Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Swan Lake Re-Release Blitz

Today we have a release day blitz for L.B. Alexander’s Swan Lake, which is re-releasing with bonus material! Check it out and be sure to order your copy today!

Title: Swan Lake

Author: L.B. Alexander

Genre: Contemporary Romance

About Swan Lake:

And then, there was quiet. Physically, I knew nothing had changed. My heart still raced. My legs still shook. My breaths were short and shallow, and my stomach continued to flip. But there was an unmistakable hush, and I couldn't tell if that exquisite solace was sourced from my body or from his. It was as if I'd spent my entire life surrounded by white noise, and I was experiencing true, absolute silence for the first time. My fearful body was not dancing to anxiety. It was dancing entirely to arousal. All April wants is a moment of quiet. But due to an ongoing struggle with mental illness, silence has become an elusive privilege she fears she'll never capture. An eating disorder has brought her burgeoning ballet career to a sudden halt, and a traumatic experience in a strict rehabilitation facility has rendered her more humble than ever. Now that she has returned to her native Southern California, April is content to conceal the dangerous half of herself she fears under a tenuous white mask of control. But the façade is disrupted when April meets William - her older, mysterious, and disgraced new employer. She finds freedom in him, for like her, he is also two-natured. There's a mask he shows the world. And a dark, true half he hides... A novel in three acts.  

Get Your Copy Today!



 

Exclusive Excerpt:

“Close your eyes, and open your mouth,” he said. 

Instantly there was darkness as I automatically obliged. 

“You, April, are two-natured. Half of you is pure. Chaste. Modest and fearful. Timid, sweet, and virginal. This is the part of yourself you choose to show the world,” William said. 

I jumped when I suddenly felt his fingertips on my face, slowly trailing across my jaw. 

“But there’s another half of you...the half you keep bound, and hidden. I saw it at Alyeska, and again at Demimonde. And, April...it’s passionate. It’s fierce. It’s powerful. It’s greedy. It’s...raw sex,” he said, and he placed the strawberry in my mouth. 

I couldn’t contain my moan at the first taste of the creamy confection, melting on my tongue in a sumptuous wave. I could feel every taste receptor activating in fervor, far more intense than what I remembered of a sugar high. My entire body felt overstimulated by the highly concentrated sweet. 

I licked my lips and swallowed the sinful fruit. “Open your eyes,” William commanded. 
I obeyed, and it seemed as if the world around us had disappeared. William, in front of me, was my beginning and end. His pupils were enlarged, and his mouth was slightly parted. 

He licked his lips. 

“I can smell submission on your skin, April. Tonight, I want to taste it.”  
 

About L.B. Alexander:

L.B. Alexander is an American author based in perpetually sunny California, specializing in high romance and women’s fiction. An optimist at heart, and a true believer in happily ever afters, she strives to tell memorable, passionate stories that can intrigue, challenge, arouse and most importantly, inspire.  

Connect with L.B.:

Instagram | Facebook | Website

 

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

* * * *

House Rules:
Do your own dishes
Knock before entering the bathroom
Never look up your roommate online


The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet...

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.
 


Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review


Josh is a porn star who's proud of his gifts on and off the camera. Clara is a straight-laced socialite from the East Coast who dropped her entire life to move to the opposite coast to room with her forever-crush, Elliott. Only when she arrives in LA, he picks her up and literally drops her off at the house telling her he's going on tour with his band and that he's rented out the other room. Even despite this inexcusable and god-awful behaviour, she still lusts after him. Come on, girlfriend. Josh finds Clara's buttoned up demeanor amusing and slightly appealing but he has no intentions of getting mixed up in her mess. His best intentions don't hold up though when he finds out Clara has been researching his day job.


As she and Josh get involved she helps him see a bigger future for himself. One where he has control over his name and his career. They come up with a brilliant project and marketing idea and decide to pursue it. They both become advocates for sexual empowerment, especially for women. Clara evolves into a vastly different person from the one who first arrives in LA. 

The story also removes the 'othering' of adult entertainers by giving us a glimpse into the workings of that world. It can definitely be manipulative and because those in porn are treated as inferior by the rest of 'polite society', they don't get the attention or support they deserve when it comes to asking for better working conditions. 

I thought The Roommate was charming and it’s kind of different from some other romances I’ve read recently but there's one thing that was nagging at me as I read it. Clara is super conscientious about her family's image - she's either thinking about it or talking about it - and thanks to shady family history she knows the consequences of bad publicity. Which is why I thought I'd missed something when she seems to jump into something with Josh. If she's always so worried about not letting her family down, how does she reason this out in her head? To be clear, I'm not asking for Clara to justify her decisions. I just wanted a better understanding of how she went from point A to point B when she's otherwise always consumed with propriety. My confusion was spurred on by her taking a job working for her aunt who's been ostracized by her family for unbecoming behaviour. This aunt has since gone on to have a successful PR career and has recently landed a high profile client and Clara is brought in to work closely with them. Clara's actions seem out of character for someone who’s a list-maker, rule-follower and who's so intent on not drawing any negative attention to her family. My point is that it's not clearly shown how she compartmentalized everything because she's smart and incredibly thoughtful, so surely she would've known that there'd be repercussions if someone got wind of her side projects.

Regardless, The Roommate is a fun and enjoyable read. It's honestly quite a sweet story about that journey towards owning one's sexuality and being unashamed of it. There are also other things that take up space in the story such has the lives of the adult performers. They aren't just presented as just porn stars but as multi-dimensional individuals with their own fascinating backgrounds. The Roommate was something a little different and I'm happy I read it.  

~ Bel



Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Darkest Evening (Vera Stanhope #9) by Ann Cleeves

* * * *

From Ann Cleeves--New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows--comes the stunning new Vera Stanhope novel, The Darkest Evening.

On the first snowy night of winter, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope sets off for her home in the hills. Though the road is familiar, she misses a turning and soon becomes lost and disorientated. A car has skidded off the narrow road in front of her, its door left open, and she stops to help. There is no driver to be seen, so Vera assumes that the owner has gone to find help. But a cry calls her back: a toddler is strapped in the back seat.

Vera takes the child and, driving on, she arrives at a place she knows well. Brockburn is a large, grand house in the wilds of Northumberland, now a little shabby and run down. It's also where her father, Hector, grew up. Inside, there's a party in full swing: music, Christmas lights and laughter. Outside, unbeknownst to the revelers, a woman lies dead in the snow.

As the blizzard traps the group deep in the freezing Northumberland countryside, Brockburn begins to give up its secrets, and as Vera digs deeper into her investigation, she also begins to uncover her family's complicated past.


Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review


Truthfully, I was kind of hesitant about reading this because when I requested the ARC, I’d mistakenly thought I was getting book #2 in her newest Two Rivers series, but I managed to land in #9 in the Vera Stanhope universe. Oops! After peeking around I saw that a few other readers said it works as a standalone which encouraged me to read it anyway. I had absolutely no trouble at all getting in to this. Cleeves has a very inviting way about her stories and I never felt that I was missing anything that was pertinent to Vera’s background or that of her inspectors, Joe and Holly. I’ll add that I’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of the Vera TV series so having those images in mind helped me picture the setting better.

The story itself is what I love about mysteries - tantalizing, suspenseful, thoughtful. Vera, who’s such a unique personality, adds humanity to the victims and I love how she can barrel through and not give any f’s. Her detective work is fascinating as she's a no frills, gritty kind of personality. She’s not infallible but there’s something at once admirable and intimidating about her. The dynamics between Vera, Holly and Joe are equally interesting as they show how they work in unison and independently of each other. I also liked gaining insight as to how Vera relies on each of them for specific things e.g. Joe is always good about reeling her back in if she gets too far ahead of herself. In return, she encourages but doesn't coddle. I also liked getting a peek into Vera's family's background as there's a sort of unexpected reunion thanks to their links to the murder victim. 

I was able to guess the ‘whodunit’ though I came to that conclusion from a different angle; I don't think my guesswork would hold up to Vera's standards 😉 The Darkest Evening is what I enjoy best about British mysteries. It's compelling without relying on being graphic. The characters gradually shed their layers as they react to tighter scrutiny, and that's what makes Cleeves stories so exciting to me. I will absolutely go back and start this series from the beginning!


~ Bel

Monday, September 7, 2020

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

* * * * *

This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.


Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Fredrik Backman has this remarkable ability to conjure up stories about every day people and present them in such unique ways. In Anxious People, he takes a bank robber who wishes to steal a specific amount of money but when the robbery itself goes awry, the robber runs and winds up at an apartment viewing that seems to have attracted the strangest people ever. Each person, including the bank robber gets to express their story where Backman delves into their background, showing us how they got to be where they are. It's through masterful storytelling that he puts in to perspective human behaviours. With this random group of socially-awkward individuals and by the author's description, idiots, the greater the insight.

One character in particular, Zara, stands out to me. She comes off to me as a cross between two of Backman's most beloved characters - Ove and Britt-Marie - but definitely way more prickly and blunt to the point of rudeness. I was so frustrated with her yet compelled to know more about her. Her sessions with her psychiatrist are so trying that they border on comical because Zara is who she is and even at her worst, she has the most remarkable observations about life. 

Anxious People requires a bit more concentration because there are so many characters and POVs, and the chapters tend to jump around so much. I usually have a harder go at reading stories set up like that but it's Backman, and I know he always has something good in store. The payoff is worth it when connections start making sense. This novel is a testament to his craft as he develops mini stories within a grander story and eventually has all the pieces mean something and fit together. The reader wonders what obsucre events have to do with anything but it all becomes clear at the end. Backman also includes a slight twist that deserves a tip of the hat.

Anxious People will have you run the gamut of emotions from anxiety to grief to forgiveness. As with some of his previous works there is mention of suicide. Yet the tone is balanced against all of the quirky details and tangents throughout the story. (Oh, just you wait until the rabbit comes into it!) Backman is simply incredible and he's gifted us with another impactful novel. All these characters feel real and I know they've resonated with readers who feel that there's a bit of them in here. As for me, I was charmed by everyone in the end, none more so than Zara.

~ Bel


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Southern Seducer (North Carolina Highlands #1) by Jessica Peterson

 * * * * *


I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff in my life. But sleeping with my best friend tops the list.

Annabel and I have been close since college. When I left school to play pro football, she was there. While I collected Super Bowl rings and cars worth more than the house I grew up in—she was there.

I always assumed we’d end up together. Everyone did.

But by the time I retired from football, Bel was married. I thought I’d missed my shot at love.

So I buried myself in my new job as CEO of Blue Mountain Farm, a five-star resort my family and I built in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. It seems like a good place to be alone with the secret I have to keep from her.

Now Bel is a divorced single mom, struggling to raise her daughter on her own—and it’s my turn to be there for her.

So I invite her and the baby up to the resort for some much needed R&R.

Then, in a moment of bonfire-and-bourbon induced weakness, I kiss her.

And the fallout could ruin everything. 

SOUTHERN SEDUCER is a full length, standalone novel. It is the first book in the all new North Carolina Highland series.

Source: ARC provided in exchange for an honest review 
 
I was super excited about reading this latest book from Jessica Peterson because I knew she was doing something a little different. Taking inspiration from real life, Peterson introduces us to Annabel, a new single mother who has been recently diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. On hearing this, her best friend Beau invites her, her baby Maisie and her mom, up to his family's resort for some much-deserved R&R. He does have ulterior motives, too. Beay's always been in love with Bel, as he affectionately calls her, and wants to be there for her in her time of need. He also has to come clean to her about something that he's going through. 

Before going further, let it be known that there's a lot of baby stuff. A LOT. Peterson does not hold back on all the craziness that happens in the first few months after having a baby, covering it all from the physical to the emotional. More impressively, she allows herself to be vulnerable here and I can't commend her enough for it. Another thing that's done exceptionally well is how Bel rediscovers her own sexuality with Beau. Any woman who's given birth will tell you that it's hard to feel whole again, much less sexy after the traumatic experience of childbirth. Bel has to rediscover this new version of herself and appreciate everything that has brought her to this moment. 
Beau is right there, encouraging and loving as always so see her through it, though he's also suffering emotionally and physically. Revealing his secret to Bel is one of the scariest things he has to do. They've been each other's rock for the past several years but Beau's condition might put an expiration date on their relationship. It seems too selfish to dump on Bel at this point in time but he can't not include her in one of the most important changes of his life.
  
Southern Seducer is more than I could've wanted. On a personal level it stirred up lots of memories through Peterson's honest and unfiltered shared experience. She gives voice to so many things that I couldn't articulate back then and it means something to see those words describe how I felt then. Even though I'm years removed from that stage in my life, there's still meaning and comfort in being recognized and finding solidarity with other moms. It's also incredibly touching and sincere about pivotal moments in these two friends' lives. It's about being present when needed, finding shelter and comfort in the chaos, and admitting that one needs help to weather the storm. Southern Seducer is a stunner and the romance is typical Jessica Peterson with the more intimate moments being sensational and hot. It's an exciting start to a new series and I am ready for more!

~ Bel 



✴ AUTHOR INTERVIEW  

I was inspired to reach out to Jessica Peterson after reading Southern Seducer and I'm so thankful that she was able to spare some time to share her thoughts on Bel and Beau. 


You had a baby recently so it’s not surprising that motherhood would feature heavily in Southern Seducer with Annabel being a new mom struggling to find her way through it. It’s astonishingly frank about motherhood. What was it like to put your feelings to paper? 
  
Oh, my, what a great question. It was very cathartic to write Annabel's story! In the early days of motherhood, I wasn't really ready to talk about Postpartum Depression because I was just so in it, you know? I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and not sure how I'd make it out on the other side. So while I couldn't talk about it, I could write about it. Which was in many ways the best kind of therapy. Now that I'm kinda-sorta feeling like myself again, I'm able to come out and share my story. But in many ways, this book saved me during those first nine months of my daughter's life. 
  
Something I like that you did is show that Bel didn’t completely lose her sexuality after having a child but she had to rediscover herself. How fun was it to give her back her agency? 
  
Another great question! Love that you picked up on how much this book is about Bel getting her groove back in lots of ways. It was important to me to show that Bel was still a person, still a woman with "brains and red blood" as she says, after she had a baby. I feel like our society/culture has a tendency to erase mothers as human beings. We're supposed to roll our dreams and desires into our kids. I wanted to reverse that, and show how Annabel is still very much herself, and still very much dedicated to what she wants, and what she needs. Rediscovering herself sexually was part and parcel of that. 
  
You tackle another major issue through Beau’s storyline that in a way parallels Bel’s struggles as well. How did either storyline inform the other for you?  
  
You know, I've wanted to write an ex-NFL hero for a while. When Annabel's storyline came on STRONG after I had my daughter, I started to realize how well Beau's journey would mirror hers. They're both going through some heavy shit, and while I know that makes the book intense in many ways, it also felt real and fresh and emotional. They could relate to each other in a way they never could before, adding a whole new dimension to their decades long friendship. It also gives us a great "why" - why they fall in love after all these years of never crossing that line. 
  
Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite moment in Southern Seducer? 
  
Ooooh girl you know I love me a good kissing scene. So my favorite moment is probably the first time Bel and Beau kiss at the bonfire. It's angsty and hot and poignant, and I loved writing it. In fact, it was the first scene that came to me when I started brainstorming this book. Love it! 
  
Thanks for having me, and happy reading, y'all! 

Connect with Jessica Peterson

Source: Goodreads

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