Wednesday, May 18, 2022

#Excerpt: THE LOVE LIST by Elana Johnson

The Love List
Elana Johnson
Publication date: May 17th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Beatrice Callahan loves lists. Sometimes she even makes a to-do list of things she’s already done, just to go check, check, check and feel accomplished. So it’s easy to understand why, when her divorce is finally final and her ex is all moved out, Bea takes a cool, close look at her life…and makes a list.

It’s not exactly a bucket list.

It’s a love list.

Bea loves the outdoors, so she puts visit 10 National Parks on the list.

She loves animals, and on goes get a puppy.

She loves the beach, and she adds take a dream vacation to the list, and decides to do that one first. After all she’s been through and all she’s lost, she needs time to relax, rest, and reset.

On the first day she arrives in Hilton Head Island, she meets Grant Turner, the man whose house she’s renting for her fabulous beach vacation. He’s just there to make sure she settles in properly and has enough towels.

But when Bea asks for recommendations around the island, Grant quickly becomes her tour guide and then a friend and then…more than friends.

Bea turns to her lists when things get confusing and her love list morphs once again… Can she add fall in love at age 45 to the list and check it off?

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Grant’s stomach rumbled as the line didn’t seem to dwindle at all. When he glanced at the clock, he dang near fell over. “I have to go,” he said, twisting to look at Cara like she was the boss and could dismiss him.

“No,” a woman said in a near-bark from the other side of the counter. “I need to put in my order.”

He turned and met a pair of dark blue eyes that reminded him of deeper waters off the shores of Hilton Head. The kind he’d fish in when he went out trawling with one of his friends who owed him for letting his mother stay in the best condo on the island for a weekend girls’ trip.

“Excuse me?”

“Did I hear you say I can’t get anything without a banana?” she asked, those eyes flying across the wall behind him. “They’re a really strong flavor profile.”

She wore her hair in a pixie cut, with fashionable bangs that hung in shaggy layers across the very tops of her eyebrows. In any other situation, Grant would classify her as beautiful, and if he held a drink in his hand instead of a blasted blue ballpoint pen, and if the music pumped through a tiki bar instead of wafted along the air conditioning currents in a smoothie shop, he might try to get her number.

“They’re what makes your smoothie smooth,” he said, irritation blipping through him.

“Fine,” the woman said with a sigh. She hitched her rustic, spotted-cow-purse higher on her shoulder. He did smile at that bag, wiping the gesture away quickly when she lifted her eyebrows and asked, “Are you ready to take my order?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said in true Southern-gentleman style.

“I’d like the Beach Sunrise, with half the banana.”

“No more raspberries,” Cara called just as Grant started writing. He froze and looked up at the woman.

“Uh,” he said.

“Let me guess,” she said. “I can’t have the Beach Sunrise.”

“It does have raspberries in it,” he said, and he congratulated himself that he didn’t even have to turn to look at the menu to know that. He’d enjoyed a fair few Beach Sunrises over the years, and he happened to like the raspberry, mango, and banana combination.

She emitted the sigh of the century, and Grant’s phone started buzzing at him. “Oliver,” he called down the line. “I have to go.”

Oliver burst out laughing with a customer down at the register, and Grant rolled his eyes.

“I’ll get him,” Cara said. She stopped making the smoothies and went down to Oliver. She said a couple of things, to which he leaned his head toward her, and then he looked down to Grant.

“I’ll have the Fake Sunset,” the woman with the cute hair and pretty eyes said.

Grant scratched out her order, flung the paper onto the slider, and dropped the pen. “I have to go,” he said to an approaching Oliver. “And I still don’t have my smoothie.”

“Ten minutes,” Oliver said. “I’ve got raspberries in the freezer. Can you do the register while I grab them?”

“The freezer” meant the grocery store half a mile away. Grant wasn’t stupid, nor was this the first time he’d helped Oliver in a pinch.

“How about I run and get the raspberries?” Grant asked. “Then when I get back, Cara will have my smoothie ready, and I can go.” He held his ground with the sandy-haired owner. Just because Oliver could charm scorpions didn’t mean Grant had to do his bidding. In fact, he had half a mind to leave for “the freezer” and never come back to The Mad Mango. It had certainly inspired some anger in him that afternoon—and he was in danger of being seriously late to meet his four o’clock check-in.

His phone hadn’t alerted him to her proximity, however, so he might be okay. Oliver didn’t need to know that, and Grant glared at his friend.

The woman who’d stood a foot or two down the counter listening stepped back toward them. She clearly wasn’t super happy. “Are you telling me I can have the Beach Sunrise?” she asked. “You just have to grab the raspberries out of the freezer?”

“Yes,” Oliver said at the same time Grant said, “No.”

Grant made an executive decision. “I’ll go grab the raspberries,” he said, walking in the wrong direction to get them from the freezer. “I can’t ring these people up.” He didn’t look back as he stepped away.

“If you can get raspberries,” the pixied woman said. “I want the Beach Sunrise.”

“Lady,” Grant said, cutting her a glare out of the corner of her eye. “I don’t work here. Let it go.”

A blender started making a horrible chugging noise, then metal on metal, all within a single second.

“Watch out,” Cara called from down where she’d just scooped frozen peaches into a blender cup.

“Watch out?” Grant swung his attention from the blonde woman with the stormy eyes to the counter that ran along the length of the back wall. The lid blew off the top of the blender in that moment, and all Grant had time to do was throw his hands up in front of his face and pray.

He entered some weird place where noise and feeling didn’t exist. He sensed them happening around him, but for some reason, they didn’t affect him. The weird sensation didn’t last long, and then everything came rushing at him at double-speed.

Cold seeped through his shirt and made his skin ripple with gooseflesh. More than one person shouted, and he could pick out Oliver’s voice saying to get some napkins and then for Cara to kill the power to the blenders.

The soul-wrenching sound of that metal on metal that said the blender bottle wasn’t seated with the motor rotor grated against his nerves, and then it blissfully ended.

“I’m so sorry,” Oliver said, but he wasn’t talking to Grant. He’d somehow gotten on the other side of the counter, and Grant wouldn’t put it past him to have vaulted the stupid thing, because the person he’d just apologized to?

The beautiful blonde…who now had Fake Sunrise dripping down the side of her neck.

Author Bio:

USA Today bestseller Elana Johnson writes adult contemporary beach romance. She is the author of over 130 books across two names, and there's nothing better than sun, sand, and swoon-worthy kisses! Unless it's a sweet-and-sexy cowboy - read those under her pen name of Liz Isaacson. Learn more about her sweet beach romances at Join her texting group by sending the word SAND to 474747 and get exclusive sales, freebies, and more.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Interview with River Starr, OATH-BREAKER


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

Oath-Breaker is the first of a demon romance duology set in our world after an invasion of celestials and demons from their world. They’ve remade the world as we know it, and the book centers around a character at the heart of that remaking: Ayla, current leader of the Order, a group of paladins chosen by a celestial to fight demons.


Ayla is headstrong and loyal to her paladins, so it’s no surprise that when one gets stuck inside the demon city of Alastia’s limits, she goes right in to save her. But when they’re caught and brought before the Angel of Death, Alastia’s demon king, everything changes. Because the Angel of Death is not only Ayla’s sworn enemy, but also her fated mate.


Oath-Breaker is a fun, action-packed enemies-to-lovers romance with equal parts action and sizzling steam. It was so much fun to write—I think it’s my favorite book I’ve written to date!


Do you have a favorite character?

Honestly, I really love Jessa! She’s a side character in Oath-Breaker, but she was just so interesting to write. Heroines need fantastic allies, and Jessa is that for Ayla. She’s her fellow paladin, her sister, her friend, and her rock.


Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?

I did try the traditional publishing route many years ago under a different name and in a different genre. It was a slog. I queried agents, I pitched agents at conferences, I participated in all of the old Twitter pitch contests. Ultimately, I found that the genres I wanted to write were not the genres that traditional publishing wanted to publish—but that’s okay, because the indie market is where those genres excel anyways! Now I get full creative control and a direct line to readers, and I couldn’t be happier!


What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?

A large factor was just how much of a slog the querying process was and the way traditional publishing works. I had a very specific vision for my first series way back when, and traditional publishing’s version of “success” was vastly different from mine. Another factor was creative control—I love that I now get to direct cover art, decide what types of stories to tell, and really just dive into the entire production and marketing process with full transparency to myself.


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

I definitely need to listen to music—it helps me drown out the outside world and focus on the story at hand. Normally, on my writing days, I write in huge chunks in the morning and take afternoons off to recharge. I write in 25-minute sprints and take breaks between. It’s fun to see those sprint numbers add up!


Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?

My process is a bit of both, honestly. I like to start with a bare-bones outline just to get an idea of structure. Then I go through and do a little more detail, add more beats, and then get a chapter-by-chapter outline together. But when I write, I follow my muse, so by the end the final book may not match the outline at all. Oftentimes new characters pop up, the order of things changes, and it’s almost always for the better. But I cannot start without some sort of direction decided!


Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book? Do you try to write everyday or carve out certain times during the week?

It’s definitely a challenge. I find balance hard in general because this is not my full-time job, so my writing and publishing hours are very limited. When I draft, I only draft, and that helps a lot, but it also means I have to pad in time around drafting to set up marketing and plot the next books and next series. I’d love to write every day, though! These days, it’s more of sprint drafting for 2-3 weeks, and then some time off for edits, admin, marketing, and other production activities. Then rinse and repeat 😊


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

Go at your own pace. Seriously. There are as many ways to burn out as there are release schedule models and writing advice. And what works for someone else may or may not work for you, and vice versa.


Whatever you decide to do, consistency is key in everything; writing, releasing, marketing, all of it. Whether you write every day and release every month, or write once every two weeks and release once a year—if you’re consistent at your own pace, it will all work out.


Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?

To start: I’m a Libra, so I can’t easily make decisions lol. I love the idea of owning a cat, but I love to visit other people’s dogs. I love both chocolate and vanilla, and coffee and tea. But all of these situationally. These days, I prefer night, but that’s because my sleep schedule is very messed up and the quiet early-morning hours are now my enemies-to-lovers love.


What’s next for you?

Next for me is getting ready to finish and release both Oath-Maker, the second half of this duology, and Monster Bride, the second half of my other duology that just released, Shadow Pact. That one is a monster romance and is also a lot of fun. Then I’m off to work on a large, 5-book project I’m also super excited about!

River Starr
Angel of Death & Demons, #1)
Publication date: May 5th 2022
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

No one survives their meeting with the Angel of Death—except for me.

After being accused of rallying citizens to revolt against him and breaking the rules of engagement with demons to save my best friend—guilty as charged on both accounts—the Angel of Death demands to personally oversee my sentencing in his obsidian castle of demons and death.

I’m done for. This is the end. But my death won’t be in vain—I’ll die a martyr to the Paladins Order’s cause, and I’ll rescue my best friend at the same time. She’ll be safe and the paladins will pick a new leader. They’ll thrive and continue the fight.

Or so I think. When judgment day arrives and I’m knelt before the Angel of Death, with his onyx eyes, his ebony hair, and his seductively imposing stature, my soul doesn’t leave me.

It soars.

Because when I dare to look the Angel of Death in the eyes, everything changes. And what unfolds in my anger and vengeance’s stead is a thread of events I never could have foreseen.

I survived my meeting with the Angel of Death. But can I survive his love?

OATH-BREAKER is the first of a M/F paranormal demon romance duology full of steamy goodness.

Goodreads / Amazon

Author Bio:

River Starr writes books that help you escape, especially fantasy romance full of magic and supernaturals. Favorite things: coffee, wine, chocolate, and a heavy dose of books to chase away the dark... or invite delicious darkness in.

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Friday, May 6, 2022

#Excerpt: DAUGHTER OF LIGHT by Eileen Dreyer

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Eileen Dreyer will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

He’s had enough…

Harry Wyatt, Earl of Hartley has enough problems trying to keep his estate solvent. What he does not need is yet another lost child showing up on his land looking for the Hartley Fairy Diamond made famous by a recent film. A fairy diamond that is no more than myth handed down by delusional ancestors and responsible for the perilous state of his finances. And yet there is something about this latest visitor, something beside her delicate beauty and troubling familiarity. Something that is compelling him to go against everything he believes to help her. To want her.

She’s on a quest…

Sorcha, daughter of Mab Queen of Fairies is on a quest. Dropped into a cold, alien world, it is her task to recover the great fairy stone that has been lost to the land of mortals, a stone whose absence has upended the balance of nature. If she doesn’t get the stone back, spring will not come. But there is a handsome mortal standing in her way. A mortal she is drawn to like no other man, fairy or mortal. A mortal who claims he doesn’t believe in her, but whose memories and fears say otherwise. A mortal with green fairy eyes. A mortal she could love, if only he weren’t mortal and she fairy.

Note: This title was previously published as Dark Seduction


Somewhere in the town, a clock struck the hour, bonging dolefully. Harry felt each strike in his chest, counting down the time they had left. He saw the realization dawn in Sorcha’s eyes, as well. God, he wanted to keep talking, nestled together like an old married couple on a Saturday morning, unhurried and easy. He wanted to just keep holding her, here, where no one could find them. He wanted more time.

“We don’t have it, Harry,” she said, as if hearing him. “We had this, though. It will keep me, I promise. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect memory. A more gentle or considerate lover.”

“I didn’t have any violent thoughts,” he mused, surprised that he hadn’t even worried about it before now.

Sorcha didn’t move. “I’ll tell the bean tighe thank you for you.”

“That’s all it took? Some herbs?”

“A temporary measure, Harry. We have to think about getting the rest of this day done.”

For a second all he could do was hold her as tightly as he could. Damn, where had those tears come from again? Harry Wyatt never wept. Not when his parents died, not when he’d realized what kind of condition they’d left his world in. Not when his gran had lost her legs, or he’d lost his chance to spend his days wandering the moors and glens he loved so much.

“We’ll get the day done,” he said. “I have some food coming up first. You need some nourishment.”

She actually chuckled. “Sure, after the exercise I’ve just had, I should think so.”

“Will I ever see you again after this?”

She went very still. He kept his hold on her, wrapping himself around her so that he could stay skin to skin with her, as if that would imprint her on his memory any better.

“Do you think it wise?” she asked. “Since I can’t stay and you can’t go?”

He closed his eyes and pulled her head to his chest. And for a long while he just inhaled her, cinnamon and honey and wildflowers. He satisfied himself with the silk of her body in his arms. He pretended they had all the time in the world.

About the Author:


New York Times bestselling author and RWA Hall of Fame member Eileen Dreyer and her evil twin Kathleen Korbel have published over forty novels and novellas, and ten short stories in genres ranging from medical suspense to paranormal to romance. She is thrilled to have joined Oliver Heber Books to continue her Drake’s Rakes series about Regency aristocrats who are willing to sacrifice everything to keep their country safe, of which Ill Met by Moonlight is a near relative.

A former trauma nurse, Eileen lives in St. Louis with her husband, children and large and noisy Irish family, of which she is the reluctant matriarch. A seasoned conference speaker, Dreyer travels to research, and uses research as an excuse to travel. Oh, who's she kidding? She doesn't need an excuse. She has the Irish wanderlust and satisfies it as often as she can to the point that she has sung traditional Irish music on four continents. She also had the incredible chance to research Drake’s Rakes by attending the 200th anniversary of not only the Battle of Waterloo, but the Duchess of Richmond ball (in period attire). She has animals, but refuses to subject them to the limelight.



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Monday, May 2, 2022

#Excerpt: ICE FLOE by Melissa Birling

Ice Floe
Melissa Birling
Publication date: April 28th 2022
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult


Seventeen-year-old Glacia didn’t plan to track a kidnapper, stick a middle finger to the government, and fall into a forbidden summer fling. This is simply what happens when you’re the resident odd girl out, in a shoal of all-female mermaids whose values are a little cracked. Or a lot cracked, if you consider government-endorsed murder and the seizure of male infants to be an issue.

When society rules, family, and romance collide, Glacia fights back the best way she knows how: by taking the matter into her own combat-trained hands and kicking some tail. The problem is, no amount of training can prepare Glacia for the crime circle she discovers, secrets she unveils, and human guy she can’t get out of her head. Glacia finds herself at a crossroads where she must decide whose rules to follow. Who she can trust. And ultimately…who lives and who dies.

Goodreads / Amazon


We’ve been sitting on the ledge a while now, mostly staring at the view. I steal occasional glances at Tucker. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a force between us. Energy. A pulse. A magnet. Something. Every time I focus my thoughts elsewhere, he pulls me back in. It’s distracting.

“You ready to head down?” he asks.
“You might as well get started. I can’t climb down with all your equipment in the way.” “I have an extra harness. You should come down with me.” He reaches for his pack and stands up.

I jump up to join him. “No way. I’m not hooking myself into that death trap.” “Glacia, come on. This cliff is super challenging, and it’s way more difficult to climb down than up,” he says, his voice growing louder. Here we go again.
“I’ll be fine once you get your stuff out of the way.” I raise my volume to match his. “It’s not safe. I would feel horrible if I let you climb down and you got hurt.”
“Let me?”
“Not let you. It’s your choice.”
“I choose NO.”
He clenches his jaw tightly and grinds his teeth. I take a few steps back in preparation.

There’s enough room up here to land a solid kick to the face. That should knock him out, then I’ll have to figure out a way to climb down his cat’s cradle setup. Tucker crosses one arm over his chest and raises a hand to cover his mouth. We glare at each other – at an impasse.

“Let’s make a deal,” he offers. “You climb down with me using a harness and rope, and I’ll take you on a boat ride.”

This catches my attention.

“That’s right, I saw you light up when I mentioned my dad’s boat shop,” he continues with a cocky air.

He’s more perceptive than I gave him credit for. Volatile and perceptive. A hefty combination.

“Have you ever been on a boat?” he asks.

I shake my head. I would love to go on a boat. Tucker knows how to fix them and can teach me everything a trainer could, plus more. What am I thinking? This is crazy. I can’t go on a boat with a human. What excuse would I give if I got caught? I can’t pretend I’m seducing. Everyone knows that’s not high on my priority list, and you’re not supposed to seduce alone. Maybe I could say that I’m collecting information to share with the girls I teach… Hmm. That’s almost believable, given my dedication to the studio.

Tucker can tell I’m on the fence about it and ups the ante. “I’ll teach you to drive the boat.”

Unfair. Of course, I want to learn how to drive a boat. That’s a beyond useful skill in my back pocket. I peek down the cliff face to assess the reliability of Tucker’s wedge-rope system. Stupid. Like I know what I’m looking for.

“Fine,” I agree. “We need to be hooked together, so if I die, you die.”
“Seems reasonable.”
“AND I get to drive the boat.”
“Deal. Let’s see, today is Monday, and I already have plans tomorrow. Wednesday?” “What time?”
“Eleven a.m. on the Ula pier.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
Tucker flips his pack around, unclips a belt, and offers it to me. “Do you know how to wear a harness?”
I snatch it from him, compare it to his gear, and step into the leg holes. When I have it all clipped in, I throw my hands on my hips. “Now what?” I ask.

Tucker leans in toward me, rope in hand, then pulls back and reconsiders. “That’s not quite right,” he says haltingly. “Can I fix your harness?”

“I already agreed to this mess, didn’t I?”

He rolls his eyes. “I think that’s a yes. Pull the harness up – it has to sit higher on your hips.”

I follow his instructions, and he flops the rope over one arm. He moves in closer and bends down to reposition the harness. His fingers wrap around the loop against my leg as he pulls it up below my hip. My heart beats faster and my insides twists. I evaluate the top of Tucker’s head in an effort to distinguish these sensations from other emotions. He secures the loop and raises his gaze to meet mine.

“Is that too tight?” he asks. His hazel eyes penetrate mine. The edges are a deep brown that blend into a murky green with an amber starburst around the pupil.

I shake my head and look away. I hope he can’t tell how disoriented this is making me. “Pull the tabs on your waist tighter,” he instructs.
I cinch the waist while he rearranges the other loop on my leg. Why is this making me so agitated? He’s only fixing my gear so I don’t fall to my death. Tucker gathers the rope into his hand and reaches out to tie it to the front belt loop. As he does, his fingers brush my skin just below my belly button. A jolt of electricity shoots through my body. I take in a small gasp of air and hold my breath. He freezes, his fingers lingering on my stomach. Did he feel that too?

Author Bio:

Melissa Birling strives to experience life from a “both and” rather than “either or” perspective. She enjoys living in metropolitan cities and on a small farm. She appreciates burn-your-tongue Mexican cuisine and delicious London pub food. Lately, Melissa spends her time engaging with cyber security professionals and mermaids. Not actual mermaids, although if you know any, she’d love to meet them.

The revelation that one can be both a successful corporate consultant and a fantasy author who writes about mermaids, encouraged Melissa to finish her debut novel, Ice Floe. The emotional high of typing “The End” at the completion of her first draft, triggered a writing spree that hasn’t stopped since. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you will find Melissa writing. She won’t respond to any attempts at human engagement, because she’s “at a good part,” but you’ll find her typing away, nevertheless.

Melissa lives with a ceaselessly supportive husband and their dog who enjoys hunting neighborhood skunks.

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Saturday, April 30, 2022

#Review: UNMASKING THE THIEF by Mary Lancaster


  4 of 5 stars

Francisco de Salgado wants to resign from working for the British government, but he agrees to one last mission to find out if there is any truth to the rumor that someone is organizing an insurgency movement across Britain in the hopes of toppling the government. His first lead takes him to Maida, the Pleasure Gardens. He follows the wrong woman and by chance he meets governess Matty Mather. Francis can't get the young woman out of his mind and he risks his mission to be closer to her. Matty is content with her life as a governess, that is, until she meets Francis. She knows he's dangerous, but she's drawn to him like a moth to the flame. Can she help him with his mission without losing her heart to the handsome spy?

This was another enjoyable read in the Pleasure Garden series. There was a good mix of intrigue, danger, tension and attraction between Francis and Matty. Ms. Lancaster knows how to drawn in the reader with her dark and sexy heroes. I also loved Matty. She knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it. I was happy to see she didn't turn into a whimpering miss once she had feelings for Francis. 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. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

#Review: RULES FOR ENGAGING THE EARL by Janna MacGregor



4 of 5 stars

Jonathan, Earl of Sykeston, came home from the war a broken man, not only physically but mentally as well. He can no longer walk without a cane and he mourns the man he used to be by cutting himself off from everything and everyone he knows. When Constance Lysander asks for his help, she's the one person he can never deny. He's the only woman he's ever loved. She had been caught in a terrible scandal when it became known that her husband was married to 2 other women. Now she needs to marry so her unborn child will not be a bastard. Jonathan steps up and agrees to marry Constance in name only. They're both are hiding secrets and when Constance finally joins him at his estate a year later, they will be hard-pressed to learn to trust each other.

For me this book was about trust--Jonathan suffers from PTSD and feels he's unworthy of love and Constance has serious issues of abandonment. They tiptoe around each other with Jonathan hiding mostly in his study and Constance trying to find ways to reach him. I liked Constance as she tried to reach Jonathan with understanding and never pity. I felt so bad for Jonathan. He was so damaged and only the loving ways of a devoted wife could reach him if only he allowed it. When secrets are revealed, they threaten the fragile relationship they had formed. Ms. MacGregor does an excellent job of letting the reader into each character's most private thoughts. The plot moves along nicely with the addition of a couple of secondary characters. Looking forward to reading Beth's story next!

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


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

#Excerpt: BRIDGES by Linda Griffin

Linda Griffin
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: April 25th 2022
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance

In 1963, Neil Vincent, a middle-aged World War II veteran and “Christian atheist” is working at Westfield Court as a chauffeur. He spends most of his spare time reading. Mary Claire DeWinter is a young, blind, Catholic college student and reluctant heiress. To secure her inheritance, she has to marry within a year, and her aunt is pressuring her to marry a rich man who teased and bullied her when she was a child. Neil and Mary Claire shouldn’t even be friends, but the gulf between them is bridged by a shared love of books. Can they cross the bridge to more?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


On the drive to Brierly Station, he didn’t speculate about who Miss DeWinter might be. It wasn’t his job to know who she was, only to meet her train and take her safely back to Westfield Court. She wouldn’t be the last of the friends and relatives who would gather as the old man’s life came to its long-awaited and peaceful end.

Brierly was bustling today, as restless as the St. James household. He was in plenty of time for the train and sat in the car reading. The car was a Bentley Mark VI, as well-maintained and highly polished as it was the day it was purchased. The book he was reading was Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native.

When the train rumbled in, he got out of the car. He stood patiently on the platform as the passengers disembarked, holding up a small slate on which he had chalked DEWINTER in large capitals. There weren’t many passengers, but they were briefly delayed while the conductor helped a blind woman navigate the steps. Neil’s gaze fell expectantly on a woman in her thirties, with an awful hat, but she was immediately met by a portly man and a teenage boy. No other likely prospects appeared, and he waited for someone to respond to the sign. No one did.

Finally, only two passengers were left on the platform—a small, homely man and the blind woman. Blind girl, really. She couldn’t be more than twenty. She had a jointed white cane, and her large sunglasses didn’t cover the edges of the scars on her face. She would not have been beautiful even without the scars—too thin, for starters, of average height but with small bones. On the other hand, her face might once have been pretty, and her hair was clean and shining, raven black, and well brushed. She was too pale, and the scars around her eyes were red and ugly. She looked a little lost.

Feeling foolish, he lowered the slate. “Miss DeWinter?” he asked as he approached her.

“Yes,” she said, turning toward his voice with a smile.

“I’m Vincent,” he said. “The St. James chauffeur.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Vincent,” she said. “Thank you for meeting me.” Her voice was soft, her enunciation perfect.

The porter fetched her luggage—a single gray vinyl suitcase with a flower decal—from the depot and turned it over to Neil with a cheerful nod. Jane would be disappointed, especially if the girl’s other clothes were as plain as what she wore, a simple dark dress with long sleeves and an unfashionable, below-the-knees hemline. “Would you take my arm?” he asked, positioning himself so she could place her hand in the crook of his elbow, which she did with easy confidence.

“Do you have a Christian name?” she asked.

“Yes, miss. It’s Neil.”

“That’s a good name,” she said. “Mine is Mary Claire. How is my grandfather, do you know?”

Neil, who hadn’t known the old man had any grandchildren, said, “Hanging on, miss.”

He opened the car door and helped her into the back seat.

“You don’t have to call me ‘miss’ all the time,” she said. “Please call me Mary Claire. Or my friends at school call me Sunny.”

“Yes, miss,” he said automatically and closed the door.

Author Bio:

For more information, visit my website, sign up for my newsletter, and claim a free autographed copy of Stonebridge:

I was born and raised in San Diego, California and earned a BA in English from San Diego State University and an MLS from UCLA. I began my career as a reference and collection development librarian in the Art and Music Section of the San Diego Public Library and then transferred to the Literature and Languages Section, where I had the pleasure of managing the Central Library’s Fiction collection and initiating fiction order lists for the entire library system. Although I also enjoy reading biography, memoir, and history, fiction remains my first love. In addition to the three R’s—reading, writing, and research—I enjoy Scrabble, movies, and travel.

My earliest ambition was to be a “book maker” and I wrote my first story, “Judy and the Fairies,” with a plot stolen from a comic book, at the age of six. I broke into print in college with a story in the San Diego State University literary journal, The Phoenix, but most of my magazine publications came after I left the library to spend more time on my writing.

My stories have been published in numerous journals, including Eclectica, Thema Literary Journal, The Binnacle, The Nassau Review, Orbis, and Avalon Literary Review, and in the anthologies Short Story America, Vol. 2, The Captive and the Dead, and Australia Burns. Four stories, including one as yet unpublished, received honorable mention in the Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction contests.

Member of RWA, Authors Guild, and Sisters in Crime

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

#Review: NEVER A DUKE by Grace Burrowes


  4 of 5 stars

Ned Wentworth will always be grateful being plucked from prison and given a job at the Wentworth bank by the Duke of Walden. He's loyal and works hard for the family, but he hasn't found a lady who captures his heart, that is, until Lady Rosalind Kinwood asks for his help in locating her missing maids. The more time Ned spends in the lady's company, the more he enjoys it. Rosalind has been bullied by her family and the ton over the years and she tries hard not to let them upset her. When she asks Ned for help, she has no idea he's exactly what she needs.

I loved Ned. He was so honorable, kind and compassionate and enjoyed spending time with Lady Rosalind. He's the first man that has actually listened to her and she plans more outings with him much to the disapproval of her family. There's a nefarious plot afoot kidnapping young women off the streets of London and Rosalind knows Ned will not stop until he finds them. The pace of the book moves along nicely with the slow burn romance and the mystery of who the villain is. There's a great twist at the end when the villain is finally revealed. Through a lot of bumps along the way, Ned and Rosalind finally find their HEA much to the delight of the Wentworth family. It might be helpful to read the previous books in the series especially the first one to understand how Ned met the duke.

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


Monday, April 25, 2022

#Review: LOVE, LIES and TREASONOUS SPIES by Anne Shaw



  3.5  of 5 stars


Sir Jack Sterling is on the hunt for the elusive spy and traitor, the Hawk. The Hawk grows bolder and doesn't care who is hurt or killed and Jack is determined to catch the traitor. What he doesn't count on is for his friend's younger sister, Rachel Farnsworth, to insert herself in the middle of his investigation. Rachel is chafing at her father's high-handedness in forcing her to marry this Season. It's the last thing she wants. If she stays single until she reaches her majority, she'll inherit her childhood home Rosewood free and clear. It's all she's ever wanted even above a husband and children. She has no idea the trouble she's in nor that Jack is trying to protect her at all costs.


This was an intriguing spy story full of twists and turns. I enjoyed it, but found problems with the book. As the first book in a new series, I wished the author had better explained what the Tenet Club was. It was confusing as to what they actually did. Were they a private club? The Crown's spies? A branch of the Home Office?  The villain was referred to as The Hawk or The Fowl which made me think there was more than one villain. For clarity, it would have been better to just refer to the villain by one name. I also wasn't a fan of Rachel. She acted like a spoiled brat throughout most of the book especially when she kept going against Jack's advice. When she doesn't get her own way, she pouts and sulks like a child. Jack on the other hand was an honorable and likable gentleman who was determined to catch the spy who had caused so much trauma to those he loved. The mystery of who The Hawk is was well done. I had figured out who it was, but the reasoning behind the Hawk's actions was compelling and unexpected.


It will be interesting to see where the author takes this series. Her writing is compelling and with a little more attention to detail, it could be an outstanding series.


Follow the gentlemen of the Tenet Club—an elusive group of noblemen that investigates crimes committed by the nobility—on a rousing journey of romance, suspense, and a guaranteed happily ever-after.

Sir Jack Sterling is on the trail of a treasonous spy. He follows a lead to a masquerade, where a moonlight garden—plus an inebriated heiress—equals trouble to more than his investigation.

Miss Rachel Farnsworth has vowed never to wed, preferring her freedom to an oppressive marriage. While at a masquerade, she steals a kiss from a masked stranger that awakes something deep inside her — a thrilling desire for genuine passion.

Sir Jack has no room in his volatile life for romance, yet he can’t stop thinking about Rachel. The spy threatens her life, and he is forced to take her into his confidence.

Following a trail of deception and lies, the pair struggle against the desire growing between them.

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