Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Release Day Review: The Vanishing Hour by Seraphina Nova Glass



Grace Holloway keeps to herself. Since narrowly escaping death at the hands of the man who kidnapped her, she’s thrown herself into the small inn she runs in Rock Harbor, Maine. It’s quiet, quaint and, in the off-season, completely isolated—the perfect place for Grace to keep her own secrets.

But Grace isn’t the only one with something to hide, and Rock Harbor isn’t just a sleepy vacation town. Someone is taking young women—girls who look an awful lot like Grace did when she was kidnapped so many years ago.

When a surge of disappearances brings the investigation to her door, Grace finds herself unwillingly at the center of it all and doing everything she can to keep her distance. Because Grace knows something…something that could change everything. And when the truth comes to light, getting justice for the vanished might be more than Grace can handle alone…

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Google Play | Apple | Harper Collins

Add to Goodreads

 What I thought about The Vanishing Hour

When I had the opportunity to read and review this latest thriller from Seraphina Nova Glass I couldn't wait to read it after enjoying On A Quiet Street as I did.  The Vanishing Hour was everything I thought it could be after reading the synopsis.

The story takes place in Rock Harbor Maine, where once the vacationers leave, Rock Harbor becomes a quiet town with a reputation for people vanishing in the evening, hence the name The Vanishing Hour.  She managed to get away from her kidnapper and lives as a recluse while managing the local inn.  She is a survivor, but still harbors devastation from her time as a captive.

The story is told from three different points of view -- Grace's, Kira, the mother of Brooke, another missing girl, and Aden Coleman, the son of the missing Martin Coleman. There's lots of nasty stuff going on here, and it takes some time for the three points of view to merge such that the killer can be uncovered.

There are certainly twists and turns and some unexpected things going on, and the triple point of view almost clouds the real events going on.  This is a slow walk to the killer's identity, with lots of dark content as you might expect from this type of story.  No spoilers from me, but I did like how this all unfolded with secrets, lies and some small twists to bump the reader from the killer's trail.

The ending has the three protangonists struggling with "what to do" and I can't say that I was disappointed in the killer's final fate.  I liked how that came together for all of the people involved.  

So overall, another satisfying thriller.  If you like a slow burn sort of suspense and trying to figure out the killer yourself, you might like this title.  While it is a bit slow in parts, I did like how this story was presented and how everything turned out in the end. 

PRAISE FOR Seraphina Nova Glass

"A twisty thriller in the vein of The Girl on the Train."—Bustle

"A writer to watch."—Publishers Weekly

"Glass weaves a taut web of suspicion, murder and revenge in this chilling tale."
Liv Constantine, internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish, on Someone's Listening

“a brilliant and twisty tale….A fast-paced, highly-enjoyable and compulsive read that may well make you look at your entire neighborhood a little differently…” — Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of Never Coming Home

“Seraphina Nova Glass’s twisty...thriller plunges the reader into a dark, compelling world of lies, adultery and murder. Bold, racy and masterfully plotted, Such a Good Wife kept me guessing from the very first page to the scorching, jaw-dropping conclusion.” — Rose Carlyle, #1 internationally bestselling author of The Girl in the Mirror

"In Such a Good Wife, Seraphina Nova Glass weaves a deliciously dark tale starring Melanie, a loving and overworked mother and wife having an affair with the handsome Luke…until he turns up dead. If you think you've figured out the culprit, think again. A sly and pulse-pounding murder mystery set in steamy Louisiana." — Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author of Stranger in the Lake

“Unputdownable. I found myself suspecting everyone at some point. Twisty, original and a must-read—highly suspenseful and cleverly written.” — Karen Hamilton, bestselling author of The Perfect Girlfriend, on Someone's Listening

 About the Author

Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she's also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @SeraphinaNova

Facebook: Seraphina Nova Glass: Author


Monday, May 29, 2023

5 Stars for Good as Gold by Sarina Bowen


RELEASE DATE: May 29th / June 1st, 2023

A swoony, heart-wrenching small-town romance from USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller Sarina Bowen!


What I meant to do: quietly divorce my lout of a husband and then have a child all on my own.

What happens instead: my crush comes back to town when I’m at my most vulnerable. After too many cocktails, I ask him to be my baby’s father.

In my defense, it’s been a rough couple of months. Seeing Matteo Rossi again after fourteen years has done a number on my emotions. And my libido.

In the morning, I’m hoping he’s forgotten the whole thing. But no such luck. In fact, Matteo has a few clarifying questions. And a few naughty ideas, too…

What I meant to do: visit Vermont for my brother’s wedding. Make amends to my family, and mourn the loss of a friend.

What happens instead: a hot affair with the one who got away. But it can’t last. My life is two thousand miles away, and Leila deserves everything. She’s as good as gold.


Apple Books:






What I thought about Good as Gold

I must start out by saying that I was ecstatic to find out there would be a book involving another of the Rossi siblings. Sarina Bowen has created such an amazing world with the Rossi's and the Shipley's that I always want to return there.

And yowza, look at that cover!

Matteo Rossi hasn't been home in many years, choosing to live his life in Colorado, away from the family in Vermont. But when a tragedy has him unsettled, he decides to return home for Alec and May's wedding. I absolutely adored the text conversations between the family as he reconnects with all of them. There's some funny stuff here and seriously made me want to know more about Damien, the last of the Rossi boys. But I digress.

Matteo is reunited with the woman who he loved as a young man and his feelings are still there. When Leila asks him to help her have a baby, well, of course he'll help out! Matteo tries to handle everything the right way and ends us getting so wrapped up in his own head that he assumes quite a bit -- all while Leila realizes her feelings for Matteo have changed. It's a communication issue of epic proportions, but I loved how they both slowly came around to understanding what was important.  And if you are looking for a swoony hero, Matteo Rossi checks all the boxes. He's sweet and responsible and a good man that's hard to resist. Loved him.

Friendship and family is also a predominant theme in this story and I really enjoyed that aspect of Good as Gold. Matteo's reconnecting with his family is sweet and telling it through the text messages made it a whole lot of fun. I actually laughed aloud when reading. It's the typical type of sibling exchange and Sarina Bowen nails it. But there are other amazing people in Matteo's life that help him find where he needs to be and that part warmed my heart to the core. The ending is full of some very happy moments that had me reading the entire True North series since, just to spend more time in this world with these wonderful characters. 

 So if you are looking for a sweet tale of family, friends and coming home, you cannot go wrong with this romance between thirty-something Matteo Rossi and Leila Giltmaker. This can be read as a standalone, and I highly recommend reading all the related stories. You won't be sorry. This is a great world to spend your reading time. 

About Sarina

Sarina Bowen is the award-winning author of more than thirty contemporary novels. She has hit the USA Today bestseller's list sixteen times and counting. Formerly a derivatives trader on Wall Street, Sarina holds a BA in economics from Yale University.

Sarina is a New Englander whose Vermont ancestors cut timber and farmed the north country since the 1760s. Sarina is grateful for the invention of indoor plumbing and wi-fi during the intervening 250 years. She lives with her family on a few wooded acres in New Hampshire.

Sarina's books are published in a dozen languages on four continents.


Saturday, May 27, 2023

Blog Tour Review & Excerpt: The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon

The Revenge List : A Novel
Hannah Mary McKinnon
On Sale Date: May 23, 2023
Trade Paperback
$18.99 USD
368 pages


As a therapy exercise, a woman writes a list of people she wants to forgive, and thinks nothing of it when she loses it in an Uber…until one by one the people on the list become victims of freak accidents. Set in Portland, Maine, Hannah Mary McKinnon’s breakout suspense novel THE REVENGE LIST will appeal to fans of Lisa Unger, Joshilyn Jackson, and Tarryn Fisher.

Following an epic run-in with a client who threatened to pull out of a contract at her father’s company if she doesn’t suffer some consequences, Frankie Morgan agrees to go to anger management. With the business struggling with cash-flow and her brother needing help with the medical bills for his sick daughter, she can’t risk harming the business further. But that doesn’t mean she’ll be happy about attending.

During the first session, the group is asked to spend some quiet time exploring their pasts and sitting with the emotions that generates, before making a start on a Forgiveness List—a list of people with whom they’re angry and might work on forgiving. She begrudgingly goes along with it and doesn’t worry too much when she forgets the list in an Uber on her way home. It shouldn’t matter—it was just a therapy exercise—except a few days later the first person on that list is injured in a freak accident. When the second person gets hurt, she hopes it’s coincidence. After the third is targeted, she knows it’s a pattern. And she’s in trouble. Because the next name on that list is…hers.



The sharp sound of a high-pitched scream filled the air. A noise so unrecognizable, at first I didn’t register it had come from deep within me, traveling up my throat in stealth mode before bursting from my mouth.

The remnants of the yell reverberated around the car, forcing their way into my ears and penetrating my skull, urging me to do something. Survival instincts kicked in, and I fumbled with the seatbelt, my other hand grasping for the door handle. The need for the relative safety that solid, stationary ground would bring was so intense it made my stomach heave. A loud click of the central locking system meant my captor had outsmarted me again, obliterating my immediate plan to throw myself from the moving vehicle.

When I looked out the windshield, I knew there was no time to find an alternate escape. The end of the road—the edge of the cliff—announced by signs and broken red-and-white-striped wooden barricades, had been far enough away seconds ago but now gleamed in the car’s headlights, a looming warning yards ahead. I couldn’t comprehend what was about to happen, couldn’t do anything as the vehicle kept going, splintering planks and racing out the other side with nothing but air below. I let out another scream, far louder than my first, the absolute terror exploding from my lungs.

For the briefest of moments, we were suspended, as if this was a magic trick or an elaborate roller coaster. Perhaps, if I were really lucky, this was all a dream. Except I already knew there were no smoke and mirrors, no swirling track leading us through loop-the-loops and to safety. It wasn’t a nightmare I’d wake from with bedsheets wrapped around my sweaty body. This was happening. It was all terrifyingly real.

As the car continued its trajectory, it tipped forward. The only thing to stop our momentum was whatever we were rushing toward, obscured by the cloudy night skies. Pushing my heels into the floor, I tried to flatten my shoulders against the seat. My hands scrambled for the ceiling to brace myself, but I flopped like a rag doll, my loosened seatbelt tearing into my shoulder.

They say your life flashes before you when you’re close to death. That didn’t happen to me. Instead, it was all my regrets. Choices I’d made. Not made. Things I’d said and done. Not said. Not done. It was far too late to make amends. There would be no opportunity to beg anyone for forgiveness. No possibility of offering some.

As the finality of the situation hit me full on, I turned my head. The features of the driver next to me were illuminated in a blueish glint from the dashboard lights. His face had set in a stony grimace; his jaw clenched so tight he had to have shattered teeth. But what frightened me the most were his eyes, filled with what could only be described as maniacal delight.

He’d said we were both going to die. As the car hurtled to the bottom of the cliff, I closed my eyes and accepted he was right.


Excerpted from The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Copyright © 2023 by Hannah McKinnon. Published by MIRA Books.



 What I thought about The Revenge List

In The Revenge List, Hannah Mary McKinnon takes anger-management and forgiveness and drops them on their head in a tight thriller that shows how easily a simple list can mess up your life.
Frankie Morgan has anger issues. She's had trouble with that before and when a new incident threatens the company, she ends up enrolling in an anger management program. As part of the program, she's asked to create a list of people who wronged her  -- a Forgiveness List -- to help work through her anger issues. But then that list goes missing. And bad things happen to the people on that list, turning that list into what looks like a Revenge List.  The story is told from Frankie's point of view.

I really liked the idea of this story.  There's a whole lotta anger going on all over the place in the world today and it seemed very much in line with the times.  I liked the honest portrayal of Frankie as an angry woman, because there are plenty of them in the workplace. It was easy to connect with Frankie on some level and I liked her search for who stole her notebook.

This was my first book from this author, so I wasn't sure what to expect but I did like the level of suspense that sort of ebbed and flowed for me in this tale. While the who-dun-it part wasn't difficult to figure out, it did have some twisty pages that I enjoyed.  The ending was crazy and I liked that too because it stayed on my mind for a bit after reading.  

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I found Frankie to be an interesting character, sometimes unlikable to I was able to connect with her and that made me invested in the story.  The suspense part kept me reading in spite of some uneven pacing.  I will definitely check out future titles from this author. 


Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. She now lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute. Connect with her on Facebook, on Twitter @HannahMMcKinnon, and on Instagram @HannahMaryMcKinnon. For more, visit her website, www.hannahmarymckinnon.com.


Website: www.HannahMaryMcKinnon.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HannahMaryMcKinnon (@hannahmarymckinnon)

Instagram: www.instagram.com/HannahMaryMcKinnon/ (@hannahmarymckinnon)

Twitter: www.twitter.com/HannahMMcKinnon (@hannahmmckinnon)

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/15144570.Hannah_Mary_McKinnon

BookBub: www.bookbub.com/authors/hannah-mary-mckinnon

LinkTree: https://linktr.ee/hannahmarymckinnon

Friday, May 26, 2023

Release Week Review: The Hook by Victoria Helen Stone


How far will they go to even the score?

A women’s boxing class is the perfect place for betrayed wife Katherine to work out her aggressions. Ideal, too, for Geneva, a teacher disgraced and ruined by a vengeful ex, and Luz, a software engineer battling an unjust system. Maggie, their instructor and mentor, guarantees she can right the wrongs they’ve endured. And if Katherine, Geneva, and Luz really want to unleash their rage, they must do what Maggie says.

Each woman’s secret task has its risks. Call it justice. Call it revenge. It’s bound to be worth it—if no missteps are made. As they take the leap to reclaim what they’re owed, their lives are turned upside down. Because no one could have guessed that it would all end in murder.

Now, coming together to harness their power, Katherine, Geneva, and Luz fear that the game they’ve been playing is playing them.

 Buy Links

 Kindle | Paperback | Audio


What I thought about The Hook

I love a good twisty story, and after reading the blurb for the The Hook, I was pretty hooked on reading this story.  What person hasn't contemplated getting back at the person who wronged them -- but in this case it's complicated because The Hook is a boxing club that fronts for a secret "revenge club" led by the Maggie, the instructor.  No one gets caught. Everyone has to do some task to participate. I thought this was a terrific idea for a story.

The three women who are newbies to The Hook, Katherine, Luz and Geneva, are likeable and it helps to build the sympathy for their revenge motives.  I did wish for a bit of humor to release some of the tension, but oh well.  If you like getting into multiple points of view, this is a nicely done in the story, although sometimes I did have to go back and reread to keep things straight.

Of course, things don't always go as planned and there's a mess to clean up, in this case, murder.  One of the women is a suspect. Things move quickly at the end with some interesting turns.  It kept me reading. 
If you are looking for a offbeat, suspenseful story that keeps your interest to the end, you might like The Hook. I did. 

 About the Author

Victoria Helen Stone, author of the runaway best seller Jane Doe, writes critically acclaimed novels of dark intrigue and emotional suspense. Aside from At The Quiet Edge, The Last One Home, Problem Child, Half Past, and the chart-topping False Step and Evelyn, After, she also published twenty-nine books as USA Today bestselling author Victoria Dahl and won the prestigious American Library Association Reading List award for best genre fiction. Her novels have been published in English, Russian, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Lithuanian, Portuguese, German, French, Japanese, Indonesian, Czech, Hebrew, Estonian, Polish, Norwegian, Dutch, and Thai.

Victoria writes in her home office high in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, far from her origins in the flattest plains of Minnesota, Texas, and Oklahoma. She enjoys gorgeous summer trail hikes in the mountains almost as much as she enjoys staying inside by the fire during winter. Victoria is passionate about dessert, true crime, and her terror of mosquitoes, which have targeted her in a diabolical conspiracy to hunt her down no matter the season.


Monday, May 22, 2023

Review: Peril: Three Thrilling Tales of Taut Suspense by Kat Martin, Alexandra Ivy, and Rebecca Zanetti


When a cop killer resurfaces in Denver, enlisting the help of a pair of local lowlifes, it marks the beginning of a violent crime spree that will wreak havoc and endanger lives. Law enforcement is on alert from the first sighting of the cold-blooded trio. To take down this brutal gang, only those willing to risk everything they hold dear stand a chance . . .

First, a pair of Denver police officers facing each other for the first time after one night of abandon find themselves working together to stop an ambitious bank heist. In Wyoming, a string of robberies marks the gang’s arrival, and the local sheriff springs into action when the criminals discover his estranged fiancĂ©e can identify them. Finally, in the mountains of Colorado, the gang takes shelter on a peaceful guest ranch, where a fiercely protective rancher is hellbent on roping the fugitives up for good.

Trusting their sharply honed instincts, three rugged men will fight to stop the rampage before the women they’d die for become the next victims . . .

 AmazonApple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Barnes & Noble 

Add to Goodreads

What I thought about Peril

Three interconnected romantic suspense novella by Alexandra Ivy, Rebecca Zanetti and Kat Martin make up the anthology called Peril.  

There is a lot to like about this anthology.  First of all, it's just the right size with three stories.  I was impressed that all three stories captured a good level of romance in a few short pages.  I really liked the first story about a female cold case cop returning to the scene of her partner's shooting in an attempt to arrest his killer.  She also runs into a colleague who she had steamy times with ... once.  There was a nice level of yearning going on here and I really liked this story.  

In the second story, the criminals are on the loose and the heroine is in the midst of some real danger while enjoying the groveling of her ex.  And there's a good number of suspects and bad guys in the story to keep things interesting. It kept me guessing for a while and I did love the romantic aspects of this story.

The final novella takes place on a guest ranch, where the heroine is spending time to qualify for her inheritance, only to find not only does she appreciate nature, but she sure does like the rancher quite a bit too.  This might have been my favorite story of the three -- even though there is a bit of insta-love/lust, it made for a very sweet story.

Overall, this is a great choice if you are looking for a quick novella you can read in a day.  I liked that these stories can be read in a day, and I was interested enough in the connections that I wanted to read them all.  This is a very nice romantic suspense trio of novellas. 



Friday, May 5, 2023

Cover Reveal: Good As Gold by Sarina Bowen


RELEASE DATE: May 29th / June 1st, 2023

A swoony, heart-wrenching small-town romance from USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller Sarina Bowen!


What I meant to do: quietly divorce my lout of a husband and then have a child all on my own.

What happens instead: my crush comes back to town when I’m at my most vulnerable. After too many cocktails, I ask him to be my baby’s father.

In my defense, it’s been a rough couple of months. Seeing Matteo Rossi again after fourteen years has done a number on my emotions. And my libido.

In the morning, I’m hoping he’s forgotten the whole thing. But no such luck. In fact, Matteo has a few clarifying questions. And a few naughty ideas, too…

What I meant to do: visit Vermont for my brother’s wedding. Make amends to my family, and mourn the loss of a friend.

What happens instead: a hot affair with the one who got away. But it can’t last. My life is two thousand miles away, and Leila deserves everything. She’s as good as gold.

Good as Gold will be released at all retailers on May 29th. On June 1st, Good as Gold will move into Kindle Unlimited and the eBook will be available exclusively on Amazon.

 Amazon: https://geni.us/Good-as-Gold-Amazon
Apple Books: https://geni.us/Good-as-Gold-Apple
Kobo: https://geni.us/Good-as-Gold-Kobo
Nook: https://geni.us/Good-as-Gold-Nook
Audio: Coming Soon!

ADD TO GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/130187226-good-as-gold

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Release Blitz & Review: 6 Clues Your Nemesis Loves You (Bower Boys #3) by Kelly Siskind


Title: 6 Clues Your Nemesis Loves You
Series: Bower Boys #3
Author: Kelly Siskind
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Tropes: Enemies to Friends to Lovers/Second Chance
Release Date: May 3, 2023


Eleven years ago, he hurt her.
Now he plans to prove they’re meant to be…

In high school, Maggie Edelstein set the rules of our secret relationship, but I’m calling the shots now. In my dreams.

Maggie’s still infuriating and confusing, and absolutely stunning. She’s also still pretending we barely spent time together as teens, when we met up nightly at her family’s pond.

Over a decade later, I’m back in my hometown and some things haven’t changed. My chemistry with Maggie is once again hotter than a four-alarm fire, and she’s intent on denying it. I don’t blame her. The last night we saw each other I made a horrible mistake and hurt her, then I vanished into witness protection for ten years.

But there’s something else going on with her.

I recognize a secret when I see one, and her friends say she doesn’t do commitment. If I can get her to forgive me and open up, maybe she’ll break her rules and give us a second chance. Or she’ll light my heart on fire and dance around the flames…



Free in Kindle Unlimited

What I thought about 6 Clues Your Nemesis Loves You

I've really been loving this series about four brothers who emerge from witness protection to reclaim their old lives. They are lots of fun and have just the right amount of spice and everything else to make them really fun to read.  6 Clues Your Nemesis Loves You is book 3 in the series. 

Let's start with the covers.  I probably wouldn't have looked this series if the first cover hadn't hooked me and this cover is no exception. There's something about the covers that lured me in and it's been a great ride through all three books so far in the series.

Lennon is the guy hiding his past hurts and emotions through humor.  There's some great banter here, not just between him and Maggie but between the brothers as well.  That's one good reason to really like this story.

Maggie and Lennon are former secret friends with secrets of their own that bring a few surprises to the story.   They are going to have to figure themselves out if they are going to have a relationship, and I like that about second-chance stories.  There are always consequences to actions and Lennon and Maggie have to figure out what it all means.

So another five star read for me.  I'm just loving this series.  Told in the male POV, there's a great blend of maleness and feelings that just feels true and real to me. This series has been one of the most enjoyable romance series I've read  in the last year. Definitely a winner. 



Free in Kindle Unlimited

Only $1.99 for a limited time
(US only)


Free in Kindle Unlimited


Releasing September 6



Kelly Siskind lives in charming northern Ontario. When she’s not out hiking or skiing, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She loves singing while driving, looks awful in yellow, and is known for spilling wine at parties. Sign up for Kelly’s newsletter at www.kellysiskind.com and never miss a giveaway, a free bonus scene, or the latest news on her books. And connect with her on Twitter and Instagram (@kellysiskind) or on Facebook (@authorkellysiskind).


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Blog Tour Review & Excerpt: Zora Books Her Happy Ever After by Taj McCoy

On sale: April 25, 2023
ISBN: 9780778333524
Fiction; Romance
320 Pages




A heart-pounding, curvy romance about an indie bookstore owner who finds herself in a love triangle when she meets the author she's had a crush on for years...and his best friend.

Zora has committed every inch of her life to establishing her thriving DC bookstore, making it into a pillar of the community, and she just hasn’t had time for romance. But when a mystery author she’s been crushing on for years agrees to have an event at her store, she starts to rethink her priorities. Lawrence is every bit as charming as she imagined, even if his understanding of his own books seems just a bit shallow. When he asks her out after his reading, she’s almost elated enough to forget about the grumpy guy who sat next to her making snide comments all evening. Apparently the grouch is Lawrence’s best friend, Reid, but she can’t imagine what kind of friendship that must be. They couldn’t be more different.

But as she starts seeing Lawrence, and spending more and more time with Reid, Zora finds first impressions can be deceiving. Reid is smart and thoughtful—he’s also interested. After years of avoiding dating, she suddenly has two handsome men competing for her affection. But even as she struggles to choose between them, she can’t shake the feeling that they’re both hiding something—a mystery she’s determined to solve before she can find her HEA.

Buy Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Books a Million  |  IndieBound 

BookShop.orgGoogle Play  | Apple

Add to Goodreads



“Well, is he attractive? You know I don’t want no ugly great-grandbabies.”

“Granny!” Zora laughed, pulling books from the stocking cart to arrange on the shelving display for the storefront window. The sun poked through the cloudy morning, threatening to scorch another early September day. Opus Northeast had been open for less than fifteen minutes, and its owner was already rolling her eyes. Silly her for making the mistake of mentioning the man who hit on her as she walked from her parked car into the store. “There’s no such thing as an ugly baby.”

Granny Marion shook a ruby-red fingernail at her granddaughter. “Now, I know I taught you better than that. Ain’t no reason to lie, baby. You know good and well that the li’l girl two doors down from you has one, bless his heart.”

Zora stifled a snort as she stacked middle-grade fantasy books next to some young-adult ones. Stories of witches, magic, and other worlds rich in cultural traditions and majesty. Running her fingers over the foiled titles of their hardcover jackets, she pictured her younger self staring into the window in awe, ready to devour each word in the safety of her cozy bedroom fort. Her parents would shake their heads in amusement before turning her loose in the children’s section. She’d beg to take home every new story that she hadn’t previously spent hours poring over, eventually convincing her parents to allow her a new armful. “That baby is cute. He just has a big head.”

“Hmmph. I think the word you’re looking for is oblong. And why are his eyes so big?” Granny Marion widened her eyes until they bulged behind her wire-rimmed glasses, her taut brown skin hugging high cheekbones and a proud forehead. Her long, salt-and-pepper hair twisted neatly into a bun at the nape of her neck—a nostalgic reminder of her past as a professional dancer turned dance teacher. Every move of her petite frame flowed with grace and intention, even when she ridiculed their neighbor’s newest family addition.

“Granny.” Zora squeezed out from the window front, smoothing her hands over her shapely figure clad in her usual skinny jeans, camisole and cardigan—today’s was hip length and plum colored. She loved a layered look, and her sweater matched her matte lipstick perfectly. “I’m sure he’ll grow into his features as he gets older.” She leaned down to kiss her grandmother on the cheek. “Remember, I had to grow into my smile—I had that awful headgear the orthodontist made me wear.”

For her entire fifth grade year, Zora had been plagued with jeers and jokes about the metal contraption affixed to her upper jaw to help with her overbite. Her only reprieve was when she ate, but even then, her classmates would tease Zora about her protruding front teeth. She’d sit with her closest friends on benches outside to avoid the meanest kids posted up at tables in the cafeteria.

Granny Marion kissed her granddaughter back, eyes sparkling. “Mmm-hmm, I remember. That gear gave you character. But there ain’t no headgear to fix a misshapen head, baby.”

“Jesus.” Zora shook her head, unable to hide her smile. She grabbed Granny’s hand, entwining their arms, and led her farther into the store. “So what are your plans for today?”

They walked past rows of bookshelves, display tables full of must-read paperbacks, and the checkout counter to a large corner filled with comfortable furniture for patrons to enjoy their purchases. Four-top tables lit with antique desk lamps were often filled with college students studying or local writers needing a change of venue. Against the farthest wall stood a coffee kiosk operated by a local Black-owned coffee shop and bakery. “I’m going to grab myself a latte and a breakfast bagel before I enjoy today’s newspaper.”

Granny Marion visited the store daily without fail, only deviating slightly from her routine when the Kerri’s Coffee kiosk sold holiday-inspired treats and she craved a holiday spice latte with a splash of eggnog instead of her regular skim latte. From open to close, Granny was often the one constant, greeting patrons, playing with kids, sharing her favorite reads and best cake recipes and reading her morning paper. She set her newspaper down on her favorite plush, high-backed chair in the reading corner, winking at the barista as they neared the coffee kiosk. “Hey there, young man, how you doin’ today?”

As they approached, Brian, a shy college sophomore, circled in front of the kiosk to wrap his arms around her. “Good morning, Ms. Marion. I’m doing good. How you doin’?” He waved at Zora. “Hey, Z.”

“What up, B?” Zora slapped him five and grabbed her usual from the counter—a raspberry cheese Danish and an oat milk latte. Before she could grill Brian about his upcoming calculus exam, the bell on the front door jingled. She raised her latte in thanks, and left her grandmother to chat. On Zora’s way to the front, she picked up a folded paper towel from the floor and chucked it into a waste bin. “What’s this doing here?”

Rushing in with several bags in her hands and flushed cheeks was Emma, Zora’s best friend and roommate. Her box braids were swept up into a high bun and framed by a colorful head wrap. Big hoop earrings barely skimmed the shoulders of her chambray dress shirt, which was tied at the waist over a colorful pleated skirt. “Girl. It’s already hot out there—I’m sweating! Now, don’t get mad. I know I’m late.”

Zora bit into her Danish and chewed, waiting. “I’m not mad.” Ain’t nothin’ new.

“It’s just that, I don’t even know how to tell you this…” She shoved her bags into a cabinet under the checkout counter, clenching and releasing her hands as she shuffled from one foot to the other nervously.

Zora sipped her latte, side-eyeing her friend. Nothing was new about these antics. “Rip the Band-Aid off, Em.”

She blew out a breath, grimacing. “I think I lost the inventory tablet. I couldn’t find it last night. It wasn’t in any of my bags or at home. I am so, so sorry. If we can’t find it, I promise I’ll pay for a replacement.” Emma wrung her hands. “I’m kinda hoping you can do your Zor-lock Holmes thing and help me retrace my steps.”

Emma lost everything. Back when they were college roommates, she lost her dorm keys the day she moved in. She lost her car in parking lots, lost her water bottle at yoga, and lost good wigs on multiple occasions when there was no logical reason for them to have been removed in the first place. One time she lost her date, which Zora never let Emma live down. Emma tried organizing differently, or keeping a note on her phone so that she knew where she parked, but then she’d lose her phone. Their freshman year Zora spent all of her free time retracing Emma’s steps to find her lost items, eventually printing instructions to call Zora onto adhesive labels to stick onto most of Emma’s property for the next time it went missing. They used Emma’s number originally, but she lost her phone more than anything else that she owned.

Chewing on a bit of Danish, Zora interlaced her fingers, pushing her palms out in front of her to stretch her arms before shaking them out at her sides. She tilted her head side to side, cracking her neck. “Okay, so you stayed to do inventory last night. What section were you working on?”

“Cookbooks.” Emma bit her lip.

Zora pulled her lips into her mouth, pressing them together as she nodded. “What did you eat for dinner?”

“I bought a chicken wrap from Brian, but then I wanted French fries, so I grabbed some duck fat fries from next door.” The bistro next door boasted New American cuisine with a hefty price tag.

“Ooo, I love those.” Now I want some.

“Right? They’re perfection.” Emma brought her fingertips to her mouth, kissed them and splayed them wide.

“Hmm.” Zora sipped her latte thoughtfully. This is too easy. “Did you check the bathroom? On top of the paper towel dispenser.”

Emma frowned, hugging her arms over her stomach. “Why would I check the bathroom? This isn’t like that time I ate those deep fried Oreos…”

Zora giggled. “I promise you, I wasn’t thinking of the day you blew up the bathroom. Honestly, I’d rather forget that one. Just go check.”

In a huff, her friend turned on her heel, walking back toward the coffee kiosk. “Hey, B! I’ll be right back for my coffee.” The bathroom door opened. “What the— How?” Emma rushed back, tablet in hand, mouth wide open. “How did you know it would be in the bathroom?” She plugged it into a charger hidden behind the counter and grabbed the backup, which was fully charged.

Zora sipped her latte, serving enough suspense to make her friend bounce with anticipation. “You had a chicken wrap and then ordered duck fat fries. You brought the food over to the cookbook section, but you always forget napkins, so you went to the bathroom. You carried the tablet with you, because you were worried you’d lose it. I found a paper towel on the floor next to the cookbook display.”

“So much for keeping it safe,” Emma muttered, eyeing it like the device betrayed her.

“It’s fine, we found the tablet, and now we can keep going through the inventory. Are you still on cookbooks?”

Emma nodded. “One last shelf, and then on to travel.”

“Okay, well let’s try to get through travel and self-help today? I want us to get through a full inventory sweep so that we can place our next orders and start planning out the short-story contest. We only have a couple of months left.”

“You got it. What are you working on today?” Emma leaned against the counter, looking surprised when Brian brought over her cinnamon-topped cappuccino. “You betta stop flirting with me, B!”

He grinned, walking back to the kiosk, as several shoppers wandered into the store.

“I’ve got social media posts, graphics for event flyers, and I’m trying to nail down this author for a book signing in two weeks.” Zora logged in to her workstation, climbing onto her black mesh-back stool at the main checkout desk of the bookstore.

Emma surveyed and greeted the guests, offering a friendly nod. “You know you could work in your office, Z. Take advantage of the peace and quiet? I can handle this out here while you get through some of that computer work.”

“I know you can, but I like it out here.” Zora shrugged.

Emma sucked her teeth. “You should be a professional people-watcher, girl.”

She chuckled in response. “It’s an addiction. I really can’t help it!” Zora watched her friend turn toward the cookbooks, but not before giving Granny Marion some sugar. Squeezing the matriarch’s hand, Emma plopped a big kiss on her cheek before leaning down to whisper something in her ear. Granny chuckled and they slapped five, as Emma strode to the cookbook display, sat cross-legged on the floor and started reviewing inventory figures on the tablet.

Z exchanged an amused look with her grandmother, who blew a kiss in her direction. Catching it, she touched the tips of her fingers to her cheek. She blew a kiss back and turned her attention to her computer monitor. After pulling up the bookstore’s calendar, she made a list of the upcoming events for the next three weeks, putting together digital flyers using templates she’d made previously. She added book covers and author photos to author event flyers, candid photos of regular customers highlighting some of their favorite reads that year, and a photo of Granny Marion reading to a group of children to publicize upcoming story time events. She dropped links to all of the graphics into her social media spreadsheet, where she scheduled out posts weeks in advance, complete with post language, hashtags, author account handles, and registration links. Such a Capricorn.

Being organized was how Zora had gotten the business running smoothly so quickly. After her father died, she’d received a generous inheritance that allowed her to purchase Opus Northeast from its previous owner, Ms. Betty. A bookeller for decades, Ms. Betty had decided to retire and move to Arizona to be closer to her grandchildren. Betty had known Zora since adolescence, and she was delighted to sell her store to someone who loved the place just as much as she did. Zora took great pride in updating Opus Northeast in a way that invited the community to come in and stay awhile.

After a couple of hours of events and social media planning, she moved on to email, deleting all of the spam before responding to emails from book distributors, patrons inquiring about upcoming releases not currently available for preorder, and local authors replying to her invitations for in-store author events. Looking down at her desk, she clicked her tongue at herself for leaving her breakfast sitting there as she worked. She had a habit of leaving food sitting next to her for hours as she zoned in on a task only to pick at it once it was cold. She popped the last of her flaky Danish into her mouth, as a new email hit her inbox. “Oh, my God.”

“What is it?” Emma asked curiously as she advanced toward the counter, setting a fresh latte in front of Zora.

“He said yes.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. She lifted the latte to her lips on autopilot, humming softly as she took in the scent. “Thanks.”

Her friend peered over her shoulder. “Is he who I think he is?”

Stunned, Zora looked up at Emma, her brows furrowed in confusion. “He said yes?”

“Are you having a stroke? I’m gonna need for you to use your words, sis.” Emma waved her hand in front of Z’s face.

She couldn’t find the words. Her mouth went dry. Helpless, Zora pointed to her computer screen.

Emma leaned forward. “‘Dear Ms. Dizon,’ blah blah blah. ‘I’ve spoken to Lawrence Michaels, and he would love to have an author event hosted at Opus Northeast! As you may know, he grew up not far from there, and he is excited for an opportunity to read an excerpt from Trial by Fire, which is also based in Northeast D.C. Following the reading, he can stay for a brief Q&A and a book signing,’ blah blah blah. Wow, are you freaking out right now?”

It was no secret that Zora had been crushing hard for years on bestselling author Lawrence Michaels, whose newest installment of his Langston Butler mystery thriller series was selling like hotcakes, and word on the street was that the first two books in the series were being optioned for film. Aside from being a local star, Lawrence’s good looks were undeniable. “I bet he’s tall,” Zora murmured, grabbing his book from a pile of new releases on the counter behind her. Opening the book to the author photo inside the back cover, she ran her fingertips over the image of his clean-shaven brown skin, a hint of a smile curving at the edge of his closed mouth. A cleft in his chin and strong jaw led down the column of his neck to broad shoulders cloaked in a dark blue blazer. “Wonder if he has dimples.”

Emma stared at her friend, pinging her eyes back and forth between Zora and the author photo. “I think you might need to break out the ol’ vibrator tonight, girl. This ‘hot for author’ thing is getting unhealthy. Look at you—you can barely string words together right now. What are you going to do when he gets here? Drool on him?”

Zora swatted her friend away. “I’m fine. It’s just… I didn’t think he’d actually be willing to come here.”

“Why? He’s too big and bad for Brookland? He’s from here!” Emma shoved her hands onto her hips.

Zora pulled at one of her tight curls, coiling it around her finger. “You know what I mean. Folks like that set their sights higher than modest indie bookstores like this. And he’s from Petworth.”

“He’s from D.C. And he could still be a total douche. Besides, when have you ever cared about someone having too much bravado to fit their big ass head through our doors? He’s lucky to be invited, girl. Don’t gas that dude up too much.” Emma dragged her fingers across her throat, deading the subject. She really should have gone to law school.

She struggled to find the words. “I just— I’m surprised is all.”

“‘Oh, Rexy, you’re so sexy.’” Emma quoted one of their favorite movie quotes from their college days—they’d scored a box of her sister’s old DVDs and binge-watched everything, but some lines stuck forever. Emma was forever quoting Empire Records, Center Stage, and The Cutting Edge. She curled her fingers into a claw and delicately pawed in Zora’s direction as she turned toward the travel section.

Exasperated, she pursed her lips, still tugging at her curls. “I hate you.”

“I heard that, heffa.”

Excerpted from Zora Books Her Happy Ever After by Taj McCoy © 2023 by Taj McCoy, used with permission from HarperCollins/MIRA Books.


 What I thought about Zora Books Her Happy Ever After

 Zora Dizon is a successful business owner and book-lover.  When an author she's been crushing on agrees to appear at her bookstore, she's very excited.  Granny Marion is Zora's largest supporter and she's in desperate need of great-grandbabies, so Zora has lots oe encouragement to go after author Lawrence Michaels.

But, but -- there's this other guy in the audience that pushes her buttons and just happens to be Lawrence's best friend, which starts a love triangle of sorts.  Isn't that the way it always goes though -- from famine to feast, Zora has two men in her life, both looking for her attentions.  But there is something about the relationship to the two men that has Zora wondering just what is going on with there.  There are some red flags that Zora needs to pay attention to!

I like the idea of the love triangle in romance.  As a reader, I'm interested in how the main characters in a romantic triangle handle the relationship and make decisions, so this part of the story attracted me to this story.  And in real life -- isn't that the way it goes -- when it rains it pours and Zora has some decisions to make about these two men.  I did like the thoughtful way that Zora goes about looking out for herself and her own needs.

There's plenty of steamy moments here, no doubt about it.  I also liked the Zora's relationships outside of the two men -- her friend Emma is terrific and Zora's interactions with the young writers is a lovely part of this story.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and liked the homey feel of it along with the examination of the potential love triangle.  It made for an interesting romance and I'll be looking for future titles from this author.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.





Law grad Taj McCoy is committed to championing plus-sized Black love stories and characters with a strong sense of sisterhood and familial bonds. Born in Oakland, Taj started writing as a child and celebrated her first publications in grade school. When she’s not writing, Taj boosts other marginalized writers, practices yoga, co-hosts the Fat Like Me and Better Than Brunch podcasts, shares recipes, and cooks supper club meals for friends.







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Author website: https://www.tajmccoywrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tajmccoywrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the1whowill

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20626681.Taj_McCoy



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