Monday, January 17, 2022

Interview with Sophie Stevens, ONE SPRING BREAK

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?

One Spring Break is book three in the Wimberley University Series, but it’s a stand-alone book. You don’t have to read the first two to be able to dive into this one. This novel is a light-hearted, fluffy, contemporary new adult romance about two people falling in love while searching for a lost pet.


If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?

 I’m a huge fan of If you’re looking for a professional cover with different price points, this is a great site to visit. Wading through all the content can be daunting, but I’ve purchased several covers from different artists on the site and have never been disappointed. Most of the artists are even willing to tweak things like hair color or fonts for free. I have worked with graphic designers as well, but I find it much more convenient and less expensive to purchase ready-made covers.


Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?

Major shout out to Critique Circle. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced author or a novice, this is the place to hone your craft. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned by submitting my stories to this site, from grammar to story structure. If you’ve never visited this site, it works on a point system. You critique other writers’ chapters or short stories and earn points that you then use to post your own stories for critique. I have made life-long friends on that site and without it, I’d never have had the courage to self-publish my stories.


What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?

Complete silence! I can’t write unless my office is tomb-still. Any noise can break me out of my creative headspace, so I’m even known to wear earplugs if the kids are being loud.


Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?

Red Adept Editing and Joy Editing are both my go-to editors. They are professional and affordable, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They’ll make sure your manuscript is up to industry standards before you send them out into the world. No worries about embarrassing typos or incorrect grammar.


What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?

Not every book you write is going to be a five-star masterpiece and that’s okay. Some readers are going to adore your books, others are going to dislike them, and that’s okay too. Listen to your criticizers and take their feedback to heart to improve your future books, but don’t let their comments dishearten you. Almost every best-selling author has a few duds in their backlist. It takes a thick skin to be an author, but keep writing and, above all, have fun!


What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?

Keep writing new books. A lot of authors write a book, release it, and sit back and wait for readers to flock to their debut. Sometimes it happens, but so many books are getting released every day, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. You can set yourself apart by writing more books. The more novels under your name, the higher your chance of discoverability by readers. Once you have a few books in circulation, it’s easier to build a loyal readership and engage with your audience. Don’t give up if your first book doesn’t take off, just keep writing.


Besides writing, do you have any other passions?

I’m a perfumist. I have an organ of about a thousand aroma molecules and naturals, and I can spend weeks formulating new perfumes just for fun. I also love making all-natural Victorian perfume recreations. Nineteenth century women smelled much different than modern women!


Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Cats. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate. Coffee or Tea? Coffee. Talk or Text? Talk. Day or Night? Day (I love night but I’m most productive during the day.)


What’s next for you?

 I’m delving into Kindle Vella. Depth of Field is a macabre young adult contemporary romance that I’m submitting to the new amazon serialized story platform. It’s a fluffy novel about a high school girl working at a family-owned mortuary. I’m also submitting an urban fantasy, A Summoner in London, that revolves around a perfumist who can also summon jinn (genies.)  Unfortunately for her, the jinn want to kill her. Hop on over to Kindle Vella and take a peek.


One Spring Break
Sophie Stevens
Publication date: January 10th 2022
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Flat-ass. Chubby cheeks. Whore.

Pre-med student, Rosie Magee, has been called every slur imaginable by her obnoxious roommate, a foul-tempered fellow who drops food on the floor and poops wherever he pleases. If the insult thrower didn’t have scarlet feathers and a beak capable of shearing fingers, she’d happily kick him out. But her roommate, a macaw named Baby, belongs to her snotty sister Maria, and according to their mother, if the siblings want room and board, they’re stuck together until graduation. After scrimping and saving, Rosie has finally tucked away enough money to escape from her boyfriend-stealing sister and her evil, yellow-eyed minion for one spring break.

Wholesome. Good guy. Boy next door.

Engineering student, Erik Snider, never believed good guys finish last until his girlfriend has a one-night-stand with a local thespian, Tulsa Lester. She wants to reconcile, but Erik can’t forgive a betrayal so deep. When he learns she’s moved on while he’s still mourning their relationship, his roommate hatches a plan for revenge—ask out the prettiest girl on campus, Maria Magee, and take her to the spring formal his ex will be attending. Though not the vengeful type, Erik is desperate enough to agree in hopes a date with a gorgeous girl will help him heal, but pretty girls have agendas of their own. If he wants an evening with Maria, he’ll have to take care of her demanding macaw for one spring break.

When Baby escapes Erik’s care, Rosie ditches her vacation to help him find her sister’s macaw. As they fight off parrot hungry hawks and navigate trees with flimsy branches, they form a bond that might just verge on love. But nothing comes easily for Rosie. With a man-stealing sister who lives to torment her, and a best friend Tulsa who tore apart Erik’s relationship, happily-ever-after will be anything but smooth sailing.

One spring break brought them together.

An insolent bird…

A hateful sister…

A best friend with secrets…

Will tear them apart.

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Author Bio:

Author of contemporary romance, young adult and urban fantasy.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Excerpt: BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARE by Giana Darling

Beautiful Nightmare
Giana Darling
(Dark Dream Duet, #2)
Publication date: January 13th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Bianca has finally found her rightful place amid the powerful Constantines. But all is not what it seems in this glittering new world. And Tiernan Morelli refuses to give up her up…

BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARE is the final book in the Dark Dream duet by USA Today bestselling author Giana Darling.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


“Stop,” I choked out, panic roaring through me in wild surges.

I started to thrash against him, so hard I clocked him in the mouth with my chin. He started to bleed, but he didn’t let loosen his hold.

“I won’t let you go,” he repeated calmly as he held me like Peleus wrestling the ever-changing form of Thetis, determined to win me and keep me forever. “I won’t.”

“I don’t want you,” I cried out, but there were more tears on my face and a keen edge of desperation in my tone that shook my conviction.

“Such a little liar,” he reprimanded, darkness crossing his face as he pressed his groin harder into my hips, pushing my legs farther apart so he could cant his erection against my panty-covered sex. “Should I show you how badly you lie?”

“No.” I squeezed my eyes shut and turned my face from him.

A part of me wanted it, a large part. For Tiernan to take from me. For him to press me open and pull me apart with the hard drive of his thick cock and the punishing hold of those strong fingers all over my flesh.

But another part was terrified. I didn’t have anything more to give to anyone, but Brandon. How could I trust anyone after a lifetime of being taken from?

I expected him to kiss me then. To take me with the same ruthless savagery he’d taken me on the beach.

Instead, he licked the path of a tear from the edge of my jaw up my cheek before planting a soft kiss at the corner of my closed eye. He smoothed my hair back with a big palm and I could feel his gaze hot on my face.

I didn’t dare open my eyes to see his expression.

I knew, whatever it was, I couldn’t bare it.

This was the side of Tiernan that eviscerated me. Those small glimpses of a warm heart and kind spirit that razed my resolve to the ground.

So, I lay still and sightless as Tiernan kissed me again. Hot, open-mouthed kisses down my cheek to my neck and chest. Each press of his lips to my body melted my resolve. Atom by atom I sank into the floor, into him, pliant and hungry in a different way than I had ever been before.

This wasn’t a flash fire. A burst of lust so intense it burned fast and clean.

This was a slow burn.

A seduction.

And I was helpless against the heat.

Author Bio:

Giana Darling is an USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Top 40 Amazon Best Selling Canadian romance writer who specializes in the taboo and angsty side of love and romance. She currently lives in beautiful British Columbia where she spends time riding on the back of her man's bike, baking pies, and reading snuggled up with her Golden Retriever puppy, Romeo.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

#Excerpt: THORN OF SECRETS by B. Truly

Thorn of Secrets
B. Truly
(My Darkest Secret, #2)
Publication date: January 25th 2022
Genres: Coming of Age, Romance, Young Adult

In love with the same face that haunts me….

The falling leaves of autumn are like the deceit in my family lineage. Closing the door on the infinite cold—winter blossoms into the spring of new beginnings. In the next season of my life, I’m mending the pieces back together. Opening myself up, I even begin to date, which is a big step for me.

After graduating from high school, a shocking development causes me to be on alert. When nothing comes of it, I move forward, wanting desperately to put the past behind me.

About to start college, I bump into someone from my complicated past, and my heart is torn. The dilemma I struggle with: Do I let other people’s opinion define who I am? I must decide if I’ll push through the ridicule and pave my own path. Could the face that’s scorned me be the key to my resolve? I’ll never know if I take the easy way out.

I’ve unlocked my darkest secret only to have it return to torment me. As the thorns of his obsession encompass me, I discover I’m part of a twisted ploy. If I don’t figure a way out of this predicament, then the life I’ve known may cease to exist.

Don’t miss the riveting sequel to Madison’s story that will have you dangling on the edge of your seat.

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On Thanksgiving Day, the Thibodeaux family gathers—courtesy of my gram’s married name. Aunt Cass, Dari’s mom, and her father Drew are here. So is Uncle Clemens, the eldest, with his wife, and my older cousin, Kenya. Gigi’s oldest daughter, Corine, has made it, too, which is a relief. She has always been the mediator between her two younger, bickering sisters. Aunt Corine’s son, Ryan, accompanies her. Even Gigi’s younger sister and her husband have made the trip.

Finally, the last to arrive is my birth mother, Charlotte. Ever since she wouldn’t give me a straight answer about believing me, I’ve been referring to her as Charlotte. She no longer gets the privilege of me calling her Mama. Her arm is laced through her significant other, Regan, and my older sister is by their side. One big happy family—in hindsight.

Grandma Thibodeaux is thrilled to have everyone together. When Cassandra sneers at Charlotte in greeting, an uneasy feeling washes over me. A storm is brewing—its shape forming in Aunt Cass’ eyes. There has been bad karma between them, and I have no clue why their beef started. Dari and I glance at each other quickly, picking up on the tidal waves. For Gigi’s sake, I hope that for this evening, they can let bygones be bygones.

Gigi’s formal dining room has an elegant vibe. Dari and I put in a lot of work cleaning and decorating. The aroma of fried turkey, dressing, and candied yams fills the air. I introduce my daughter to my extended family. Gigi hasn’t shared the specifics of who her father is, and for that, I’m grateful. For now, I’d rather ease into it. I’ve only recently taken the first step with pressing charges.

I put Justice down for a nap, turn on the baby monitor, and take a seat next to Dari. Our mama’s may be at odds, but she’s my best friend. My cousin, Kenya, plops down on my other side.

Everyone begins passing around the food, stuffing their plates. I scan the room, swallowing the mothball in my throat. There are bound to be fireworks. Aunt Cass is still shooting daggers at Charlotte. Dari’s dad, Drew, is oblivious to the tension, or he’s choosing to ignore it. Dari smirks. Kenya eyes them skeptically. Regan hasn’t looked up once since he sat down—he finds the food on his plate more interesting. My other cousin, Ryan, licks his lips at the meal in front of him. Tanya glances over herself, snapping a selfie in her phone.


Clearing her throat, Gigi asks, “Who would like to say grace?”

“Clemens can say it,” Charlotte bellows. “He’s the oldest.”

“Very well,” Uncle Clemens replies. “Let’s bow our heads.”

He says a beautiful prayer, and then everyone starts to dig in. For a while, all that can be heard is the clinking of utensils.

Breaking the sound of mouths chewing, Charlotte exhales. “Now is as good a time as any to share my wonderful news.” Everyone’s heads snap to attention. Charlotte lifts her ring finger, revealing her gorgeous diamond engagement ring and announces, “Regan and I got married last week in Las Vegas. It’s official.”

Gigi’s eyes widen. Obviously, this is news to her. Kenya’s jaw drops, and Dari makes a garbled sound. Aunt Cass glowers at Charlotte and Regan. The table grows as quiet as a church in Hades. They have been engaged for months, and I don’t have any ill-will toward Regan. I’m just kind of shocked they still went through with tying the knot with everything going on. Regan will soon have confirmation that Justice is, indeed, his granddaughter.

Their marriage makes Justin and me official stepsiblings. Things between us will be even more complicated. I wonder if Justin knew about the matrimony and felt it was our parents’ place to spring the news.

Finally, Aunt Cass breaks the silence. “Are we supposed to congratulate you?”

Charlotte scrunches her nose. “You’ll never change. Still jealous, holding grudges until your grave.”

Regan’s Adam’s apple bobs. He looks seconds from bolting for the door.

“No, you’ve just always thought you were better than me,” Aunt Cass snaps.

“Your words, not mine.”

“Please, don’t start, you two,” Aunt Corine chastises them.

“Let’s respect our mother’s home,” their older brother, Clemens, chimes in.

Okay, what is this about?

Dari’s eyes dart to mine. I shrug, with nothing to offer. Their rivalry is propelling to the forefront of the evening’s festivities. Tanya places her cell down, now all in the mix with her brow knitted.

“Sorry, Mama. I meant no disrespect toward you,” Aunt Cass apologizes to Gigi.

“You can’t help yourself,” Charlotte sneers.

Aunt Cass’ head jerks backward. “Like you can talk. You’re a backstabbing whore, who cheated with my finance.”

Author Bio:

B. Truly has wanted to be an author since she was fifteen years old. She is grateful to have accomplished this dream. B. Truly has very vivid dreams and a wild imagination. She likes to read, watch tons of TV shows, and movies. She’s addicted to romance and gets a thrill out of suspense and sci-fi. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romance, sci-fi, dystopian, and paranormal genres.

B. Truly likes to explore conflicted plots of romance with thrilling twists. She also loves creating impossible situations for her characters to grow from and try to overcome.

B. Truly has three wonderful children, and a husband who defines the person that she is today. She works full-time as an Ultrasound technologist in Houston, Texas.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

#Review: RUNE MAGIC by Thea Atkinson


5 of 5 stars


Amazon buy link:

I’m always amazed at the creativity of some authors and Ms. Atkinson is one of the masters. Where do these ideas come from? Should you be scared? Not at all, but what you will be is deeply entrenched and on the edge of your seat reading the dark and edgy second volume of her new series “Counterfeit Psychic.


Once again Brie Duncan becomes embroiled in a new murder case much against her will. She has cleaned up her business and now just wants to make enough money to pay her rent, buy groceries and maybe have a little left over. Of course, that’s not what happens when Detective Farrel walks into her magic shop and demands she accompany him to the precinct. She’s right to be nervous because as she looks at the newest crime scene photos, she knows somehow witches, and not the good kind, are involved. Things go from bad to worse for Brie and even when Layne comes back after being MIA for two weeks, she’s in for some rough times. There is definitely chemistry between these two, but events keep spiraling out of control before they can do more than longingly gaze at each other.


There is so much happening in this story that it will make you dizzy and terrified for our girl Brie. Could she have magic—the real kind and not the kind based on the help of drugs? She finds out some crucial facts about her childhood and it leads her to become even more involved in the latest murders. All she wants is to lead a quiet life, but when all the clues lead to WHO (the black coven) is committing the murders, there are no leads to WHY they’re doing it. Parrish, the local ME, is a welcome addition to the story. I love her kick-ass attitude. As with all the other Thea Atkinson books I’ve read, this one will take you on a roller coaster ride of thrills, terror and questions upon questions. March 2022 cannot come fast enough to find out what’s in store for Brie, Layne and Parrish. A must read for fans of urban fantasy.


I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.



Friday, January 7, 2022

#Excerpt: SIDETRACKED by Lauren Alsten

Lauren Alsten
Published by: Changeling Press
Publication date: December 31st 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Librarian Allison Callahan, aka “Encyclopedia Allie,” has always loved her steadfast and dependable best friend Dane. She’s just never admitted it to anyone, including herself. But Dane keeps trying to kiss her, and it’s changing their relationship status from friend-zone to danger-zone. Sure, Allie wants more, but what if Dane finds out she likes her hanky panky with a side of spanky?

He’ll freak, that’s what. So she rebuffs his advances, tries to shake things up… and unbeknownst to him, discovers one of his best-kept secrets.

Meanwhile, Dane is so frustrated he fantasizes about taking Allie over his lap. A good spanking would serve her right for refusing to acknowledge what they both already know: they’re perfect for each other. But he’s so busy trying to make partner at his law firm, he doesn’t notice something’s a bit off about his bestie.

Between the shock of the secret she never knew and her lukewarm launching of the library’s virtual book club, Allie’s ready to let loose. At her and Dane’s high school reunion, it’s clear they’re ready to take the next step, but after a red-hot night of lust and love, will the next morning’s Walk of Shame ruin everything?

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My track record with men in general is sketchy, and with Dane specifically, it’s abysmal. One visit to his frat house at Harvard proved we weren’t meant to be. My teenage crush on Criss Angel came in handy, because nobody suspected I faked throwing back four shots. Only the fifth one was real, and I gagged. Malört is evil. I started acting tipsy, figuring it was now or never. I sat next to Dane, tried to French kiss him, and when that didn’t work, went for broke, pitching face-first into his crotch. Told him I wanted to lick his Danesicle. Disgusted, he picked me up and put me to bed — alone. I left him a note in the wee hours (claiming Malört Memory of the prior night’s events) and slunk back home to die a private death of mortification.

I used to think I was a prude, but after that, I knew Dane is the most sexually conservative person I’ve ever met. Even the word sex makes him cough and sputter. Tara’s extremely open, I’m more the “keep it under wraps,” type, and Dane — well, even his current bedroom furniture is prudish and perfunctory. Square, plain. Mission-style. As in “missionary.”

For now, I drag my mind out of the gutter and prop myself up with a pillow. Watching him sort and pack soothes me, his biceps flexing under the weight of heavy law books he’s dumping into random boxes. The sight of his corded forearms, the biceps hiding inside his tight Henley, the curve of his muscular thighs filling out his jeans. All these things turn me on, but tonight my heart races because I really need to sell Dane on the reunion thing. I don’t want to play the loner librarian, especially if Thomas shows. Overthinking is my specialty, so I swallow the lump of reticence to cue up my rehearsed Reunion Ruse. By the looks of it, I’m not the only one about to take a chance.

Dane is going to try to kiss me again. He always angles for a peck, usually on the cheek, and he’s predictable as ever: his face gets this dopey, hopeful expression, followed by the twitch of his left eyelid. It’s kind of cute, considering.

Mr. Twitchy would freak if he knew how sexually conservative I’m not. To him, I’m still Encyclopedia Allie, strait-laced, straight-A and headed straight for 2.25 kids in a white picket fence suburbia. Dane would never look at me the same again knowing I have less-than-vanilla preferences, and while I don’t think spanking is that strange, he would. People who color outside the lines, like my sister, make him uncomfortable. If he knew my preferences, he’d run. And if he did? I’d die.

So Dane trying to kiss me? Not going to happen. I love him too much as a friend. To him, I’m a nice, vanilla girl, and I want to stay that way, even if it means one day seeing him with someone else.

I still fantasize about him taking me over his lap and whipping my ass to a cherry red, though. I just keep that freaky little fantasy to myself.

Dane grabs two handfuls of books from one box and dumps them into another. He’s trying not to make his machinations obvious, but I know he’s just waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s always so damn polite. But as organized and fastidious as the man is, he doesn’t know jack about weight distribution.

“You should split your legal library into smaller boxes so they’re not as heavy.”

Dane snickers, lifting the large box laden with neatly stacked statute books inside. The box bottoms out before he hits the hallway. At this rate, the movers won’t have much to move come Sunday, because it will still all be in piles on the floor.

“Don’t even say it.”

I ignore him. “I told you so.”

With his hands on his hips, Dane acts like he’s mad. His steel-blue eyes narrow. It’s a ruse. He does hate to admit he’s wrong, but instead of grouching, he pauses. Wrings his hands, approaches the bed slowly. I meet his gaze, and his eye starts its preemptive twitch. Here we go.

Author Bio:

When she’s not obsessing over her latest characters and dreaming up meet-cutes for future books, Lauren Alsten loves photographing wildlife while hiking under a warm sun and bright blue skies. Her writing journey began with A-list movie star fan fiction, but these days she prefers penning humorous tales of emotional upheaval served with a side of snark. She currently lives with two ungrateful cats who never lift a paw to help around the house.

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Thursday, January 6, 2022

#Review: THE SCANDALOUS VIXEN by Tracy Sumner


5 of 5 stars

Roan Darlington, seventh Duke of Leighton, also known as the Defiant Duke, has to had learn the responsibilities and duties of being a duke without any help from family. There's only him and his sister left. He has a few close friends whom he trusts implicitly and the rest of Society can jump into the Thames for all Roan cares for their good opinion. Ten years ago he saw Helena Astley on a barren beach and knew this was the woman for him, but due to his youthful careless comments, she vows never to let him near her again. But, attraction has a way of getting past hurt feelings especially when a handsome duke is involved. Can Roan convince the independently minded Helena that he only cares for her?

This was such an enjoyable story. I loved the chemistry between Roan and Helena and how each of them tried to resist their mutual attraction. Helena was a smart business woman having inherited her father's shipping business and the fact that Roan understands this is the key to capturing her heart. The writing is superb although be warned this is a steamy romance with graphic sex scenes. They are written beautifully and fit the story so well. I can't wait to read Pippa's story next.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.

#Review: ANNOUNCING MISS THEODOSIA by Maggi Andersen


  3 of 5 stars

Lady Theodosia Tothill is experiencing her first Season, but all she really wants to do is write about crime stories. When she overhears a plot to murder someone at a ball, she wants to help. Lord Ashton Grainger saves Theo from being scene when one of the suspects looks out the window into the garden where Theo was standing. Not knowing if Theo was seen or not, Ash uses all his skills trying to keep her safe. When they were caught alone together in the library, Ash does the only honorable thing he can - he proposes. Theo wants to help prevent a murder and agrees to the engagement to stay close to Ash, but she never expects to fall for the handsome lord.

I was enjoying this story until the end. Theo and Ash were both interesting characters and I loved how they fell for each other. However, the wrapping up of the kidnapping plot and the subsequent demise of the villain was so disappointing. It showed no imagination whatsoever after such a build up in the story and ruined an otherwise good book for me. The book still earned 3 stars for an inventive plot.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.


Sunday, January 2, 2022

#Except: IMPERFECT by Holly Carr

Holly Carr
Publication date: August 2nd 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense

She isn’t looking for love. He’s running from it.

A workplace crush is supposed to be light-hearted. Frivolous, even. Just some daydream inspiration to make the hours go faster, or to fill in twenty boring minutes.

Sam isn’t ready to develop actual feelings for someone. Not with Logan still looming so large in her heart, and especially not when the subject of her infatuation is her new employer.

Alex doesn’t plan to fall in love ever again. Not after what happened with Victoria.

But fate seems determined to begin an unwanted love story, and a tentative romance blossoms as Alex and Sam battle the malicious sabotage of a rival company.

That is, until Alex’s evil ex-wife re-enters his life, threatening to take custody of their daughter.

Sam’s determination to help the desperate man stand up for himself brings the two would-be lovers closer, but Victoria’s antics only highlight to Alex the dangers of leaving himself vulnerable.

Can Sam convince him to set aside eleven years of stanch celibacy and give into his feelings?

And just how did he get that mysterious scar on his face?

This contemporary romantic suspense novel is perfect for readers with a soft spot for a hesitant love story, a single dad, and a relatable heroine.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Smashwords


Sam stood just inside the door to Dimitri’s office, leaving it ajar so she could see though the gap. She peered down the hallway so she could warn Alex if their unauthorised presence were pending discovery. Unable to relax, she repeatedly lamented her decision to accompany him. All that stopped her from abandoning her post and returning to the party was her fear she’d be caught on the way, thus making it more likely Alex would also be busted.

She’d uselessly checked the clock on her phone twice already. It made no difference, as Alex hadn’t specified a time limit. He wasn’t going to suddenly give up just because their breaking and entering had totalled ten whole minutes. But it gave her something to do, and she sorely needed a distraction to take the edge off her panic.

She periodically turned to watch Alex, hoping he would either find something soon or give up. He was going through Dimitri’s desk, skimming papers, and meticulously putting them back in the same order. So far, nothing out of the ordinary had shown up.

She’d already voiced her opinion it was unlikely anything so important would be written down on paper, and Alex had admitted she was probably right. Short of hacking his desktop, this was almost certainly a futile exercise. He’d confided that he was holding out hope because Dimitri was somewhat ‘old school’. There was potentially an interesting hardcopy stashed somewhere.

Finishing with the drawers, Alex started on the single tray of documents on top of the desk. Dimitri’s workspace was unencumbered by the clutter littering Alex’s. Being well past retirement age, Sam suspected he didn’t have as much to do with the day to day running of his company as Alex did.

I wonder how much work it would take to make Alex’s desk look like that, she thought. Probably more than she’d care to contemplate. Even if she managed it, the lack of visible tasks would only serve to make him anxious anyway. He was too used to having three people’s work to do.

Her head whipped back to the door when she heard a bell ring in the distance. ‘Someone’s getting out of the lift,’ she whispered urgently.

Alex looked up, startled. He was only about halfway through the tray, and she saw his eyes dart back to the pile, eager to keep looking. He spoke distractedly, more engrossed in his task than their conversation. ‘I’ll just finish looking at this and we’ll …’ A sick pallor washed over his face as he looked up at Sam again, who was frozen in shock.

They had both realised their predicament at the same time. Her self-appointed position as ‘lookout’ was completely useless. The only way out was the lift or the stairs beside the lift. If someone was coming this way, they were going to be caught red-handed.

Sam couldn’t believe they had both been that stupid. Alex’s eagerness combined with her discomfort had blinded them to the obvious. They’d trapped themselves. Their only hope was that whoever it was didn’t plan on coming in this direction.

Watching the hall nervously, she saw shadows coming from around the distant corner, and her heart sank as she realised the voices were getting closer. There was no doubt about it, they were coming this way.

Swiftly closing the door, she confirmed this fact to Alex. He uselessly put the papers back into the tray. No one would ever know he’d been through them if they could just somehow not be caught.

Their mere presence made his intentions obvious though. Even without the physical evidence of disorder, what other reason could they have for being here?

Sam answered her own question as she watched Alex stride around the desk looking grim. He appeared to be mentally preparing himself to face the music, but maybe they didn’t have to.

It’s crazy, she thought. Too crazy, but I can’t think of anything else.

It was a risk on a lot of levels. They’d still be ‘busted’ in a way, and she was sure Alex wasn’t going to like it, but it was all she could come up with on short notice. ‘Take off your jacket and undo your tie,’ she whispered.

Alex’s look of bleak determination turned to confusion. The request certainly didn’t fit the situation, but she didn’t have time to ease him into it gently.

‘If we can’t get out before they come in, we need a different reason to be here. Take off your jacket, and undo your tie and some buttons,’ she whispered again, more urgently this time, beginning to untie her skirt.

Author Bio:

Holly Carr was born in Victoria, Australia, where she still lives today with her husband and a cat with no sense of personal space. She graduated from Deakin University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations), majoring in Literary Studies.

Holly first began writing creatively while she was at university, only setting aside her incomplete manuscript due to time constraints. It took ten years before she finally sat down to write again, and her first completed novel ‘IMPERFECT’ practically wrote itself. She enjoyed the experience so much she has already begun work on another.

When she takes a break from writing, she enjoys occasional visits from her grown-up son, pole dancing, eating far too much Mexican food, and pretending to know a lot about wine.

You can get the first two chapters of her forthcoming novel ‘UNLUCKY’ for free at her website, or follow her on Facebook @hollycarrauthor and Instagram @holly_ylloh_holly.

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Friday, December 31, 2021

#Review: DUKE GONE ROGUE by Christy Carlyle


3.5 stars

Madeline Ravenwood and Will Hart, Duke of Ashmore, meet when Will takes a holiday to one of his estates in Haven Cove. Will is not well-liked by his peers because of his efforts to uncover all of his father's misdeeds. His sister Cora convinces him that a holiday was in his best interest and Will agrees. Little did he realize that Madeline was the same woman he met in London months ago when she witnesses his former fiance breaking their engagement. Madeline is attracted to the duke and though her life is devoted to duty to keep her family's nursery afloat and thriving, she takes time out of her busy schedule to spend time with Will. Can these two find common ground or will their fledgling love fizzle out?

This was an enjoyable story without a lot of conflict except for the H and h own doubts about being together. While a lot of time is spent on Madeline's nursery, only a few sentences are devoted to Will's quest to clear his family's name. I would have liked more backstory on this point as it was hard to feel the censure Society held him in without any examples besides the one of his ex-fiance's uncle. The romance between Will and Madeline is a slow-burn and when they finally succumb to their passion, it is not described in graphic detail. The story is a bit slow in parts, but if any couple deserves a HEA, it's these two. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

#Review: GIRLS BEFORE EARLS by Anna Bennett


  4 of 5 stars

When his brother and sister-in-law died in a tragic carriage accident Gabriel Beckett, Earl of Bladenton, found himself the guardian of their 15 year old daughter. He wants nothing to do with her and shuffles her from one boarding school to another. After Kitty gets kicked out of her 3rd boarding school, a small school run by Miss Hazel Lively is his last resort, but he never expects to be attracted to the prim and proper headmistress. Hazel has suffered tragedy in her early life and wants her school to be a welcoming place for girls. When she meets Bladenton, it surprises her that she's attracted to the sullen earl. Against her better judgment, she lets him enroll his niece with the stipulation he must visit Kitty every other week. Can Hazel remain professional or will her growing passion for the earl put everything she's worked for in jeopardy?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ms. Bennett writes full-bodied characters and both Hazel and Blade were likeable. Each of them try to work through tragedies in their lives and find that they can confide in each other without judgment. I loved their slow burn romance that started with a dare for a kiss. The secondary characters were also well written. There was really no major conflicts besides threats from Lady Penelope to expose their affair, but that threat soon fizzles. I look forward to more books in this series.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.