforgettable story about two women challenging the norms…and the magic that happens when we choose to forge our own path.

Source: audiobook borrowed from Hoopla

Paris and Naira couldn't be more different from each other and I spent almost the entire time wondering how these two could be friends. Paris is a dominant character with an iron will and one track mind that plows through anything in her way, and that can include people sometimes. She's so hardcore and ambitious you'd think she has a stone heart. The only person who can turn her to mush (sort of) is her husband, Neal. Neal is the only other thing in her life that consumes her besides her career. She's so in love with him that sometimes it feels like it borders on obsession. Naira, on the other hand is softer, more approachable. She's that person who'll put others ahead of herself and never want to impose on anyone even if she's in need of help. Floundering after her husband's death, she returns to New York hoping to reunite with Paris and have some of Paris' no-nonsense attitude give her a kick in the behind to straighten up her life. When Paris broaches the idea of being a surrogate for her and Neal ... suffice it to say it's not what Naira had expected.

The book incites so many feelings. I had the most confusing time with Paris. One moment I admired her strength and the next I'd get so annoyed about her ambivalence towards motherhood. She doesn't want to be a mother, or carry a child but wants to give this to Neal knowing he truly wants children. She sees it as a compromise yet she complained the entire time or would be jealous that it was taking attention away from her. So is it a compromise if it's done begrudgingly? That's what I kept asking myself. Yet as much as she irritated me in those moments I did find her backstory interesting which goes a long way in explaining what made Paris who she is today. And she is protective of the people she loves, including Naira whose backstory is equally interesting but also tragic. She went through her own tumultuous ordeal during the time that she and Paris were estranged. Her husband died amidst speculation about his business dealings and finances and now Naira carries that burden. I was desperate for her to confide in Paris sooner rather than later but though Naira is quieter and more introspective, she refuses to have other people fix her problems. Their friendship is fascinating and confounding. Throw in Neal and it's seriously nuts. He's such a saint about things that half the time I couldn't believe he was real. 

I long to have a serious discussion with someone about this novel, to dissect everything and honestly, laugh and cry over how much it has affected me. Paris is truly one of the most complex characters I've come across and I think that's one of the reasons why this novel is a hit with me because she challenged my views. And the Paris-Neal-Naira triangle tested my concept of a family - what makes a family, how people become a family, how they create a family that works for them. 

By the way, I also have to give a huge shout out to the narrators. Between the excellent writing and the narrating there are certain scenes that are so vivid in my mind, one of them towards the end of the story: a lively and penultimate scene that comes to a screeching halt. I froze in that moment along with the characters and that scene has stuck ever since. Kothari has delivered a profoundly authentic story here. This trio defies tradition and that's what makes The Object of Your Affections a compelling, addictive read. 

~ Bel

Friday, August 23, 2019

Truce? Hating Elijah Monroe Cover Reveal

Today we have the cover reveal for Truce? Hating Elijah Monroe by Amelia Kingston! Check it out and be sure to pre-order your copy today!

Title: Truce? Hating Elijah Monroe

Author: Amelia Kingston

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Day: October 1st

About Truce? Hating Elijah Monroe:

A small town enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy. Harper Delaney is a newly certified elementary school teacher with the mountain of student loan debt to prove it. Moving back to her claustrophobically small hometown is about as tempting as two week old sushi, but the allure of free rent and a guaranteed summer teaching job are undeniable. On the hunt for her dream job in San Francisco, Harper just needs to survive the summer without murdering Elijah Monroe. He may have grown into a scorchingly hot fireman, but he’s still her nemesis. Harper gave Elijah her heart when she was sixteen, and never forgave the jerk for not wanting it. Probably for the best, since he's also her stepbrother. Elijah still makes Harper’s blood boil and heart race. And he knows it. She’ll wipe that smug smirk off his gorgeous face before leaving town. The only question is if she wants to do it with a kiss or a slap.

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Exclusive Excerpt:

I know it’s been too long since I’ve had a date when my first thought at seeing a firetruck pull up outside the school isn’t “Oh, no. Where’s the fire?” but “Oh, yes. Where are the firemen!” I’m practically drooling when I see him step out of the truck. His tall frame is broad and solid. Every inch of his more than six-foot body is carved from stone. This guy is cut. Ripped. Hot. If I faint, will he give me mouth to mouth?
My heart drops into my stomach and a weird little squeak leaves my throat when I realize who it is. I might legit need CPR. He was cute as a boy, but he’s drop dead gorgeous as a man.
 He’s not a man. He’s the devil. The bane of my adolescent existence. My stepbrother.
 I drag my eyes up to Elijah’s face. He looks put together and mature in a way that I’m not prepared for. His hair is the same warm brown, but now it’s cut short and tidy. He’s clean shaven, making those full lips pop. Lips which are curved up into a familiar smug smirk as his bright green eyes sparkle with devious satisfaction. He caught me checking him out and he wants me to know it. He struts across the parking lot, shoulders back and chest puffed up. He’s the same pompous jerk I remember from high school, breaking hearts and causing trouble.
 I look around the school yard and everyone has turned to watch the spectacle. The kids are all ogling the firetruck. The teachers and assistants are all ogling Elijah. I can’t control my groan. I cross my arms and scowl at him. 
He’s still a few feet away when I snap, “What are you doing here?” I’m loud enough half the playground can hear me. My happy teacher persona is a distant memory. I’m an angry, frustrated sixteen-year-old again, fighting the magnetic pull drawing me to him. Was it always this strong? Doesn’t matter. I’ll never give in to it.  “Nice to see you too, Short Stack,” he quips, crossing his arms to match me.
“Enough with that stupid nickname already. It’s been almost a decade. Grow up, Elijah,” I fume.
“Plus, it doesn’t even make sense.” 
He looks down at the ground, trying to hide his smile. He loves winding me up. And I fell for it. Now I’m more annoyed than ever. 

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Amelia Kingston is many things, the most interesting of which are probably California girl, writer, traveler, and dog mom. She survives on chocolate, coffee, wine, and sarcasm. Not necessarily in that order.   She’s been blessed with a patient husband who’s embraced her nomad ways and traveled with her to over 30 countries across 5 continents (I’m coming for you next, Antarctica!). She’s also been cursed with an impatient (although admittedly adorable) terrier who pouts when her dinner is 5 minutes late.   She writes about strong, stubborn, flawed women and the men who can't help but love them. Her irreverent books aim to be silly and fun with the occasional storm cloud to remind us to appreciate the sunny days. As a hopeless romantic, her favorite stories are the ones that remind us all that while love is rarely perfect, it’s always worth chasing.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Forbidden (Old West #1) by Beverly Jenkins

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USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns with the first book in a breathtaking new series set in the Old West

Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he's always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.

Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won't risk her heart for him. As soon as she's saved enough money from her cooking, she'll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .

Source: borrowed from Hoopla audio

It's taken me this long to read my first book by Ms. Bev. It should've happened sooner but I'm glad to finally have at least one of her many books under my belt. 

Eddy is a free black woman and she has ambitions for herself to make it West to open her own restaurant. On her way there, she's robbed in the middle of the desert and abandoned. Rhine finds her on the verge of death and brings her back to his place so she can receive treatment and recuperate. When Eddy finally comes to she's shocked by Rhine's kindness and generosity but also a little uncomfortable because not only is he a man, he's white. Rhine, a saloon owner, has been passing as white ever since he was freed. He hasn't forgotten where he came from but understood that he could do more for his people by passing as white and quietly making headway for them. Being politically active, he works diligently to better the lives of other blacks in his community. He's also very much engaged to be married to Natalie, daughter of one of the town's most important families. Rhine is already influential but joining with Natalie's family will only increase his stature thereby garnering him more influence that he can use to improve life for the town's black citizens. Only his best friend knows his secret history but Eddy with her demure charms and incredible confidence is making him seriously reconsider everything his life is built on. He wants to be with her but he would have to reveal the truth to everyone and risk losing all that he has gained, including his political influence. Would he rather be with someone with substance whom he loves and respects or in a marriage of convenience with someone who looks down on anyone she considers inferior?

The romance in Forbidden was sweet and I like how Jenkins gradually built it up to the point that the sexual tension between Rhine and Eddy was so unbearable that they had to do something about it soon. Oh my gosh, she wrote those stolen moments between them so well! Rhine is a gentleman and courted her and that had me swooning. Eddy's self-assurance and pride in her work makes her an admirable character. The creative dishes she'd whip up had me wishing I could taste her cooking for real. I was also drawn in by her generosity and kind nature. Whenever I pictured her, I saw her with a wide smile for anyone, brightening their day. 

Aside from Eddy and Rhine's romance, I enjoyed the bits of historical context that were dropped here and there giving me a better sense of the current events of that time period and how, even after the Civil War, there was still much work to do. It was bittersweet actually because in this story Rhine and Eddy's friends had so much hope and trust that things were starting to get better but as a reader to know that the struggle would continue on for years ... like I said, bittersweet. There's no getting used to the ugly side of human beings and I was worried for what that meant for Rhine and Eddy moving forward. Thankfully, they're strong individuals who don't scare easily. 

Ms. Bev is a wonderful storyteller and Forbidden was not only an enchanting read but also for me, an educational one. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in this series - Breathless and Tempest. 

~ Bel