Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Second Chance Cowboy Release Day Blast & Giveaway

Welcome to you as we celebrate the latest release from A.J. Pine! SECOND CHANCE COWBOY is the first book in her brand spanking new series, Crossroads Ranch. It's full of heart and romance and just what you need in your life right now!  


Once a cowboy, always a cowboy 

Ten years ago, Jack Everett left his family's ranch without a backward glance. Now, what was supposed to be a quick trip home for his father's funeral has suddenly become more complicated. The ranch Jack can handle---he might be a lawyer, but he still remembers how to work with his hands. But turning around the failing vineyard he's also inherited? That requires working with the one woman he never expected to see again.

Ava Ellis broke her own heart the night she let Jack go. She was young and scared---and secretly pregnant with Jack's baby. Now that he's back and asking for her help, Ava sees her opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. But how will he feel about the son he's never known? Could this be their second chance---or their final heartbreak? 

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We all look back on our past and pinpoint moments that we wish we could do over again. For whatever reason - be it circumstance, bad choices, timing - with some perspective we see where it went wrong and wish we could fix it. Second Chance Cowboy isn't a do over but an opportunity to own up to the past and plan a way forward. But for Jack and Ava, the past comes with such heavy baggage who knows how things will turn out.

I had a hard time with this because as romantic as it was, it was also emotionally heavy. At first I thought it was Ava who kept her pregnancy a secret from Jack and deliberately pushed him away for his own good. She was 17 or 18 at the time and made what she thought was the right move for both their futures. When he returns home to attend his father's funeral, the cat's out of the bag and suddenly he's hit with the reality of the past 10 years -- what he's missed with Ava and their son, but also how his younger brothers have grown up in his absence.

Not that Jack is in the clear. He' still terribly hung up on his past and carrying so much guilt. As a result he doubts his own ability to be a good partner and father. At the same time he feels the incredible responsibility to overcompensate for everything his loved ones didn't have. Jack's doubts were what got to me and for my own personal reasons, I got his tormented soul 100%.

After some reflection, what I realized made it hard for me is the crushing weight of all the expectations heaped upon every single person involved. Everyone expects the other to behave a certain way and to make what they believe is the obvious or right decision. In Jack's case, it's also the pressure that he inflicts upon himself that adds to his misery. I loved the rekindled romance because seeing a more mature Jack and Ava approach each other is that hopeful second chance we all wish for. It's a beautiful sight to behold. The renewed appreciation for his hometown and the reconnection that they all make with one another make your heart burst. I think A.J. Pine did exceptional work in showing us that aspect of human nature where expectations can either lift us up or crush us. 

Jack and Ava couldn't have known the love they'd rediscover or the riches they'd find within family. In the end, pushing past all the guilt, hurt and hardships, Second Chance Cowboy is a romantic, heartwarming and spectacular welcome home!

~ Bel


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Friday, February 23, 2018

Memphis Release Day Blast

We're celebrating the release of Memphis by Ginger Scott! Check out the excerpt below!

Memphis by Ginger Scott
A Contemporary New Adult Romance
Release day: February 23
Amazon: http://a.co/c50FzBy
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Fe2sNv
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2sJ503C


My mom always said it was just something about the way he moved.
The same swagger Archie Valentine wore in the ring when he took his opponents down followed him like a halo everywhere he went. But make no mistake about it—he was no angel. He was like a drug. My mother was his addict.

I never understood it…how love could make you blind and convince you to drink the poison. Not until I met Memphis Delaney.

At first, it was the familiar form. He’s a fighter, built like a god from the past, the kind of man the universe doesn’t make anymore. His eyes hide a story, and every time I’m in his presence I want to keep reading him until I get to the end. And then…there’s the way he moves. His boxing is violent but beautiful, and his body is a seductive weapon. When he’s in the ring, he wears the stare of a man committed to the battle until his very last breath.

He could end me; turn me into her. Too much of him will leave me as a shadow, and I’ve lost so much of myself already.

But I have discipline. It came the hard way. Lessons learned, scars left behind, and trust stripped away from life.

I will breathe his air, but I won’t fall for a man like him. The only boxer who’s ever going to break my heart is the one who gave me my name.


I turn so our feet are squared and glance at his home that I think he probably knows I went through while he was gone. Somehow the money he paid for it seems not enough and too much all at once. My gaze shifts back to his, and he steps forward until the toe of his left shoe rests against the right side of mine.
“That’s a nice story, Memphis. I’m glad you found the bike, but I’m not sure what that has to do with me,” I say, my breath catching as his fingertips trace along my jaw, his touch so faint I find myself leaning my head to encourage his palm to rest along my cheek more boldly.

He brings his other hand up with more confidence, and I’m caught. The other option I had, to walk away, is gone. I never really wanted it, though.

Memphis dips his chin, hunching slightly to bring his eyes in line with mine. We’re so close that I can feel the tickle of his breath against my lips, and they tingle at the familiar. Each experience with him weaves itself into my heart in this way that terrifies me. This is how people lose themselves.

But I let it in—each breath, each sound, the smells and words. His story. I am surviving on the very being of him, and I think I have been for a while now.

“I was eighteen when I tracked down that bike. I knew it was mine...”

“I don’t belong to you, Memphis,” I cut in, my heart pounding.

His mouth forms a crooked smile. He holds my eyes hostage in silence for few long seconds. “Maybe it works the other way,” he says, his eyes moving over my face with a softness that feels intimate and vulnerable. His forehead falls forward until it rests gently on my own, and I let go of the grip I have on myself, exchanging it for fistfuls of his T-shirt. My knuckles run along his chest as I gather the material and close my eyes, his muscles hard from discipline.

“I can’t watch you get hurt. I can’t...”

His hand moves to my chin, and he lifts it until our eyes meet. Suddenly, breathing just got a lot harder to do.

“I won’t lose, Liv. I work too hard, and I study too much, and I will never be in a ring I’m not supposed to be in,” he says, and I breathe out what sounds like a laugh but feels like hurt.

“My fifty-year-old uncle kicked your ass in some display of alpha-male, teacher-student bullshit. I couldn’t watch that...how am I supposed to watch you step in with some guy who really wants to kill you? How am I supposed to kiss you knowing that your lips might never be the same after a fight. How...”

Memphis’s mouth takes mine before I can protest anymore, nothing like our stolen moment from earlier. His hands cup my face and his mouth moves possessively over my bottom lip, sucking it in and letting it slide loose through a graze of his teeth. He turns my head with a gentle nudge and kisses me deeper, and his hands fall from my face in long, possessive drags down my shoulders to my waist, stopping with his thumbs just above my hips and his fingers splayed out around my sides.

My hands roam up his chest and neck until my thumbs run along the roughness of his chin, and my touch seems to somehow make him hungrier.

“My god.” He breathes the words against my lips, restraint giving way…

About the Author:

Ginger Scott is an Amazon-bestselling and Goodreads Choice Award-nominated author of several young and new adult romances, including Waiting on the Sidelines, Going Long, Blindness, How We Deal With Gravity, This Is Falling, You and Everything After, The Girl I Was Before, Wild Reckless, Wicked Restless, In Your Dreams, The Hard Count, Hold My Breath, and A Boy Like You.

A sucker for a good romance, Ginger’s other passion is sports, and she often blends the two in her stories. (She’s also a sucker for a hot quarterback, catcher, pitcher, point guard…the list goes on.) Ginger has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns. For more on her and her work, visit her website at http://www.littlemisswrite.com.

When she's not writing, the odds are high that she's somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her son field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ginger lives in Arizona and is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork 'em, Devils).

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

* * * *

A sexy new standalone from USA Today bestseller Sarina Bowen.

You’d think a billion dollars, a professional hockey team and a six-bedroom mansion on the Promenade would satisfy a guy. You’d be wrong.

For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.

When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together.

Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?

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

Nate and Becca - FINALLY!! A coupling a long time in the making is what makes Brooklynaire an especially exciting read and one that I've been waiting for all this time. We've always gotten a hint of what lay simmering underneath in the previous Brooklyn Bruisers books and Brooklynaire delivers the goods!

The wrench thrown at this highly anticipated union is that this is a blossoming romance between a boss and his employee. Even though they go way back to when Nate hired Becca and they've become good friends since, it's still a precarious line to cross. It's a crucial fact neither of them can afford to ignore though they both come at it differently. Not going to lie, when they first hook up it is hot. But it's the aftermath that leaves everyone unsettled.

Once again Sarina Bowen does what I love best about her: she brings the hard realities, allowing her characters to fumble their way through. For Becca, it's the horror of being a cliché that holds her back from going further with Nate. "Secretary gets it on with owner" is not the headline she wants broadcast and neither does she want to deal with the inevitable rumours and gossip. Nate is also aware that he has to be mindful of the current climate and how he woos Becca. It's nice that Bowen brought these two perspectives here where the woman has to worry about her reputation (personally and professionally) and the man has to be concerned with how his actions are viewed. There's also that cynicism that comes with being rich: does she like me for me or for my money? And speaking of the man, there's something different about how Bowen has crafted Nate. He's gentler, he reveres Becca and it's never more apparent that during their first love scene. There's no vulgarity, no overabundance of testosterone, just pure, simple adoration and pleasure. I was so charmed by it that I read it again before continuing on. Also, it was scorching hot. Did I mention that already?

Bowen is an auto-buy for me. She has never let me down and I've read a lot of her stuff. She continues to write amazing stories that are sometimes punctuated by current hot topics and she does so in a lowkey way. Brooklynaire's added charm is Nate and Becca's connection. Friends-to-lovers is always a fun trope and here their penchant for palindromes is hilarious showing how well they get each other. They're creative and saucy with them, too. The ending, while fantastical from a real-life perspective truly works for them in the Brooklyn Bruisers universe. If you're a Sarina Bowen fan like I am, you'll need to get on this immediately!

~ Bel


I grab a towel off a waiting stack of them and toss it onto the edge. “You can sit and put your feet in.”
She’s wearing a short little knit dress that’s been making me crazy all evening, so it would be easy enough for her to strip off those stockings, sit on the towel, and drop both feet in.
And that’s what she does. She eases one stocking down over a smooth knee and tugs it off.
I don’t want to stand there staring like a middle-school boy. Okay, I do want to. But I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. So I go over to the sound system instead, and I set my phone on the speaker and cue up a really old playlist. One she’ll recognize.
When I turn around again, she’s seated on the towel, both legs hanging down into the churning water. “Ah. Wow.” She looks up at me, her eyes sparkling. “Nice place you got here.”
“Isn’t it?” I toe off my shoes and kick them to the side.
The first song comes on, and it’s a Macklemore tune that we used to play far too often in our first office. Rebecca laughs immediately. “You didn’t! I haven’t heard this playlist in forever. But I’ll bet I still know every transition. Lady Gaga is next.”
“She sure is.”
Rebecca kicks her feet, making a splash. “I have a little confession to make.”
“What’s that?” I loosen my tie and slide the knot out.
“Well…” She grins up at me. “I used to have a crush on you. Back in the early days.”
My hands freeze on the tie silk. “Get out of town. You did not.”
“No, I really did.” Her cheeks are pink. “That first year especially. But you were taken, and you were my boss. Those two things made it pretty easy to tamp down, when you’re a practical girl like me.”
I walk over and drop down beside her, my back to the water, though, because I’m still wearing trousers and socks. “So how does that work, exactly?”
“What?” She gives me a sidelong glance, but then looks away again and won’t meet my eyes.
“How do you stop wanting someone? I’m a practical person, but I don’t see how that makes it any easier. Nothing seems to mute the raging attraction I have for you.”
Her chin turns quickly toward me, and I seize the opportunity to kiss her. And it only takes one kiss—one slide of my lips over hers, and I’m on fire again.
We’re facing opposite directions, so it’s awkward as hell. But I don’t even care. I take greedy sip after greedy sip of her mouth, until she pulls back to stare at me. Her color is high and her eyes are bright and happy. “This is like Twister.”
“It’s better,” I correct. Lady Gaga comes on, just as Becca said she would. “Are we getting into this pool or what?”
Becca kicks a foot in the water. “I’m tempted. But I don’t have a bathing suit.”
“Oh, snap.”
She smiles and shakes her head. “Are you really getting in?”
“We don’t have to.” I’m never going to pressure her.
Her fingers trail across the surface of the bubbling water. “But this is an adventure, right?”
“Right.” I stand up and remove my socks. She’s watching me. And I can’t read her expression. “What?”
“Just wondering what else you’re going to take off.” She smiles.
“Come here.” The order rolls off my tongue.
But Rebecca doesn’t blink. She gets up and turns toward me, curiosity in her eyes.
“You tell me. What am I taking off?”
She puts two hands tentatively on my chest, and I make myself be patient. Everything I ever wanted is on the other side of this moment. I just need us to break through this awkwardness—the “will we or won’t we” tension.  
Her fingers find the top button of my shirt. “I’m not getting in the water unless you are.”
That’s a compromise I can live with. I find my lower shirt buttons and work upwards, until we meet in the middle. She pushes the two halves of my shirt apart and runs a hand down my bare chest.

My inner caveman stands up and cheers.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo Moyes

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jojo Moyes, a new book featuring her iconic heroine of Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world.

Source: advance copy received in exchange for an honest review

It becomes an extra special experience to crack open a book and revisit characters you've come to love. Something about them has grabbed onto you and made a little bit of space for themselves in your heart and that's exactly how I feel about Louisa Clark. Lou, the chirpy, looks-on-the-bright side kind of girl in Me Before You who filled the last few months of Will's life with joy that he hadn't experienced in years. Lou, whose grief stricken soul was so lost before finding love again in After You. But you knew that we weren't quite done joining her on her adventures. In Still Me, our Lou is as colourful and lively as ever as she makes her way to America. 

Lou is now an assistant to the very young wife of a very rich older man and she has a front row seat to the peculiarities of the New York upper crust. The thing I adore about Lou is that she doesn't seem to be too flummoxed by awkward situations. She takes those moments in stride and uses her humour to deflect any possible discomfort. The several new characters introduced vary from welcoming to kooky. Seriously, would we expect any less from Lou's interactions? They all add flavour to her New York adventure and ensure that there's not one moment of boredom. 

Everything about Still Me feels authentically Lou from her concerns for her family, her friends, her erratic employer and even the curmudgeonly neighbour because it's Lou, and Lou cares about everyone. As she settles in New York she still has ties that bring her back to her past, meaning Will. His loss doesn't hurt as badly but I was impressed by how Moyes demonstrates how grief can strike out of nowhere and catch you off guard. There'll always be a twinge of sadness for Will that'll stay with Lou. He'll just always be a part of her, his voice echoing in the background and I like that he isn't forgotten.

Me Before You devastated me. After You had me in anguish for most of it but calm by the end knowing that Lou was rebounding. Still Me is a mixture of both its predecessors, this time with a rosier outlook at its finish. I absolutely loved this story that was a sweet balance of pain and humour. This is Lou growing up and growing up in hard. Now at a crossroads in her life, she has to finally answer the question she hasn't yet contemplated: who is Lou? 

~ Bel

Thursday, February 8, 2018

19 Souls (Sin City Investigation #1) by J.D. Allen

* * *

Private Investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. When his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.

Daniel is not Sophie's brother. He is her most coveted prey. Clinging to the belief that they belong together, Sophie kills Daniel's real sister to manipulate Jim into flushing Daniel out of hiding. She will create the "perfect life" for the only man she's ever loved, no matter how many people she must kill along the way.

When Jim discovers the truth about Sophie, he's driven to set things right before her delusional plan claims even more souls.

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

19 Souls is one heck of a thriller that starts with a gruesome scene where you immediately know who the bad guy or rather, girl is. Readers, she's bat shit crazy! I'll be honest, that first scene was so disturbing that I wondered if I could handle the rest of the book but I stuck with it because well... I couldn't put it down. Sophie is an intriguing villain in that she has one foot in reality and the other way off in some depraved fantasy land which is I suppose how most sociopaths work. She manages to maintain a semblance of normalcy with a day job that funds her ultimate goal: collecting knives and weaponry, stalking her childhood crush, Daniel and killing anyone in her way. It's scary how well she's planned every little detail including recruiting extra help in the form of an unsuspecting PI. Jim, who has an interesting if unfortunate backstory, is normally good at judging character but even he is fooled by Sophie's act. It's too bad that he's so darn good at his job because he's mortified when he realizes how he was used and that he single-handedly led her to her prize. Now he's determined to protect Daniel and capture Sophie before she hurts more people.

This is one suspenseful read and strangely enough, as unhinged as Sophie was, I was also fascinated by the glimpses into how the wheels were turning in her mind. It's an intense cat and mouse game as Jim uses every resource to catch up to her and anticipate her next move. I was so anxious as the action reached its climax and I felt the ending could have gone a number of ways. Since this is the start of a series and I liked it so much, I'll definitely want to read the next book when it comes out. I'm curious to know how Jim moves on from this and if the ending comes into play down the road.

~ Bel

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Schemer (Harbor City #3) by Avery Flynn

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Tyler Jacobson has a plan for everything—except how to handle his completely annoying, utterly frustrating, and totally sexy upstairs neighbor. He couldn't care less if Everly Ribinski thinks he's equally irritating—until he discovers she's the only one who can help him land a business deal that will finally make him feel like he's more than just a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. 

Color him shocked when Everly refuses to help, insisting she should have run him over in the parking garage when she had the chance. Harsh. But possibly deserved. Tyler may have spent the last few months reveling in annoying the fiery gallery owner with a dark past, but he's got secret leverage she can't refuse. 

If only one meeting didn't turn into a fake date that turned into more. Way more. Like naked and hot as hell more. 

The last thing either of them wants is to catch feelings for someone who is so obviously not their type. Good thing that will never happen. Right?

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

Is there any chance to redeem oneself after an awkward first meeting where you've inserted your foot into your mouth? That's the first impression that Tyler gives Everly, his new neighbour, as she's maneuvering her belongings along the hallway. His normally cool demeanor abandons him in front of this gorgeous, no nonsense woman. So yes, he says some strange things and if ever there was an "undo" button for real live situations, this would be it. Yet he somehow manages to work his way into her orbit. Not hard to do since she runs the gallery that's in his building and she just so happens to be good friends with a certain businessman that he's eager to have become his next big client.

Both Tyler and Everly have something in common: they're both from humble beginnings, ambitious and have worked hard to achieve their success. But that's where it ends. While Everly is comfortable in her own skin and owns her past, as painful as it is, Tyler continues to feel like a poser. Despite his indisputable smarts and success, he thinks the only way to remove the stigma of his blue collar background is to continually be scheming to stay competitive. All of this to prove his detractors wrong and that he deserves a place at the table among the Harbor City elite. They might butt heads about how business is done but they certainly have no problem getting down to the other business! As crazy as they make each other, their attraction is undeniable and oh boy do they have some scorching hot moments! 

A lovely surprise in The Schemer is the larger presence of Helene Carlyle, mother of Sawyer (The Negotiator) and Hudson (The Charmer). We've known her so far as the grande dame of Harbor City high society, their elegant and sometimes overbearing but well-meaning mother. In The Schemer, Helene actually gets a turn at having fun and I loved the inclusion of her storyline. 

Even though this is technically the third installment in the Harbor City series, you can read these as standalones. The one subplot that does show up in all three books is the complicated friendship between Sawyer and Tyler, but once again you don't have to have read the first two to understand it because Flynn does a nice job of keeping readers in the loop. I enjoyed every moment of The Schemer and keeping up with the characters I've met previously. This is a super fun series that's perfect when you just want to let loose, laugh and watch these confident and successful men go toe to toe with these formidable women.

~ Bel

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Next Year in Havana Release Day Blast & Giveaway

Book Summary

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Read Bel's 5-star review here!

Book Links

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Learn more about Next Year in Havana including downloading the book club guide and more at: http://www.chanelcleeton.com/next-year-in-havana/

Add Beatriz Perez’s story WHEN WE LEFT CUBA on Goodreads 

Praise for Next Year in Havana

Chanel Cleeton's Next Year In Havana is a flat-out stunner of a book, at once a dual-timeline mystery, a passionate romance, and paean to the tragedy and beauty of war-torn Cuba. The story of sugar heiress Elisa, watching Cuba fall into revolution as Castro rises, is intertwined with the modern-day tale of Elisa's granddaughter Marisol as she returns to Cuba after Castro's death. Both women fall for fire-brand revolutionaries, but Cuba itself emerges as their true love-interest, threatening to break both women's hearts as Elisa and Marisol each grapple in their own way with what it is to be Cuban, what it is to be an exile, and how to love and live in a homeland riven by revolution. Simply wonderful!
- Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
Cleeton has penned an atmospheric, politically insightful, and highly hopeful homage to a lost world. Devour NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA and you, too, will smell the perfumed groves, taste the ropa vieja, and feel the sun on your face. Just a wonderful and educational book!
Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America's First Daughter
A vivid, transporting novel. Next Year in Havana is about journeys-- into exile, into history, and into questions of home and identity. It's an engrossing read.
 David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife
An evocative, passionate story of family loyalty and forbidden love that moves seamlessly between the past and present of Cuba’s turbulent history— how one young woman’s sacrifice becomes the key to her granddaughter’s future—how culture and spirit survive against all odds. Next Year in Havana kept me enthralled and savoring every word.
- Shelley NobleNew York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach
In Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton's prose is as beautiful as Cuba itself, and the story she weaves--of exile and loss, memory and myth, forbidden love and enduring friendship--is at once sweeping and beautifully intimate. This is a moving, heartfelt, and gorgeously realized story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
- Jennifer Robson, USA Today bestselling author of Somewhere in France

Author Information

Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Next Year In Havana Blog Tour

* * * * *

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

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

It's 1959 and the opening scene is fraught with tension as Elisa Perez and the rest of her family silently walk through the airport under the guise of a happy family going on vacation. The truth is that this well-to-do family, the cream of the crop of Cuba's upper class is leaving the country for good. They've watched their country change before their eyes and seeing the writing on the wall, they accept that they must say goodbye for now and hope to return in a few years when the political climate has settled down. Elisa couldn't have known then that it would be the last time she'd see her beloved country. That when she'd finally return decades later, it would be so her precious granddaughter Marisol could bury her ashes in her homeland that she never stopped yearning for. It's through the dual points of view of Elisa and Marisol that Chanel Cleeton shows us the Cuba of the past leading up to Castro's revolution, and the Cuba of now years after the revolution. The old family friends that Marisol meets welcomes her with open arms. But it's with the help of a young man, a history professor, who serves as her tour guide who shows her the Cuba of the in between. And as she searches for the perfect place to bury her grandmother's ashes, she unearths secrets about her that sends her on a life-changing journey.

Simply put, Next Year In Havana is stunning and exquisite. Based on and inspired by her Cuban grandmother, Cleeton has delivered a love letter to the country and its people, inviting her readers to see its complex history and wealth of culture. I hardly know anything about Cuba but I feel I've received an outstanding introduction through the historical information that she includes in the story. Perhaps most illuminating is what it means to be Cuban and the dividing line between those who stayed and those who left. 

Amidst the political turmoil is a heartbreaking love story and another that rings of a possible future. I'm always looking for that book that'll draw me in and become a part of me. This one wrung my heart out. I've read all of Cleeton's books - she's written a variety of genres - and I can say that Next Year In Havana is the most beautiful story she has written. With breathtaking descriptions, she brings the Cuba of her grandmother's generation to life and also shows compassion for what Cuba is today. The contrast between the before and after are staggering. But at its very heart is the people and through reliving the past, a budding romance and a suspenseful turnabout, I cannot express enough how much I've been moved by Next Year In Havana and that it's one of my favourite books of this year.

~ Bel