Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review & Excerpt:The Hard Truth About Sunshine by Sawyer Bennett


New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett has written her most gripping and poignant tale yet. Provocatively heart-breaking, audaciously irreverent and romantically fulfilling, The Hard Truth About Sunshine exposes just how very thin the line is between a full life and an empty existence. 

An angry, bitter amputee.

An optimist losing her eyesight.

A dying kid.

A suicidal thief.

Four people with nothing in common but their destination.

Despite having narrowly escaped death’s clutches, Christopher Barlow is grateful for nothing. His capacity to love has been crushed. He hates everyone and everything, completely unable to see past the gray stain of misery that coats his perception of the world. It’s only after he involuntarily joins a band of depressed misfits who are struggling to overcome their own problems, does Christopher start to re-evaluate his lot in life.

What could they possibly learn from one another? How could they possibly help each other to heal? And the question that Christopher asks himself over and over again… can he learn to love again?

He’s about to find out as he embarks upon a cross country trip with a beautiful woman who is going blind, a boy with terminal cancer, and an abuse victim who can’t decide whether she wants to live or die.

They will encounter adventure, thrills, loss and love.

And within their travels they will learn the greatest lesson of all.

The hard truth about sunshine…

Warning: This book deals with some tough issues including suicide and sexual abuse.

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Jillian holds my gaze for a moment, her eyes drilling into mine before she gently tugs on the material of my jeans near the shin rod of my prosthetic. “What happened to you?”

She doesn’t look away. Not down at the fire, not down to my legs. She stares right at me. Although my gut is turning slightly at the thought of telling her what she asked, I forge straight ahead. For the first time, I tell someone who is not medical personnel or a shrink my story.

“I was driving a military Humvee and the right front tire ran over a roadside bomb,” I say, and Jillian makes a sound of distress low her in throat as her eyes turn sad. “It completely obliterated my buddy sitting in the passenger seat.”

To my surprise, Jillian scoots over closer to me and lays her head on my shoulder. She pushes her hand in between my ribs and my arm, curling her fingers over my bicep. It’s a show of support. Solidarity. That she’s settled in for the long haul of this story, and she wants to hear it all.

“It didn’t blow my leg off,” I tell her, and I can feel her body jerk slightly in surprise. Her fingers squeeze my bicep. “The fingers yes, the leg no. It just shattered and shredded it badly, but the doctors tried hard to save it.”

“Obviously, they couldn’t,” she whispers the obvious.

“They tried for three months,” I tell her, reaching down to grab my phone laying near my left hip. Jillian lifts her head up, watching as I pull up my pictures. I scroll backward, but it doesn’t take long to find what I’m looking for because I don’t take a lot of photos. I hold the phone out so she can see. “This was taken about a month after my injury.”

Jillian makes a strangled sound as she looks at the photo of me in bed. My eyes are half open because I was bombed out on so many heavy-duty pain medications, and I have a grimace on my face. I vaguely remember this picture being taken, and I think it may have been by my brother, Hank, when he came to visit once during that first month. He came a few more times after that, and then he didn’t.

Jillian’s eyes roam over the photo. My leg is encased in the external fixator with several rods leading from the outside of the cage right into my skin, where it’s drilled through and into the bone to hold the pieces together. The wounds on my leg are all open to the air, red and some of them dripping with puss and lined with blisters. I’ve got IVs in both arms and a PICC line in the right side of my neck to deliver the hordes of antibiotics and pain meds I needed to keep me alive and functioning. I took the maximum dosages they allowed me, preferring to try to be oblivious to what was happening. Yet, the pain was so great it just couldn’t be fully erased.

Jillian turns her head to look at me, and I lay the phone back down. “How long were you like that?”

“Three months. But they couldn’t get ahead of the infections, which were delaying the bones from knitting. I was in so much pain that I wanted them to amputate.”

“You had to make that decision?” she whispers.

I nod. “Yup. I mean… the doctors were at the point they felt it was the right way to go, although they were willing to keep trying if I wanted. But I wanted it gone. I was tired of being in the hospital and being in so much pain. I just wanted it gone.”

“Do you regret that decision?” she asks me bluntly, but with that still-sweet melody her voice makes. The question doesn’t bother me, because even her hard questions sound lovely.

“Yes,” I tell her without any shame. “I wonder what would have happened if I held on just a little bit longer. Not long after the leg came off, the pain receded and I became more lucid. Once I’d forgotten how bad the infections smelled, I regretted it.”

“Three months is an awful long time to be in pain like that,” she points out the obvious.

I shrug. “And the rest of my life is a long time to wonder ‘what if.’”  

What I thought about
The Hard Truth About Sunshine

In The Hard Truth About Sunshine, four acquaintances from a therapy group head out on a week long road trip.   The story is told through the eyes of Christopher Barlow, a wounded veteran trying to deal with the life changes he's experienced because of his injury. He's been court-ordered to attend the group therapy session so he isn't exactly all-in, but he agrees to drive the group on their road trip.

The other participants in the road trip have equally difficult issues they are dealing with. Connor has a terminal illness and a bucket list, and he's the driving force for seeing the ocean. Jillian and Connor are the most civil of the group, while Christopher and Barb have descended so far into their painful situations, they can't see out of them.  Jillian is losing her eyesight and has a serious heart disease but she's a glass half-full kind of girl, and it's a good thing because she provides quite a bit of light in this story.

The story is told solely through Christopher's point of view, and I really thought that was a brilliant way of telling this story. He's had a hard time of it since his war injury. He is almost out of hope, but Jillian gradually brings him to a newer, more hopeful place.  That's not to say that everything is magically better, but at least he becomes open to looking outside of himself and at what Connor, Barb and Jillian are experiencing.  

What I absolutely loved about this story is how the friendships gradually evolve and lives are changed.  Sawyer Bennett does a great job of keeping a steady pace while peeling back the layers of each person's , scars, regrets, desires, and hope for the future. There's a love story too, with Jillian melting through Christopher's anger and giving him hope for the future.  It's very understated and so well done that I haven't been able to get this book out of my head since I finished it.  I loved what it said about relationships and shared pain.  

There are some very sad moments in this book which are juxtaposed with some very beautiful, light filled moments. I don't want to spoil anything, but the ending is so very powerful that I'm getting choked up as I'm thinking about it writing this review. The emotional content is amazing in this story and there were times I laughed and cried, as I experienced the beauty of life's high and low moments through Christopher's eyes.

I do think it is worth saying that there may be some triggering content for some readers, as this story contains content regarding suicide and sexual abuse.  These are handled with much sensitivity and realism on the part of the author.

This story left me feeling hopeful and I thought it was just wonderful all the way around.  The pacing, the character arcs and the writing are perfect. While there are some aspects of the story that stretched credibility, there was so much depth to this tale that I didn't dwell on them. The road trip was just the vehicle to show the relationships that are formed between these four misfits and the impact they had on each others lives. I loved everything about this story.

An ARC was provided for review. 

About the Author

Since the release of her debut contemporary romance novel, Off Sides, in January 2013, Sawyer Bennett has released more than 30 books and has been featured on both the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists on multiple occasions.

A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to erotic contemporary romance, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.

Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active toddler, as well as full-time servant to two adorably naughty dogs.

She believes in the good of others, and that a bad day can be cured with a great work-out, cake, or a combination of the two.


Cover Reveal: All Closed Off (Rusk University #4) by Cora Carmack


From New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack, comes the highly anticipated fourth standalone title in her Rusk University Series, ALL CLOSED OFF!
A passionate story and journey, get ready to be mesmerized with Stella’s story!
ALL CLOSED OFF is coming your way
May 1, 2017!


Cover Design and Photography by Kelsey Kukal-Keeton at K. Keeton Designs

ABOUT ALL CLOSED OFF (Releasing May 1, 2017):

Stella Santos is fine.

Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can’t even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she’s on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she’s been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don’t even know her, but hate her all the same.

But none of that matters because she’s just fine.

For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he’s there. Angry when he’s not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn’t.

When Stella devises an unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy—between both friends and strangers—Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails. What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she’s willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she’ll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she’d never be again.

    ALL CLOSED OFF - full cover wrap  

Add it to your Goodreads

Don’t Miss All of Cora’s Standalone Rusk University Series Titles!

  ALL CLOSED OFF - Announcement Teaser


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Cora Carmack - author pic      

About Cora Carmack: Cora Carmack is a twentysomething New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twentysomething characters. Raised in a small Texas town, she now lives in New York City and spends her time writing, traveling, and marathoning various TV shows on Netflix. She lives by one rule: embrace whatever the world throws at you and run with it (just not with scissors).          

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Cora Carmack Goodreads

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New Release & Giveaway: The Best Man (Allen Brothers Series Book 1) by Barbie Bohrman

Veronica Webber is single again after being in a loveless marriage way past its expiration date. For the first time in a very long time, she feels free and after being burned so badly by love in the past, any thought of romance is the last thing on her mind.

In walks a man from her past, Trevor Allen, a tall, dark, and handsome womanizer who is usually all about the bottom line. For Trevor that bottom line has always been made up of the countless notches on his bedpost. But when he sees Veronica after so many years, he can’t help but be drawn to her and know her again… even if that means being friend-zoned from the start.

As this unlikely pair spends more and more time together, they quickly realize that there might be something between them that goes past "just friends." But there’s just one tiny detail that makes this situation slightly more complicated… Trevor was Veronica’s ex-husband’s best man at their wedding nine years ago.

So when past mistakes and indiscretions come back to haunt them, will their happily ever after end before it even gets started?

Or will the best man win this time.

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About the Author
 Barbie Bohrman was born and raised in Miami, FL and ultimately moved to the Garden State where she currently resides with her husband and two children.
Life, and all that comes along with it, had her giving up on her dream of pursuing anything in the writing world for many years. Then a prologue contest in a book club garnered her interest enough to throw her hat in the ring to see what, if anything, would come from it.

From that contest came the roots of her debut novel, Promise Me, which was ultimately picked up by Montlake Romance.

When she is not writing you can find her trying to get through the 1000+ books on her Kindle, or watching Lost, Seinfeld, or one of any other number of TV shows available on Netflix for binge watching.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ARC Review:The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

From the bestselling author of The Bourbon Thief comes a sweeping tale of loss and courage, where one woman discovers that her destiny is written in sand, not carved in stone.

Faye Barlow is drowning. After the death of her beloved husband, Will, she cannot escape her grief and most days can barely get out of bed. But when she's offered a job photographing South Carolina's storied coast, she accepts. Photography, after all, is the only passion she has left.

In the quaint beach town, Faye falls in love again when she sees the crumbling yet beautiful Bride Island lighthouse and becomes obsessed with the legend surrounding The Lady of the Light—the keeper's daughter who died in a mysterious drowning in 1921. Like a moth to a flame, Faye is drawn to the lighthouse for reasons she can't explain. While visiting it one night, she is struck by a rogue wave and a force impossible to resist drags Faye into the past—and into a love story that is not her own.

Fate is changeable. Broken hearts can mend. But can she love two men separated by a lifetime?

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What I thought about The Night Mark

The story opens with Faye having a very difficult and depressing time in her life. She's drowning in the sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one and the loss of dreams.  Stuck in a loveless marriage, she makes the decision to try to find her old self again.  Leaving her husband, she takes a photography job that ends up changing her life in many ways.

Faye is immediately enthralled by the story of Bride Island and its abandoned lighthouse. But when she sees a picture of the lighthouse keeper, her interest becomes an obsession because he looks exactly like the love of her life, the man she mourns with the depth of her soul.  

With help from the town priest who has some history with the lighthouse keeper, she finds her way out to the island. As Faye unravels all the clues, what was a job now becomes a mission to get closer to the lighthouse, its people and its past. What she didn't anticipate is that she would get a chance to live it up close and personal when she ends up getting transported back in time to 1921.

Back in time, Faye learns the true story regarding the Lady of the Light, as she acclimates to her environment and the man who acts and looks like her beloved husband from the future. There are some tender and romantic moments here that I really liked. 

I don't want to spoil the story with any more details about what happens next, or expand upon the interconnections in the story between the people in Faye's past or present, because the driving force in reading this story is wanting to know what happens to Faye.  She really is the central character and everything that happens really revolves around her story. 

While I might not call The Night Mark a romance in the traditional sense, there were many likeable romantic elements in this story. I'd call The Night Mark more of a love story.   Faye's conversations with her dead husband were very touching and beautiful. The Night Mark is really a story of Faye finding her way to move forward after her devastating losses with help from the power of fate and destiny. 

I did have some technical issues with this story, mostly with pacing.  The middle part of the book is slow in a noticeable way and did not pull me along through the story. The last third of the book in contrast was too rushed and there were some aspects of the way this story wrapped up that I just didn't get and it left me wanting to know more.  There were also parts that were pure Tiffany Reisz with sweet and snarky banter and I loved those scenes the most.

So overall, there were aspects of this tale that I really liked, but the middle could have been executed better to draw the reader into the story even further.  Dolly and Pat are lovely secondary characters and I was glad to get their history as well. But most of all, I loved that Faye found the way to heal her heart. 

ARC provided by the publisher for review.

About the Author
Tiffany Reisz is the author of the internationally bestselling and award-winning Original Sinners series for Mira Books (Harlequin/Mills & Boon). Tiffany's books inhabit a sexy shadowy world where romance, erotica and literature meet and do immoral and possibly illegal things to each other. She describes her genre as "literary friction," a term she stole from her main character, who gets in trouble almost as often as the author herself.

If she couldn't write, she would die.


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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review:Incentive by Pam Godwin

Genre: Erotic Romance
Available March 23, 2017
Desperate men do desperate things.

When Decker Gabrielli hits rock bottom, he accepts a job as a hired companion at Infidelity.

Surrendering a year of his life to a woman he’s never met might be the worst idea ever. But money, prestige, and sex are powerful incentives. That is, until the job becomes more than a contractual agreement.

Hard limits are breached, panties are shredded, and rules are broken.

In the end, his secret to getting ahead is… her. 

PreOrder Link

INCENTIVE is written in Aleatha Romig's Infidelity World. 
This is part of Kindle Worlds and will only be available on Amazon US Kindle.

 What I thought about Incentive

Decker Gabrielli's life isn't going all that well for him at the moment.  He's lost his business that he loved and is working as a bartender.  His rent is two months overdue, his cell phone service turned off for non-payment.  Things are looking grim until a bar patron suggests a different sort of opportunity -- contracting himself as a companion for a year.  Decker is not convinced it's his ticket out of his dire straits, but since the interview comes with a five grand bonus, he decides to check it out. 

Laynee Somerset doesn't trust men and for good reason.  Hiring a sexy companion makes sense for her, especially since he's been vetted and matched to her specifically.  When she meets Decker, she's not happy and a bit scared that she's been matched with an obvious alpha male. That isn't what she thinks she needs or wants.  At first glance, these two seem to be incompatible. 

It's a slow persuasion as Decker convinces Laynee to let him in her bed and in her life.  Hearts are off the table ... at first because neither are really looking for a relationship. But as they learn earth other's secrets, and Laynee learns just how Decker's can kiss, their feelings for each other grow considerably even though there are questions about their motives in light of the contract between them.

Incentive is a very sexy romp that is sometimes light, sometimes dark. I loved how Decker, the perennial bachelor learns the value of love through his interactions with Laynee, and how Laynee is able to move farther from her past due to Decker's sweet attention to her. Pam Godwin does what I think she does best in giving the reader two characters that you can't help but love in Decker and Laynee.

This story takes off right from the first chapter and I couldn't put this down. Even though there were elements of this story that were pure fantasy (imho), Decker and Laynee's story kept me interested until the final pages.  I loved how things worked out in the end. 

If you are looking for a very steamy read with D/s elements, Incentive might be for you.  The characters are engaging, the story is compelling and I just enjoyed every minute of this.

ARC provided for review.

About the Author
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Pam Godwin, lives in the Midwest with her husband, their two children, and a foulmouthed parrot. When she ran away, she traveled fourteen countries across five continents, attended three universities, and married the vocalist of her favorite rock band.

Java, tobacco, and dark romance novels are her favorite indulgences, and might be considered more unhealthy than her aversion to sleeping, eating meat, and dolls with blinking eyes.

Author links

Other books by Pam Godwin

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ARC Review: Dirty Souls (Sins Duet #2) by Karina Halle

Title: Dirty Souls Sins Duet #2
  Dark Romance M/F

From New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle comes DIRTY SOULS the much-anticipated, nail-biting CONCLUSION to the sexy and thrilling Black Hearts...

"One of the SEXIEST & MOST SEDUCTIVE books I HAVE EVER READ." - Jay Crownover.

Violet McQueen has always been a sensitive soul. Troubled and misunderstood, she never realized her place in the world, nor her true potential...until she met Vicente Bernal.

From birth, Vicente Bernal has always known his place in the world - he's been groomed to be a ruthless king. Yet for a man whose soul has become morally bankrupt, it's only through Violet he's realizing the worth of someone's heart.

But at what cost?

With a deadly game set in motion taking them from the stark deserts of California to the steamy jungles of Mexico, Violet and Vicente's forbidden relationship will be put to the test. Boundaries will be pushed, lines will be crossed and souls will get very, very dirty.

Because how do you choose between blood and love when both might get you killed?

NOTE: Dirty Souls is the second and FINAL book in the Sins Duet. You MUST read book #1, BLACK HEARTS, first before this one!

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What I thought about Dirty Souls

Dirty Souls picks up where Black Hearts end. Violet and Vincente are on the run, looking for truth about Violet’s parents.  It’s not good and their lives are turned upside down with the info, but Vincente is determined to protect Violet, even against his own father (or especially against his own father!)

There’s plenty of action and suspense in this two book series, and this conclusion had more than enough to keep me interested and engaged in the story.  There’s plenty of heat too.  Their relationship gets stronger with every challenge they face, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. 

Both Vincente and Violet have terrific character arcs and I liked how they changed over the course of the two books while under impossible circumstances. I really loved the dark elements of this story and the action that kept the pacing fast and furious. 

This is not a standalone. You will need to read Black Hearts first to get the full impact of the story. The story is told primarily through Vincente and Violets point of view, with additional povs offered to fill in the gaps.

Overall, Dirty Souls was an engaging and exciting conclusion to this duet.

ARC provided for review.

About Karina Halle

Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook

Follow Karina Halle on Amazon

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ARC Review:Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen

 Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 21, 2017


In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves. 

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.
Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires. 

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels? 

Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord's name in vain, and love against the kitchen counterThis book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone. For more about its previous publication, you can read this blog post.

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What I thought about Goodbye Paradise

Josh and Caleb may have escaped from the polygamist cult in Paradise, but building a new life from nothing isn't all that easy, especially with the attraction between them getting more difficult to hide or deny. With the help of a good samaritan, they make their way from Wyoming to Massachusetts, seeking refuge with another former Paradise resident.

Maggie and her husband Daniel open their home to Josh and Caleb, where they find everything awkward, including exploring their sexuality with their benefactors within earshot. The building relationship delivers on the heat between Josh and Caleb as they make good use of their alone time.  Equally interesting was how Josh and Caleb had to deal with accepting Maggie and Daniel's hospitality and the influence of their religious upbringing.

I loved just about everything in this book. The characters are immediately engaging and I fell right into the story of Josh and Caleb building their life from nothing. Maggie and Daniel were awesome too, and there was a sense of goodness and honor throughout Goodbye Paradise that just warmed my heart and left me smiling.

The ending was unexpected and gut-wrenching in that good way. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say again that I loved everything about this book. It kept me up reading to the finish in the wee hours of the morning.


 ARC provided for review.  


About the Author

 Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont's Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

Release Day Review: The Five Year Lie by Sarina Bowen

Bestselling romance author Sarina Bowen’s debut thriller, about one woman’s search for the truth after receiving a text from her deceased ex...