Friday, June 2, 2023

#Review: MATCHING THE MARQUESS by Darcy Burke


 4 of 5 stars

This was a story of love, loss, pain, unbearable grief, and the coming together of two people who have experienced it all. Benjamin Nash, Marquess of Creslow, knows he needs to marry, but he cannot bear the thought of opening his heart again after what happened in the past, so he hires a matchmaker, Rebecca Sweet, to find him a bride with a "no love" stipulation.  He's handsome, charming, and witty as long as he doesn't feel anything for the women he's flirting with. I felt such empathy for Nash, and the author does a good job of explaining why he felt the way he did.

Rebecca Sweet was left penniless by her philandering husband, and she vows she will never again let another man control her. A brief interlude several months before Nash hires her as a matchmaker sets the stage for a reunion of sorts. Rebecca knew who he was, but Nash was in the dark about her name. He endures another shock when he meets the matchmaker and finds out it's the same woman he's been thinking about for months. The rest of the story takes place in Merrywell at the matchmaking festival and Rebecca's hometown.

Sparks fly between these two, but each of them is stuck in the past over lost love, lost family, and lost independence and cannot let go. I liked Rebecca. She was strong and resilient despite the hardship of her marriage and then the death of her husband. She doesn't mourn him in her heart and sets out to carve out a life for herself where she is no longer dependent on a man for her happiness. Can these two finally connect for a second chance at love?

This was another good edition to the series, although readers should know there are some graphic sex scenes in the story. I voluntarily read the story, and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

#Review: LONG LOST by Rochelle L Wilcox


4 of 5 stars

This story starts with a bang, with Franco being attacked on the streets of LA by his brother Luke. Their fight escalates, and it's soon apparent these two are not humans as they fly up in the air, trying to get the best of each other. Unfortunately, a young human woman, Lia, witnesses their fight--something that should never happen and can not be tolerated. Franco gets the upper hand with Luke, and his brother races off, but now Franco is left with a problem. He must wipe Lia's memory, and she has no intention of letting him near her, so he does the only thing he can and kidnaps her and races to his sister's home in Texas. 

There are lots of cat-and-mouse chases and fight scenes, and along the way, Franco finally reveals to Lia who he actually is. Of course, Lia doesn't believe he's the Norse god, Freyr. Unfortunately, this revelation doesn't happen until about the 30% mark on my Kindle. I could have easily skipped all the in-between fight scenes with Luke, aka Loki and Thor, and just started with Freyr's sister, who happens to be the Norse goddess of love, Freyrj, because Loki and Thor find them anyway. Most of the narrative is driven by Freyr and what he thinks and feels, and I would have liked to see more of Lia's thoughts and not just when Freyr asks her a question. 

Freyrj's husband, Will, is a nice addition to the cast of characters. His love for Freyrj shines through everything he says and does, and I think his presence helps Lia come to grips with the situation she finds herself in. She can't return to LA with her intact memories, and even if Freyr wipes her memories of what she saw that day, there's no guarantee that Loki, Thor, or another member of the family won't kill her anyway to protect their identities. 

The author does a good job of teasing out why the family wants Freyr dead, and the journey to Asgard is fraught with danger from mythical creatures. Who doesn't love dragons and giants? The group finds themselves in peril time after time as they travel through the Earth on their way to Asgard, and I enjoyed Ms. Wilcox's vivid imagination. She has clearly done her research into Norse mythology, especially when the group reaches Asgard and Odinn. Of course, the feud Loki and Thor have against Freyr turns into a battle to the death to win Lia's freedom. Will Freyr prevail one last time against the thunder god, Thor?

While the author does wrap up one of the major plot points in the story, I'm not a fan of cliffhangers, especially ones that carry through to the other books. With three additional books in the series, it doesn't look like there is a final resolution of Freyr and Lia's love until the final book. If you love Norse mythology, this series will certainly entertain you as Ms. Wilcox brings all those myths and legends to life.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy provided by N.N. Light Book Heaven, and all opinions are my own.

#Excerpt: UNTIL I'M SAFE IN YOUR ARMS, by Jenna Jaxon

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jenna Jaxon will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Can a wager to find a wife turn into a true love match?

Entered into a wager that he can wed within a week, Captain Alex Bancroft pursues the first pretty woman he meets: Miss Emma Washer. Their courtship proceeds at a furious pace, including a dalliance that might ruin them both. Before it can, Alex proposes and is stunned when Emma agrees to marry him. Alex desperately tries to keep word of the wager from his new wife, not knowing Emma has secrets of her own to keep.

As passion erupts between the newlywed pair, the circumstances of Emma’s past threaten to tear them asunder. Alex’s regiment is directed to sail to a place Emma dares not go.

She refuses to accompany him, leaving Alex with a devastating choice: leave England to fulfill duty to Queen and country or stay and revel in his newfound love for his wife?


As soon as they reached the flowered arbor, Emma ducked into its shadowy depths. Its coolness came as a welcomed surprise and the perfume of the overhanging blooms made her head spin with the heavy scent. Alex held the swing and she sank onto it gratefully. Between the heat without, the sudden coolness within, the intense sweetness of the flowers, and Alex’s presence, her head had begun to spin. She glanced up at him and patted the seat by her. “Will you sit beside me?”

“In a moment, perhaps.” He strode to the edge of the bower and peered down the path they’d just taken. His head moved back and forth as he scanned the garden, then apparently satisfied with what he saw, Alex turned back to her. “Good. It seems we are very much alone.”

Emma’s eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat as he dropped gracefully to one knee and took her hand.

“We have known one another for only a matter of days, Emma, but I believe you to be the loveliest woman of my acquaintance. Sweet, kind, beautiful…” He grinned. “And the tiniest bit naughty, making you the perfect woman for me.”

Gazing into his deep blue eyes staring so intently at her, Emma could scarcely breathe beyond little hitching gasps. Was this real? Was she about to hear the question she’d longed to answer ever since seeing him…was it only three days ago? Her hands trembled in his grip. Dear God, don’t let her faint.

About the Author:
Jenna Jaxon is a best-selling author of historical romance, writing in a variety of time periods because she believes that passion is timeless. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, Jenna has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all these elements into her own stories.

She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets--including Olive, an almost silent cat, Earl Grey, a very curious bunny, and a Shar-pei mix named Frenchie.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

#Review: THE HEIRESS BRIDE by Madeline Hunter


4 of 5 stars

This was an intriguing and exciting story! Miss Iris Barrington came to London to uncover a mystery surrounding her grandfather's good name, which had been tarnished by the accusation that he stole a valuable book. Nicholas Radnor, the Duke of Hollinburgh, allows Iris to examine his estate's libraries looking for the rare book at the heart of her family's scandal as well as his own. But can Iris keep things strictly business when confronted with the devastatingly handsome Duke?

I loved Iris. She was smart and exceedingly clever, trying to rectify a wrong done to her family. Nicholas was so honorable even though what Iris could uncover may shine unfavorably upon his own family. Iris also ignited a longing in him that he'd never experienced before. Through many twists and turns that keep me glued to the story, the mystery behind the scandal is finally revealed. I confess I didn't see it coming. The only criticism is that there were so many cousins mentioned that it was a tad confusing trying to remember who was who and how they were all related. The story moved along at a good pace and was an excellent example of weaving a story around a long-ago scandal.

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

#Review: HIS STUDY IN SCANDAL by Megan Frampton


3 of 5 stars

Alexandra, Duchess of Chelmsworth, is finally out of mourning after 2 years--mourning a man she never loved. She's finally no longer beholden to a man telling her what to do. The only thing the duke did right was to give her a daughter, and now Alexandra must navigate the marriage mart to find her daughter a husband. Except, the current duke, her stepson, has just informed her that Harriet will marry Mr. Theo Osborne. Alexandra has one last night of freedom before the Season starts, and she heads to the pleasure Garden of Hedon where she meets the most extraordinarily handsome man--one who listens to her and does what she wants without demanding anything in return. He gives her a night of unimaginable pleasure, and she never gets his name. Imagine her shock when the duke introduces Theo as the suitor for Alexandra's daughter. Theo has never been so affected by a woman as he was when he spent the night with a beautiful woman, only to discover she is the mother of the young woman the Duke of Chelmsworth wants him to marry. How can he marry the daughter when all he can do is think about the mother?

This story started off great. Alexandra had been browbeaten for nearly two decades by the former duke, and she was finally starting to assert herself in making choices for the rest of her life. She wanted her daughter to have a choice to decide her life--choices she was never given. After she discovers who Theo is, the story could have been an opportunity for tremendous growth for both her and Theo, but that's not what happened. In the last 3/4 of the book, all Alexandra does is complain about men who make unilateral decisions, and when Theo tries to rush in and save a very bad situation, she gets furious with him for interfering, which is really ridiculous seeing as she had been relying on him for weeks to help her navigate the sticky situation with the duke. I didn't really connect with Alexandra. She was just so whiny about how she's never given a choice. I loved Theo. He is so honorable and wants to do everything in his power to help Alexandra, but when he steps into a very tense situation and offers a solution, Alexandra turns on him and lumps him in with all the other men in her life who have controlled and disappointed her. I'm surprised Theo stayed around after that. While I absolutely loved the first book, this one fell a little flat for me. I'm looking forward to reading more about the orphans!

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

Thursday, May 18, 2023

#Review: ISLAND HEAT by Debby Grahl


4 of 5 stars

I love cruises, and a story revolving around a mystery cruise was such a fun way to open the story. Suzanna Shay is a young woman trapped in a ho-hum life until she finds out she's won a spot on the mystery cruise.  Her domineering mother warns her of the dangers of being a young woman alone, but Suzanna is tired of being a timid mouse and wants adventure. To say she was in for quite an adventure is an understatement with everything that happens to her aboard the ship.

From the moment Suzanna meets thriller writer Austen Kincaid onboard, she can't stop the fluttering in her belly. He's the most handsome man she's ever met and decides this will be the time for her to shed her little mouse personality and be bold. From the moment these two get together, their heat is scorching while they try to figure out the clues to the mystery. The heat level is intense, so those who prefer a sweet story might want to look elsewhere.

Haley Henderson is not a woman to be scorned. She's the owner, along with her husband Brad of H&H Publishing, the same publishing house that Austen is offered a contract. Known for extra-marital affairs in the past, the moment she sets her eyes on Austen, she wants the hunky writer. She will do whatever is necessary to have him. Problem is, Austen has no interest in her and tells her so. Never one to be denied anything, Haley goes to more and more bizarre ways to get Austen into her bed, including blackmail. Unfortunately for Austen, Haley tells Suzanna of their fake affair, which devastates Suzanna, and she ends their romance heartbroken. 

A year later, Austen is invited to a mystery conference, and Suzanna's new bookstore in Hilton Head is one of the sponsors. When she sees Austen, she tries to brush him off, but after a lot of groveling and extensive explanations, Suzanna finally realizes that she's been a victim of Haley's viciousness. The events at the conference keep the story moving forward at a fast pace, and without revealing any more of the plot, I was surprised by how the story ends. It was everything a good mystery needs, and I enjoyed it immensely. My only slight criticism is that so much was made of Suzanna's domineering mother at the beginning of the book; I was a little disappointed when she didn't make an appearance at the end of the book, especially since she had read Austen's book. Ms. Grahl has woven an intriguing and exciting mystery that will keep readers turning the pages.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy provided by N.N. Light's Book Heaven and all opinions are my own.

Monday, May 15, 2023

#Review: THE LAST LORD STANDING by Diana Lloyd


4 of 5 stars

Lady Olivia Liberty Chalford is feeling unsettled. As the daughter of an earl, she enjoys a life of luxury, but she knows there are so many without enough food to eat or coal to keep warm. She wants to help those less fortunate and believes she can start a charity for that purpose, but she wants to do it all by herself. At her birthday ball, she accidentally runs into Kerrigan Northam, and that starts the beginning of their adventure together. Kerrigan has his own agenda, as he's been tasked by his three friends to keep an eye on Lady Olivia and keep all other gentlemen away from her. The problem is the more time Kerrigan spends in her company, the more he wants her for himself. Can Lady Olivia ever love a mere mister like him?

I loved Olivia (Libby). She was headstrong, independent, and driven to help those in need. She wants to prove to everyone that she's more than a pretty face, but things don't always go as planned. When she convinces Kerrigan to help her in her "research" into what the poor really need, a series of events involving Kerrigan's cousin Charlie turns their world upside down. Kerrigan is such an honorable gentleman, although when he's around Libby, he can't seem to say no or stay away from her. When things go horribly wrong at the hands of Charlie, Libby narrowly escapes the consequences, but Kerrigan is not so lucky. Libby has no choice but to confess all to her parents and seek their help. The plot moves along at a good pace, and the secondary characters help round out the story. Ms. Lloyd is masterful in teasing out Libby's ideas throughout the first couple of chapters. I really enjoyed the different settings for the story, and Libby's ideas for helping others are quite unique in how she "researches" their needs. After many twists and turns, Kerrigan and Libby finally get their HEA.

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

Monday, May 8, 2023

#Review: EARLS RUSH IN by Jennifer Haymore


4 of 5 stars

Finn, the Earl of Trevelyan, has loved his best friend's sister, Charlotte Chapman, since they were both children, but he dares not tell her. When Chris is challenged to a duel, and the worst happens, Finn blames himself for Chris's death. He vowed to take care of Charlotte and her sister while keeping his involvement in the duel secret. When Charlotte accepts a marriage proposal from Reginald Bagshaw, Finn kidnaps her to keep her from going through with it. Unfortunately, things are not so straightforward for Charlotte, but when she and Finn get stranded in a blizzard and must stay at an inn together, things between them get even more complicated. No one must know they spent three days alone together, but the truth has a way of leaking out. Can Finn keep Charlotte safe, or will everything he promised Chris come tumbling down?

I really like Charlotte. She was strong, capable and would do everything in her power to protect her younger sister, even when her uncle evicted her from her childhood home. Finn was not a suave hero, and it was a refreshing change to see someone who was brutish and awkward but with a heart of gold. The villain was soulless, as most villains are, but he was especially evil. Ms. Haymore does a good job of teasing out the details of what really happened to Charlotte's brother Chris. The secondary characters rounded out the story and made it quite interesting. There are a few sex scenes, so readers who prefer sweet stories should be warned. I would love to see the next story involve Finn's friend, the Marquis of Ridgemont. 

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

Friday, May 5, 2023

Interview with Karen Charles, FATEFUL CONNECTIONS

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

"Fateful Connections" follows a group of four CEO's as they gather for an executive conference in Seattle on September 11, 2001. As they attempt to reach home following the day's catastrophic events, they are besieged by terrorists of a different kind. The story follows their troubles, trauma, and redemption as they race to safety amidst international chaos. Much of the history and events of 9/11 are woven throughout the story. This compelling, exciting story captures the reader's attention from the first page. As the story progresses, the reader will become thoroughly invested in the lives of the intriguing main characters and a number of antagonists and eager to discover their ultimate fates.


Briefly describe your journey in writing your first or latest book. Have you joined any FB author groups to inspire and help you along the way?  

My first published writing was a poem.  When I was eight years old, my family moved to Nigeria, West Africa.  I was taken with the beauty and elegance of the African crowned crane.  My mom sent a poem I wrote about the cranes to Jack and Jill children’s magazine and they published it.   


Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?  

Right now I am self-publishing and have another manuscript in the works.


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

Writing is not a career for me but rather a hobby.  Self-publishing allows me freedom to publish at any time and keep all the rights to my books.  Social media platforms allow expansion far beyond what I could do on my own.  Self-publishing gives me the freedom to be myself, preserving the dignity and genius of my objective.


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

My writing process is curling up in a quiet spot and writing a chapter in my notebook.  After making changes, I type it on the computer, copy it, and edit. 


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

When I begin a story, I outline it, making notes about my ideas.  Then I list the characters, how they look, and what character traits each one has.  After I begin, it may turn out quite differently than my original outline. 


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

I absolutely hired an editor.  “Edit or regret it!”


Besides writing, do you have any other passions?  

As an educator, I was passionate about teaching children to read at a high reading level.  Now that I’m retired from teaching, I own and manage an Airbnb on a bay in Washington State which gives me time to write while I have guests.  


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

Some fun facts about me are – I love the outdoors, gardening, hiking, sunrises, and traveling.


What’s next for you? 

I’ve begun another thriller based on a true story of a family caught in catastrophic events.

Author bio:

Karen Charles is a children's book author and educator. She lives with her husband on a beautiful bay in Washington State. Her latest book is the thriller, Fateful Connections.


Twitter: www.karenra24229683



#Excerpt: STAY FOR ME by Tam Derudder

Stay For Me
Tam DeRudder Jackson
(The Balefire Series, #5)
Publication date: April 27th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance


I’ve made a few mistakes over the last decade, but the one I regret most was letting Olivia Carter go. When I see her again, the past crashes over me, reminding of everything I ever wanted and gave up when I let our dreams separate us.

Managing Balefire into the world’s biggest rock band came at a personal cost—walking away from my only love. When fate brings her back into my life, I’m determined not to screw up again. After Balefire hires her studio to produce their next music video, I have a second chance to rewrite our song—if I can convince her I’m a changed man.


Ten years ago, Garrett Phillips chose to go with “his boys” and leave me in the dust of a ratty old tour bus. Now I’m working my ass off to make a name for myself as a Hollywood music video director. Unfortunately, my fledgling studio is bleeding money, and my only hope of saving it is to make a video with the biggest rock band on the planet. Too bad that means working with the man who tore my heart out of my chest when he chose his rock ’n’ roll dream over me.

He says he’s grown up. He says we can make things work. But can I truly trust that this time he will stay for me?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


Garrett’s nostrils flared, and he shifted on his stool. His eyes remained locked on mine as he slid his headphones from his head and set them aside. Cursing the tiny tremor in my hands, I removed my headphones and set them somewhere on the control board beside me.


My name on his lips rasped over me like calloused hands over my skin. Involuntary shivers rippled through me, and I clamped my thighs even tighter together.

I stopped whatever he wanted to say next with my finger pressed to his full lips. For a long moment, neither of us moved. Then he reached up and smoothed his fingers up my palm and higher along the length of my fingers. His eyes dipped to our hands. Though we barely touched, sensations like electric currents sparked every nerve, beginning in my hand and arcing up my arm to trip my heart nearly into arrhythmia. My breath caught as he slid his fingers through mine, up and down, up and down, before he twined our hands together with a gentle squeeze. I closed my eyes and worked to find some air.

Author Bio:

Tam DeRudder Jackson's love of all things Celtic led her to write the Talisman Series. Steeped in Celtic mythology, these steamy, fated mates, paranormal romance adventures are set in the mountains of Tam’s native Montana and the Highlands of Scotland. Rogue, the most recent book in the series, was named a best romance of 2022 by the Independent Book Review.

An avid fan of rock music, Tam never misses a chance to see a live show, especially if it’s Shinedown, one of her favorite bands. Her love of rock music inspired her contemporary rock star Balefire Series, a sexy fun ride following the lives and loves of the members of a fictional mega-band. Readers of this series consistently give the books five-star reviews.

Tam earned her BA in English from Montana State University and her M.Ed. in literacy from Lesley University. After a short teaching stint in Bath, England, she settled in the wilds of Wyoming where she taught adolescents all about the Celts and a bit about writing before she stepped out of the classroom to pursue her writing career full time.

When she’s not writing, you can find her working her way through her mountainous TBR piles, alpine skiing, or traveling to some new place on her ever-expanding bucket list. To stay up to date on her adventures, connect with Tam on her website www.tamderudderjackson where you can subscribe to her newsletter.

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Thursday, May 4, 2023

#Review: MOONSTONE DUKE by Meara Platt


5 of 5 stars

Ms. Platt is one of my favorite authors and her books are absolutely wonderful. "The Moonstone Duke" is the first book in a new series about the Killigrew sisters.

Cain St. Austell, the Duke of Malvern, has retreated from London to his country home in Moonstone Landing. He's trying to defeat the demons from the war that plague his mind by working alongside his tenants, hoping to exhaust himself so he can sleep at night. One day while out in the pasture, he meets Lady Henley Killigrew when she is injured on his property, and it is like being struck by lightning. He is immediately drawn to her inner sparkle and vows he'll make her his, but Lady Henley is known to be very cautious. Can Cain convince her that it's love at first sight?

This was a delightful story of a war veteran trying to tame his demons. Ms. Platt does a good job of not minimizing the trauma that the soldiers endured, and I was glad Cain wasn't all of a sudden relieved of his nightmares. Little did Cain realize it was Lady Henley who would be the key to healing his tortured mind. He'd never been affected by any other young lady like he was when he met Henley. When Cain learns of her family's plight, he offers to help her recover her funds which have been stolen by her evil cousin. Henley is reluctant to trust a man she just met, but there's something about the duke that pulls her closer. Against her better judgment, she agrees to accept Cain's offer. I loved this couple. They complemented each other so well--Henley was all goodness and kindness, while Cain resembled an angry bear. It was a good balance for both of them.

It's good to be a duke, and Cain works hard to make things right for Henley, her sisters, her cousin, and two spinster aunts. There is a good mystery in the story of how the current Earl of Stoke managed to steal from the young women. I loved seeing Cain and Henley grow closer and realize what they have is a once-in-a-lifetime romance. After a few more twists and turns, Cain and Henley finally get their HEA.

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

Friday, April 28, 2023


Return to Hummingbird Way
Reese Ryan
Publication date: April 25th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

In this heartwarming small‑town romance, can three months, two planning projects, and a meddling grandmother finally make two high school hate crushes see just how right they are for each other?

Ambitious real estate agent Sinclair Buchanan is ecstatic to be her best friend’s maid-of-honor—until she discovers the best man is Garrett Davenport. Sin and Rett’s mutual hate crush ignited when they were teens and hasn’t let up since . . . except for that one extremely hot (and extremely regrettable) night they shared five years ago.

Nothing gets Rett fired up like going toe-to-toe with Sinclair. She’s as infuriatingly stubborn and as absolutely gorgeous as when he fell for her back in high school. Working together to plan their best friends’ last-minute wedding is one thing, but when his matchmaking grandmother gets involved, Rett knows he’s in deep. Attraction has always simmered between them, but this time, they’re both in danger of losing their hearts.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play


“Garrett Davenport, how very nice of you to finally show up.” Sinclair sashayed toward him, clutching a clear clipboard decorated with a colorful floral design.

Sinclair assessed him with disdain, flecks of green and gold dancing in those large hazel eyes he’d been mesmerized by from the first moment he’d laid eyes on them in high school. She pursed her glossy pink lips, her nostrils flaring, and planted a fist on one curvy hip.

The bossy little she-devil was infuriating, attitudish, and fucking gorgeous. And she damn well knew it.

Her floral, sleeveless dress showed off her toned arms and sculpted shoulders—a feature he’d never noticed on a woman before, let alone been attracted to. The hem of the flirty little skirt grazed her midthigh, accentuating her tawny brown skin, a shade that landed smack between her father’s dark brown skin and her mother’s olive skin tone.

Sinclair flipped her hair, a deep, rich brown highlighted with ribbons of honey blond, over one shoulder and ran her manicured nails through the waterfall of shoulder-length waves. Her gaze bore into him, and if looks could kill, he’d be lying on the floor stone cold.

“You do realize you’re an hour late to your own best friend’s engagement party.” She leaned into him, speaking in a harsh whisper that only he could hear. “You sure you gon’ be able to show up for the wedding on time?”

Her nasally voice reminded him of Whitley Gilbert’s from A Different World. And just a few minutes into the conversation, she’d already intimated that he was an unreliable slacker. Rett clenched his jaw. Yet, as annoyed as he was, he couldn’t help noticing how hot Sin looked tonight.

“Sorry I’m late,” Rett finally managed. He shoved his hands, balled into fists, into his pockets. “Something came up.”

Sinclair’s gaze dropped to the placket in front of his zipper momentarily. Her eyes widened and her cheeks and forehead flushed. She quickly returned her attention to the clipboard.

Maybe he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t forget their previous encounter.

“It’s always some excuse with you, Rett.” Sinclair wrapped her arms around the clipboard, clutching it to her chest. Her eyes didn’t quite meet his.

Was she clutching the clipboard because he made her nervous? Or was she shielding her body’s reaction after shamelessly ogling him two minutes into their conversation?

It didn’t matter. Because Sinclair Buchanan was as irritating now as she’d been when they’d been forced to hang out together while Dexter and Dakota had dated in high school. She seemed to hate him on sight back then. But he hadn’t helped matters when he’d tried to talk his cousin out of getting serious with Sin’s best friend.

When Dex had suddenly ended things with Dakota the Christmas after he’d left for college, Sinclair had confronted Rett outside his grandmother’s house. She’d been as mad as a hornet and had cussed him out six ways to Sunday—sure he’d been behind the breakup.

He hadn’t been. But he hadn’t bothered telling her so. Besides, as distraught as she’d been, he’d doubted Sinclair would’ve believed a single word he’d said.

Since Dexter and Dakota’s reconciliation, Sinclair must surely have learned the truth: he had nothing to do with Dexter and Dakota’s breakup back then. In fact, he’d been as shocked by it as anyone. But evidently, it didn’t matter, because Sinclair clearly still wasn’t a fan. Though she certainly had been that night in his hotel room, given the enthusiasm with which she’d called his name and the marks she’d left on his back.

“It’s not an excuse, Sin. I planned to be here on time, but I was sidetracked by—”

“Didn’t think you were going to make it.” Dexter approached, holding Dakota’s hand. The two of them looked ridiculously happy, and Rett felt a slight twinge of envy.

“And miss your engagement party?” Rett slapped palms and clasped hands with Dex. “No way, cuz. Been waiting half my life to see you finally tie the knot with this beautiful lady.” He turned toward his cousin’s soon-to-be better half. “Congrats, Dakota.”

“Thank you, Rett.” Dakota’s grin lit her brown eyes. She gave him a big hug. “And for the record, I knew you’d be here tonight. It was these two who were sweating it.” She gestured toward Dex and Sinclair, then glanced around the room. “Mama Mae didn’t come with you?”

“She’s sick and didn’t much appreciate me fussing over her,” Rett said.

“But you did anyway.” Dakota smiled. “The relationship you two have is adorable.”

“’Cause Mama Mae is the only woman who can get him to behave,” Sinclair muttered as she scanned her clipboard. When they all turned to look at her, Sin looked up and shrugged. “What? You know it’s true.”

“Be nice, Sin.” Dakota pointed a finger at her best friend. “You promised you two would get along.”

“Fine.” She flashed Rett a dead-eyed smile and turned up the Whitley Gilbert singsong southern belle voice. “We are so very glad that you could join us this evening, Garrett. I was just about to ask the staff to take the food away. So please make yourself a plate.” She batted her long, thick eyelashes. “In fact, why don’t I escort you to the buffet?”

Dexter and Dakota snickered, and Rett couldn’t help chuckling to himself.

That was as warm a greeting as he could expect from the former beauty queen, who now employed that same charm in her job as one of the island’s top real estate agents. Evidently, she reserved that charm for people not named Rett Davenport.

Sinclair turned and walked toward the buffet, indicating that he should come with. He did, captivated by the subtle sway of her hips as he followed in the wake of her soft, delicate scent. All of it taking him back to that night they’d shared in Raleigh five years ago.

Yes, he’d been an immature jerk to Sinclair in high school. She clearly still held a grudge and had no intentions of letting him forget it. Despite the night they’d shared.

Fine. Because he wasn’t here for Sinclair. He was here for Dexter and Dakota. For them, he’d tolerate Ms. Thing. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a little fun with her.

Author Bio:

Reese Ryan writes sexy, deeply emotional romances with family drama, surprising secrets, and unexpected twists.

Past president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Reese is an advocate for the romance genre and diversity in fiction.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

#Review: HOW NOT TO MARRY A DUKE by Tina Gabrielle


 4 of 5 stars

The first time Daniel Millstone, the Duke of Warwick, met Adeline Foster, he was attacked by her pet pig Henry. Not the best start to meeting one's neighbor, especially when he just wanted to get the woman's dogs to stop barking so he could continue his work in peace on his steam engine project. Adeline Foster had not met a more arrogant man than the Duke of Warwick. Doesn't he know that "Henry" was just trying to be friendly? Adeline had moved to the country and was just trying to make a life for herself as a healer in the village away from her controlling brother Edwin. When her brother tracks her down and demands that she marry a money-lender he owes money to, Warwick happens to be there and unexpectantly blurts out that she cannot marry that man because he's courting Adeline himself. Adeline is shocked at the duke's pronouncement but realizes a fake betrothal is just what she needs to keep her brother from forcing her to marry. Now, she just has to tolerate Warwick long enough to make everyone believe they're in love, but what happens if her heart wants the betrothal to be real?

This was a quick, easy read with likable characters. Warwick is an elusive duke who has shunned society because he's too busy being an inventor and working to improve other inventions. That was different, and it made me wonder why a duke had an interest in trade. As the author slowly teases out Warwick's back story, there's a connection between Warwick and Edwin, which makes the story more intriguing. Having Adeline with Egyptian heritage was enjoyable, especially since the author lets her heritage shine through the book in a number of different customs, foods and healing knowledge she had learned from her mother. The plot moves along at a good pace, although I did expect something more dramatic to happen at the end with the moneylender and Edwin. The whole issue kind of went away without much fanfare, which was a lost opportunity, in my opinion. There are a couple of graphic sex scenes, so readers beware. I look forward to reading more in this series.

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