Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Release Day Review: 4 Hints You Love Your Best Friend (Bower Boys #4) by Kelly Siskind

I am NOT in love with my brother's ex.

We're just temporary roommates.

Jolene Daniels is my best friend. Sorry…was. She was my best friend a lifetime and ten years of witness protection ago. Now that I’ve returned to my hometown, Jolene and I are once again hanging out.

As friends.

I do not fantasize about the time we fell asleep in the tree house we built, and I woke up with her tucked against my aching chest. I don’t replay the days we raced through the woods, nothing but carefree adventure and laughter filling the air.

Nope. We’re just old pals, and I’m thrilled to have her back in my life. Of course, I notice how stunning she is, but it’s fine.

Until her apartment floods and she temporarily moves into my place. In the room beside mine. Nothing but a thin wall between us. She also walks around in flimsy tank tops. Zero bra.

Did I mention she’s my brother’s ex and he’s looking to rekindle their romance?

Good thing Jolene Daniels and I are nothing but the best of friends.

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What I thought about
4 Hints You Love Your Best Friend
 
I've been loving this Bower Boys series from Kelly Siskind and have been waiting patiently for all the brothers to get their HEA now that they are out of witness protection.  In 4 Hints You Love Your Best Friend, brother Cal needs to resolve his feelings for his long-time childhood friend Jolene.  

There's plenty of bro-code stuff happening in this story. Prior to witness protection, Cal and Jolene were best friends, hanging out together.  Cal already has deeper feelings for Jolene, but when his brother Jake shows interest in dating her, he doesn't stop his brother and that's his first mistake.

Fast forward to post-witness protection, and there's tension between Cal and Jolene. Some of that comes from a situation that developed right before they were whisked off to witness protection so there are some unresolved conflicts here.  But Cal still has deep feelings for Jolene, and to make amends for something he thought he did, he tries again to put Jolene and Jake back together. That's a big mistake for Cal, since he really has deep feelings for Jolene.  

When Jolene's apartment floods and she needs a place to stay, she ends up in Cal's apartment.  Is that a mistake?  Maybe and maybe not.  The close proximity situation helps everyone's feelings bubble to the top and there's a whole lot of drama going on!

Cal is really a sweet character.  He's a big fixer of others problems which at times is endearing and sometimes manipulative.  It does come from a good place and he has a huge heart for his family and friends that sometimes gets him in trouble.

As details of that last night before witness protection come out, there's many revelations about what really happened that night that helps to put Cal and Jolene where they need to be -- and that's in each other's arms.

I just love this series and I'm finding I can't get enough of these Bower Boys! 



 
AUTHOR BIO


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).



AUTHOR LINKS


 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Release Day Review: 5 Stars to You Can Die (A Laurel Snow Thriller #3) by Rebecca Zanetti

Set against the atmospheric snowy backdrop of rural Pacific Northwest, New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti's thrilling suspense series follows FBI Special Agent Laurel Snow as she strives to navigate her complicated family life when the father Laurel never knew turns up dead as the latest victim in a series of murders targeting men in the area. But solving his murder and the rest of the killings might be harder than she antcipates if her sociopathic half-sister has any say in the matter. The Blacklist meets The Profiler meets Justified in this fast, page-turning thriller that will have readers guessing until the very end!

It's an especially deadly winter in the Pacific Northwest, as rising star FBI profiler Laurel Snow hunts down a serial killer with a chillingly bitter M.O., in New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti's edgy thriller . . .

Men are dying in the Pacific Northwest, their bodies found near churches, charities, and counseling centers--each with valentine candy hearts shoved down their throats. They're good men with families and community ties--or so they seem until Laurel Snow and her team begin to investigate. Then the case takes a shockingly personal turn when the father she's never met, a former pastor, turns up among the dead.

Now, besides solving her father's murder, Laurel is on the hunt to discover the truth of his past. Complicating things is Laurel's troubled half-sister, Abigail, a brilliant sociopath determined to prove that they've both inherited their father's malignant narcissism.

Assisting Laurel is Washington Fish and Wildlife Captain Huck Rivers, a dangerous loner whose reliance on gut instinct puts him at odds with Laurel's coolly analytic approach. But the choice may be moot when the killer hones in on Huck's own dark secrets--putting him and Laurel squarely in the crosshairs.

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What I thought about You Can Die

Laurel Snow is back! I was so excited to read You Can Die. Laurel Snow is one of my favorite crime-fighters and when she is paired with Huck -- well I can't think of any other crime drama I would rather read!

In this third installment, Laurel once again has a crazy serial killer to uncover -- and her bizarro sister Abigail Crain is right in the middle of things once again. When Laurel's receptionist's ex-husband is found murdered, she must not only defend those around her from accusations of being the murderer, but also find the killer, which is where she focuses her big brain. Laurel begins an investigation into a case that has connections to her missing father, a councilman going for re-election and an entire firm of lawyers. There's lots for Laurel to unravel, and she does it brilliantly as usual. I have to say that I really love how Laurel works through the case, and although she takes some chances that could potentially get her in deep trouble in You Can Die, it's a good thing she has Huck around to give her protection. While I had a huge girl-crush on Laurel, I love it even more when she teams up with Huck and his wonderful dog.

Laurel does go up against her crazy sister Abigail in You Can Die, and her father makes a reappearance, causing quite a bit of havoc and red herrings to the case. My skin always crawls when Abigail is on the page -- she's just bad from so many different angles -- but it's a great cat-and-mouse game between the two sisters.

I devoured this book, not able to put it down until I hit the final pages. It's a great romantic suspense story and although the ending felt just a bit rushed, I loved every word of this story. I really need more of Laurel Snow and I hope there will be more to this series. 
 

About the Author


New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly and #1 Amazon bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti has published more than sixty novels, which have been translated into several languages, with more than five million copies sold world-wide.  Her books have received Publishers Weekly starred reviews and have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Woman’s World, and Women’s Day Magazines. Her novels have also been included in Amazon best books of the year and have been favorably reviewed in both the Washington Post and the New York Times Book Reviews.  Rebecca has ridden in a locked Chevy trunk, has asked the unfortunate delivery guy to release her from a set of handcuffs, and has discovered the best silver mine shafts in which to bury a body…all in the name of research.  Honest.

Find Rebecca at:  www.RebeccaZanetti.com  | Facebook | Instagram

Monday, July 24, 2023

Blog Tour Early Review: Flirting with Fire (Modern Love #3) by Jane Porter



Available 7/25/2023

 Love isn’t just an act in this captivating and flirty romance by New York Times bestselling author Jane Porter.

Forty-nine-year-old Margot Hughes has lived and breathed theater for the past twenty-five years. After a devastating breakup with her playwright fiancĂ©, she wants nothing to do with the industry. She has sworn off New York, theater, actors—all of it. She returns to her hometown on California’s central coast and takes a job in real estate, where she manages significant investment properties. But Margot’s suddenly thrown back into the theater world when Sally, her friend and boss, who had been restoring and funding Cambria’s historic theater, has a heart attack. Before she knows it, Margot is tapped to take over the troubled summer production of Barefoot in the Park.

But the play is no walk in the park—the leads and director have all quit, and Margot struggles to find new actors…until Max Russo arrives. Forty-five-year-old Max is a former soap opera star turned rugged cowboy on TV’s most popular western series.  Max has a huge following and is the perfect hero to step up and save the play, provided Margot stars opposite him. Although adamant she would never return to theater, Margot enjoys the long hours of rehearsal with a professional like Max, who is charming, witty, and passionate. But when the curtains close, can Margot allow herself to fall for Max when he represents everything she left behind?


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 What I thought about Flirting With Fire

Margot Hughes had given up her acting career after the dissolution of a long-term relationship and a need to move in a new direction that will get her what she wants. She returns home to her California coastal town to live a simple life helping her friend Sally with her business.  When Sally's passion project of creating a community theater is about to fail, Sally asks Margot to dust off her acting hat and direct the play.  

Well-known actor Max Russo is also asked to give a hand.  He's family to Sally, and he agrees to play the lead opposite Margo.  Max is not just good-looking -- he's got impeccable manners and he's sensitive to others. He's a good guy.  It's no wonder that Margo is falling from the minute she meets Max, even though she knows it can't go anywhere.

Over the course of prepping for the play, Max and Margo spend more time together and they become friends.  It does get uncomfortable for Margo to play her part since it involves lots of kissing and I really thought this was so well done.  Margo's hesitancy along with the pull she has toward Max is really a delightful part of their romance. They are just so darn cute! 

They try to take things slow, even when it's clear they are both on the same page.  They are adorable together and I loved this older romance. Margo's reawakening of her physical feelings was a nice part of the story and  when they finally do give in to what they are feeling with each other, it's explosive and wonderful!

But there's a bit of conflict when they realize they want very different things in the future.  It's a bit of a heart-breaker here for sure, but this is a romance with a very lovely HEA, so I won't say anymore.  It does take some big shifts in thinking for both character's. In spite of some things happening very quickly, I really did enjoy this romance and was rooting for Max and Margo all the way.

Once I started this book, I didn't want to put it down.  There was plenty of humor, many cute moments, and lots of heat between Margo and Max.  I really did love them together, especially how their relationship helped their creative process.  Max was just pretty awesome, and Sally's big heart had room enough for everyone and she turned out to be a key change-agent when Max and Margo really need it.

I really enjoyed this romance and would recommend it to all romance readers, and especially those looking for a more mature romance. Flirting with Fire captures the age group perfectly and I liked that the most about it. It's just a very entertaining sweet romance between forty-somethings and I loved it!




About the Author
 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jane Porter holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and has written 75 novels since getting her first sale to Harlequin Presents in 2000. A six time RITA finalist, and RITA winner in July 2014 for Take Me, Cowboy, Jane is known for her passionate, powerful stories and relatable heroines. An advocate for writers, Jane founded Tule Publishing in 2013 to give romance and women’s fiction authors support and opportunities. Jane and Tule Publishing are both based in sunny San Clemente, CA.
 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Release Week Review: The Summer Girl (Avalon Bay #3) by Elle Kennedy

Elle Kennedy's next spicy and emotional romance in the blockbuster Avalon Bay series.

College student Cassie Soul hasn’t spent an entire summer in Avalon Bay in years, not since her parents divorced and her mother spitefully whisked her away to Boston. Now that her grandmother is selling the boardwalk hotel that’s been in their family for five decades, Cassie returns to the quaint beach town to spend time with family, ring in her twenty-first birthday…and maybe find herself a summer fling.

On her first night in town, she finds the perfect candidate: Tate Bartlett, Avalon Bay’s fun-loving golden boy.

Tate, sailing instructor and lovable player, is no stranger to flings. In fact, he’s always down for a good time. But the moment he meets Cassie, he knows she’s not the girl you play games with. Cassie is gorgeous, hilarious, and, frankly, the coolest person he’s ever met. The last thing he wants to do is risk breaking her heart, and so he reluctantly puts her in the friend-zone…only to realize he made a huge mistake. Soon, his attraction to Cassie becomes impossible to ignore. He wants that fling now. Big-time.

And maybe even something more.

As Cassie and Tate walk the line between friends and lovers, they’re about to discover that their situation is the least complicated part of this equation. Because Avalon Bay is full of secrets―and their relationship might not survive when those secrets come to light.


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Sample 1

 What I thought about The Summer Girl

In this third return to Avalon Bay, virgin Cassie Soul is looking for a summer fling. She wants fun, sun and to get some experience in bed. She meets Tate Bartlett, a "player" who is more than happy to give Cassie the summer she is looking for. After Tate is warned away because Cassie is a nice girl and nice girls catch feelings, he decides to be Cassie's wingman as she looks for her summer fling. Yeah, right! You can see from a mile away that these two are going to fall for each other.

Tate is sweet and kind and amazing. He finds himself falling when he's never done that before, so he has a bit of a shock realizing the depth of his feelings. He's also very careful with Cassie's heart, I thought, and the family drama that plays out seemed realistic as well as heartbreaking. Cassie's mother is a piece of work, and she manages to tank a few lives (she thinks) as she visits Avalon Bay, causing major distress during the grand re-opening of The Beacon. I did like how the book revisits the couples in the first two books in the series.

Overall, this is a very pleasant romance, almost a rom-com in terms of the banter between the main characters. I kept reading because I really liked Tate and Cassie and I was rooting for them all the way. This book left me with a huge smile on my face. The Summer Girl is a fun read with plenty of flirting, romance and just a little drama to make everything interesting. A good addition to the series. 



About Elle

New York TimesUSA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

Follow Elle Online: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 

 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Release Week Review: 5 stars for Dead of Winter by Darcy Coates

 

When Christa joins a tour group heading deep into the snowy expanse of the Rocky Mountains, she’s hopeful this will be her chance to put the ghosts of her past to rest. But when a bitterly cold snowstorm sweeps the region, the small group is forced to take shelter in an abandoned hunting cabin. Despite the uncomfortably claustrophobic quarters and rapidly dropping temperature, Christa believes they’ll be safe as they wait out the storm.

She couldn’t be more wrong.

Deep in the night, their tour guide goes missing…only to be discovered the following morning, his severed head impaled on a tree outside the cabin. Terrified, and completely isolated by the storm, Christa finds herself trapped with eight total strangers. One of them kills for sport…and they’re far from finished. As the storm grows more dangerous and the number of survivors dwindles one by one, Christa must decide who she can trust before this frozen mountain becomes her tomb.

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 What I thought about Dead of Winter

It's hot and humid where I am right now, so what better time to read a book set in a major snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains?   Dead of Winter is an extraordinary suspense story that had me on the edge of my seat until the final pages.

Christa decides to go on a trip with her boyfriend Kiernan, thinking in the back of her mind that he might be the one.  Their bus gets stuck on the way to the lodge and a storm is blowing in, and so begins the action in this very entertaining story.

The bus occupants are all stuck in a cabin in the woods when bad things start happening.  And when I say bad, I mean brutally bad.  Everyone is on edge.  There is a lot they don't know, besides the fact that someone is killing them off, one by one. The story is told from Christa's point of view and she's a terrific character in this story. I was rooting for her all the way. 

I'm not going to say anymore about plot details because I don't want to spoil anything in this story.  I was riveted to the pages from start to finish.  The author manages to make multiple trips out into the blinding snowstorm unique and interesting and I just had to keep reading to find out just who the killer was.

And was I surprised?  I didn't see the ending coming, even though there were plenty of clues that are easy to see afterward. The story is intricately designed to show those clues to the reader in a way that kept me guessing for the entire book and I loved that.

I haven't read this author in the past, but I will definitely be looking for more titles from Darcy Coates.  I really enjoyed this suspenseful story and my only complaint is that I wanted a few more pages at the end to wrap up a few items left hanging.  But that is a small complaint next to a big recommendation for this title if you like a suspenseful whodunit.  The stakes are very high and I thought Christa was awesome.

I really enjoyed this book and I definitely recommend it, especially if you like suspenseful serial killer stories. 



About Darcy…

Darcy Coates is the USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen horror and suspense novels.

She lives in the Central Coast of Australia with her family, cat, and a collection of chickens. Her home is surrounded by rolling wilderness on all sides, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can hear about her next book by joining her newsletter: www.darcycoates.com/updates

Follow on Twitter: @darcyauthor

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Blog Tour Release Day Review: St. Ambrose School for Girls by Jessica Ward



Publisher: Gallery Books (July 11, 2023)
Length: 368 pages
ISBN13: 9781982194864 

A CrimeReads Most Anticipated Book of the Summer

Heathers meets The Secret History in this thrilling coming-of-age novel set in a boarding school where the secrets are devastating—and deadly.

When Sarah Taylor arrives at the exclusive St. Ambrose School, she’s carrying more baggage than just what fits in her suitcase. She knows she’s not like the other girls—if the shabby, all-black, non-designer clothes don’t give that away, the bottle of lithium hidden in her desk drawer sure does.

St. Ambrose’s queen bee, Greta Stanhope, picks Sarah as a target from day one and the most popular, powerful, horrible girl at school is relentless in making sure Sarah knows what the pecking order is. Thankfully, Sarah makes an ally out of her roommate Ellen “Strots” Strotsberry, a cigarette-huffing, devil-may-care athlete who takes no bullshit. Also down the hall is Nick Hollis, the devastatingly handsome RA, and the object of more than one St. Ambrose student’s fantasies. Between Strots and Nick, Sarah hopes she can make it through the semester, dealing with not only her schoolwork and a recent bipolar diagnosis, but Greta’s increasingly malicious pranks.

Sarah is determined not to give Greta the satisfaction of breaking her. But when scandal unfolds, and someone ends up dead, her world threatens to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. The St. Ambrose School for Girls is a dangerous, delicious, twisty coming-of-age tale that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

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What I thought about St. Ambrose School for Girls

This was a title I was very interested in reading. I'm always up for a good "mean girls" gothic sort of story and The St. Ambrose School for Girls has all the elements -- rich mean girls, resident advisors with  lots of temptations in front of them and history behind them, and the girls who don't fit in.    The story is told from the perspective of one of those girls.  Sarah Taylor isn't like most of the rich girls attending the school. She's there on a scholarship that she didn't apply for, and she has a serious mental illness. She has a target on her back before her bags are in her room.

Greta Stanhope is the mean girl to eclipse all mean girls.  She just isn't mean -- she revels in the destruction she causes. She's also in the beautiful girl clique, where jealousy and passive aggressive behavior are currency.  And there's Strots -- or Ellen Strotsberry, Sarah's athlete roommate.  I really liked Strots. She had her own demons to deal with but still managed to look out for Sarah when she needed someone.

The story is told from the point of view of Sarah Taylor.  Much of the first half is devoted to a very thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing and often very emotional expose on what it is like living with multiple health issues, including bipolar disorder at the age of fifteen. The author does a good job of showing Sarah's life through her eyes with sensitivity even when it was difficult to read. This part of the story is not for the faint of heart. Sarah's unique perspective had me holding my breath at times as Sarah navigated her illness and her enemies around her. The rich girls do their usual sort of pranks on Sarah, but things gradually escalate, especially after Sarah starts connecting the dots between her rich tormentors and Nick Hollis, the gorgeous male resident advisor on their floor. 

As Sarah continues to deal with both her illness and all of the aspects of being at the new school, Greta and her group of mean girls turn up the heat on everyone, even each other. While the first part of the book was more slow burn and getting to know the characters from Sarah's viewpoint, the second half of the book heats up with some fairly predictable and awful actions.

Overall, The St. Ambrose School for Girls is a sensitive story of mental illness wrapped around a bit of a whodunit. While the first half takes it's time establishing Sarah's viewpoint, the second half is a taut mystery that gradually builds in intensity. There is a payoff at the end and it left me questioning, wondering, and thinking about everything I just read.  This is a perfect book for a book club discussion, especially if you want to talk about ethics.  To tell you the truth, I'm gobsmacked about that ending in a good way as I love it when a story has me thinking about it long after I finished reading and that was The St. Ambrose School for Girls.


 
 About the Author

 

Photo Credit: Andrew Hyslop

Jessica Ward is a pseudonym for the #1 New York Times bestselling author who writes as J.R. Ward and has over 20 million copies in print. She enjoys spending time in the Adirondacks and lives in the south with her family and her dogs.  




Monday, July 10, 2023

Available Tomorrow July 11, 2023: 5 stars for Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

 

Love isn’t blind, it’s just little blurry.

Sadie Montgomery never saw what was coming . . . Literally! One minute she’s celebrating the biggest achievement of her life—placing as a finalist in the North American Portrait Society competition—the next, she’s lying in a hospital bed diagnosed with a “probably temporary” condition known as face blindness. She can see, but every face she looks at is now a jumbled puzzle of disconnected features. Imagine trying to read a book upside down and in another language. This is Sadie’s new reality with every face she sees.

But, as she struggles to cope, hang on to her artistic dream, work through major family issues, and take care of her beloved dog, Peanut, she falls into—love? Lust? A temporary obsession to distract from the real problems in her life?—with not one man but two very different ones. The timing couldn’t be worse.

If only her life were a little more in focus, Sadie might be able to find her way. But perceiving anything clearly right now seems impossible. Even though there are things we can only find when we aren’t looking. And there are people who show up when we least expect them. And there are always, always other ways of seeing.

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What I thought about Hello Stranger

What would happen to you if you suddenly lost the one thing that you need for your job,  your livelihood, your personal success?  Sadie Montgomery is a portrait artist about to potentially get the big break that will make her a success in the eyes of important family members when a potentially serious health condition sidelines her. But even worse, as a portrait artist who specializes in faces, her medical condition has left her with the inability to read faces, called face blindness.

I'll admit, I'd never heard of face blindness and this book makes it so that I'll never forget it!  Sadie actually takes her situation quite well and she does have the help of a lovely therapist who helps Sadie navigate this fairly serious change in how she views the world.  But there's no way to avoid the fact that the portrait she needs for the contest is not completed, and she'll have to tackle it while she has face blindness. 

But there are some bright spots -- namely two -- her new veterinarian who she fantasizes about marrying, and one of her neighbors who lives in the apartment building. Joe, the neighbor, starts out by giving Sadie a wrong impression that gradually changes to something like friendship and maybe more.  I don't want to say much more about this, but I truly loved how this unfolded!  I had an inkling about what was happening here, but it wasn't confirmed until that glorious ending when a beautiful HEA lands in Sadie's heart.  

By the end of this story, I just loved Sadie.  The story is told in her voice and point of view which is cute and funny and sometimes sad.  Sadie has suffered some loss in her life, for sure.  I adored how the family situation come together nicely, even the episode with Sadie's evil stepsister. 

I finished this book with a smile on my face and I ended up going back to read the deliciously sweet ending a few times since.  Things almost go south for Sadie, but her friends really come through for her.  

I loved everything about this -- from the story of a young artist finding her true creative calling to the romance that develops way before the start of the book.  The romance here is just a lovely, slow build, that had me loving Sadie and hoping that everything would work out for her.   

Overall, this is a terrific feelgood story that had me smiling and re-reading right away.  I devoured this is a couple of days because I really needed to know how it all ended up for Sadie, including her art and her family.  I just loved this and it will definitely be on my list of favorites for 2023. 


 
About the Author

Katherine Center is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of How to Walk Away, as well as the upcoming novel, Things You Save in a Fire (August 13, 2019). She’s also written five other bittersweet comic novels about love and family, including The Bright Side of Disaster, The Lost Husband,and Happiness for Beginners. The Lost Husband is currently in production as a feature film starring Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb. Katherine’s work has appeared in Redbook, InStyle, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, InTouch, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle, and many others. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Review: He's My Cowboy by Diana Palmer, Rebecca Zanetti and Delores Fossen

 

In a charming western anthology headlined by one of the most trusted writers of western romance, three bestselling authors offer stories of sexy cowboys finding their perfect matches.
 
THE HAWK’S SHADOW * Diana Palmer
Gil needs to prove himself in his new role as sheriff’s investigator. That means working alongside a hotshot expert from the state crime lab who’s come to Colorado to help untangle a long-ago mystery.  But if they stop butting heads, they might discover a surprising connection . . .
 
RANCHER STYLE * Rebecca Zanetti
Leaving the Marines and returning to Redemption as heir to the family ranch—and guardian to three wayward teenagers—Greg is in way over his head. But he’s learned some deadly lessons since leaving his first love behind. And when she’s in danger, nothing will stop him from saving her.
 
A COWBOY KIND OF ROMANCE * Delores Fossen
After eight years in the Air Force, Brenna’s hanging up her uniform and returning home to Loveland, Texas. News of her parents’ separation has shaken her faith in love, even if the whole town is eager to matchmake between Brenna and her high-school flame. But never underestimate a cowboy’s powers of persuasion . . .

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What I thought about He's My Cowboy

 This western anthology contains three stories from three different authors. The stories are connected by location as they take place in Redemption Wyoming, but really they could be taking place in AnySmallTown USA.

The first story from Diana Palmer involves a twelve year old missing persons case and one straight-shooter of an investigator from the state crime lab. I really enjoyed Nemara Landreth and her direct and her somewhat unconventional methods and thought she was a good match with Gil. This is a workplace,slow burn romance that made me smile at the end.

Rescue Ranger Style is a second-chance story between a a man who is way over his head with new responsibilities and the women who really never forgot him. Three teenagers provide lots of drama to this story and I really enjoyed this one.

A Cowboy Kind of Romance is a sweet returning home romance that fits nicely in this trio of stories.

I find these three story anthologies to be perfect for those times when you want a low-conflict sweet romance in a perfect size for reading in an evening or two and a great way to experience some new authors. 


 

 

Friday, July 7, 2023

Cover Reveal: Hott Shot by Serena Bell

 

Hott Shot
Serena Bell
Publication date: September 19th 2023
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Beauty salon… and the Beast

Quinn: Working at the family wedding resort wasn’t exactly on my Bingo card. But it’s the only way for my siblings and me to get our grandfather’s inheritance, so here I am, staffing the Hott Spot Spa and Salon front desk. It’s an absurd gig for a man who makes Oscar the Grouch look like a people-person.

Still, I’m a hard worker. I’ve made a fortune off my scientific discoveries, and if I can engineer groundbreaking drugs, I can do anything, right? Not according to Sonya Rossi, the spa’s smoking hot and relentlessly perky manager. My grumpy approach is testing even sunshine-y Sonya’s patience. Meanwhile, I’m not sure whether I want to rain on her parade—or kiss the smile off her face.

Then the universe throws another curveball, putting us under the same roof. The closer Sonya gets, the more I like it—and her. I want to get to know her better and let her see the side of me I never show people. Until now, I’ve only believed in what I can touch, sense, and prove. I definitely don’t believe in love… but Sonya’s making me wish I could.

A spicy, grumpy-sunshine, opposites attract, under-one-roof, forced proximity standalone romantic comedy set in the beloved small town of Rush Creek.

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Author Bio:

USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes contemporary romance with heat, heart, and humor. A former journalist, Serena has always believed that everyone has an amazing story to tell if you listen carefully, and you can often find her scribbling in her tiny garret office, mainlining chocolate and bringing to life the tales in her head.

Serena’s books have earned many honors, including an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Apple Books Best Book of the Month, and Amazon Best Book of the Year for Romance.

When not writing, Serena loves to spend time with her college-sweetheart husband and two hilarious kiddos—all of whom are incredibly tolerant not just of Serena’s imaginary friends but also of how often she changes her hobbies and how passionately she embraces the new ones. These days, it’s stand-up paddle boarding, board-gaming, meditation, and long walks with good friends.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook Page / Facebook Group / Instagram / Twitter / Newsletter



Sunday, July 2, 2023

Review: Loving the Wolf : A Fated Mates Romance (SWAT: Special Wolf Alpha Team #14) by Paige Tyler

 


WHERE THERE’S A WOLF, THERE’S A WAY

SWAT Werewolf Trevor McCall thinks that Jenna Malone is The One for him—his soul mate who accepts both the man he is and the wolf inside. Problem is, she’s also his best buddy’s sister. But that didn’t stop Jenna from inviting Trevor to visit her in Los Angeles, and it won’t stop him from taking her up on her invitation.

But what’s hiding in LA is much more dangerous and complicated than any of the SWAT team could have guessed, and Jenna’s right in the middle of it. Jenna and Trevor will have to have to work together and protect each other. This is his chance, and this time there's no backing down... 

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What I thought about Loving the Wolf

I don't read alot of paranormal titles these days, but this is one series that I like to read when I'm looking for something with a lot of action and I do love the fated mates element of this series.  The author does a good job of keeping this long running series from getting stale or repetitive.  In Loving the Wolf, there's a new threat in town and the SWAT wolfs are needed.

This was an easy read with plenty of tension-filled action, along with the whole bro-code of not dating your teammates sister.  But what can you do when she's The One!  Trevor is ready to do whatever he has to for his fated mate, including taking on her brother, who I though was a bit of a jerk in this book and the previous installment.  No worries -- things do get worked out as part of the overall romance between Trevor and Jenna.

I loved the new monsters and the fight that the SWAT team had with them, although it seemed to be over too soon!  The romance between Jenna and Trevor goes from zero to sixty quickly, but that was okay because that's part of the fated mates behavior.  Loving the Wolf was just a whole lot of fun to read.

Overall, a quick, easy read with action, suspense and fated mates.  


Paige Tyler is the USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. She and her very own military hero (also known as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue her passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.


Find Paige Online:

Twitter: @PaigeTyler


Saturday, July 1, 2023

Blog Tour Review & Excerpt: The Night It Ended by Katie Garner

 

The Night It Ended

Author: Katie Garner

On Sale June 27, 2023

Publisher: MIRA

Paperback Original

ISBN 978-0778334453

Price: $18.99

Book Summary:

Finding the truth seems impossible when her own dark past has her seeing lies everywhere she looks...

From the outside, criminal psychiatrist Dr. Madeline Pine's life appears picture-perfect--she has a beautiful family, a successful mental health practice and a growing reputation as an expert in female violence. But when she's called to help investigate a mysterious death at a boarding school for troubled girls, Madeline hesitates. She's been through tragic cases before, and the one she was entangled in last year nearly destroyed her...

Yet she can't turn away when she hears about Charley Ridley. After the girl was found shoeless and in pajamas at the bottom of an icy ravine on campus, the police ruled it a tragic accident. But the private investigator hired by her mother has his doubts. And if it were Madeline's daughter who died, she'd want to know why.

Arriving at the secluded campus in upstate New York, Madeline's met by an unhelpful skeleton staff and the four other students still on campus during winter break. Each seems to hold a piece of the puzzle. And everyone has secrets--Madeline included. But who would kill to protect them?

Intertwining the narrative with the transcript of an anonymous interview, this stunning suspense debut from Katie Garner will take you on a twisting path where nothing--and no one--is what it seems.

Buy Links

HarperCollins  :  Barnes & Noble  :   BookShop 

Amazon : Books-A-Million

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 Reviews

  “Disarmingly sensory, with plot twists that are sure to give readers whiplash, Garner has done a phenomenal job of giving us just enough information to think we know where the story is going, only to pull the rug out from under us—over and over again. A nail-bitingly spectacular debut!” —Amanda Jayatissa, author of You're Invited

"The ending was pretty shocking and definitely not what I was expecting" —Novel Gossip

"Standing ovation for the brilliant Katie Garner! Captivating, ingenious, and absolutely audacious, this tour de force in structure and storytelling kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. Yes,  The Night It Ended is a dark gothic murder investigation at a mysterious school for troubled girls—but don’t judge, don’t assume, don’t try to figure it out—just let Garner's masterful sleight of hand carry you away through the gasp-worthy twists and turns. Do not miss this!" —Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today bestselling author of The House Guest

“A gorgeously atmospheric dark academic thriller set at a snowy boarding school so vividly rendered you can practically feel the frost freezing your blood. Garner centers female rage in the most delicious and page-turning of ways, plunging readers into a world where women’s machinations, conspiracies, anger, and even violence rule all. The Night It Ended is a twisty, frantically-paced story you’ll be desperate to devour all the way to the ice-cold ending.” —Ashley Winstead, author of The Last Housewife


“Set at an exclusive school for trouble teenaged girls, The Night It Ended by Katie Garner is dark, twisted, and utterly compelling. Impossible to put down, you won’t know who or what to believe and the creepy location will have you looking over your shoulder more than once. One heck of a debut with an ending that left me speechless.” —Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of Never Coming Home


“Disarmingly sensory, with plot twists that are sure to give readers whiplash, Garner has done a phenomenal job of giving us just enough information to think we know where the story is going, only to pull the rug out from under us—over and over again. A nail-bitingly spectacular debut!” —Amanda Jayatissa, author of You're Invited


“Wow. I loved this. Compulsively readable. I flew through it. Brilliant use of the unreliable narrator. I enjoyed the police interviews interwoven with the present-day mystery. It kept me on my toes. And that last plot twist…amazing. I did not see it coming.” –Amber Garza, author of When I Was You


“Katie Garner's debut novel is a chilly, twisty ride—think dark academia meets Gillian Flynn. The Night It Ended is both a brooding Gothic mystery set at a boarding school for wayward girls and a jittery domestic thriller and just when you think you've got a handle on the story, Garner pulls the rug out from under you. I couldn't put it down.”—Halley Sutton, author of The Lady Upstairs

 Excerpt 

 Friday, December 16

I’m speeding home when the phone rings, persistent and angry, demanding to be heard. I know I should answer it, even though I want nothing more than to throw it out the window. I could let the call slide into voice mail, delete it, never hear the voice on the other side.

But I can’t.

I jerk to the side of the icy road to a chorus of blaring horns, dig the phone out from the cavernous tote bag resting on the passenger seat beside me. The phone is sleek and black, brand-new—opposite of the cracked, chunky white one I’m used to shoving in my back pocket.

A sweet little chime and the ringing ends.

1 new voice mail.

Quickly, I glance in the side mirror. Car exhaust melts away into the morning winter sky. Nothing is behind me, nothing but air. I exhale a deep sigh of relief, press the phone to my ear.

“H-hi, this message is for Dr. Madeline Pine—”

A siren wails in the distance. The phone slips through my fingers, lands mutely in my lap. A knot swells in my throat. I glance in the side mirror again, feel my heart pound, each breath shrinking to tiny gasps. The sirens near. An emergency vehicle speeds past.

It’s only an ambulance.

My body wilts. I take a deep breath. In. Out. The knot in my throat loosens.

I hate the person I’ve become. I’ve never been this ner­vous, this afraid, anxiety and fear clinging to my every move. I wish I could escape—step into someone else’s life, if only for a moment.

Just twelve short months ago everything was different. I was different. Any other December, I would’ve been home, prep­ping for the holidays, shopping online for last-minute deals on things none of us needed. My husband, Dave, would be staying too late at work, his dinner wrapped in a blanket of aluminum foil, kept warm on the stove. My teenage daugh­ter, Izzi, would be upstairs in her room, scrolling noiselessly through her phone, feet kicked up on the bed behind her.

The house would’ve hummed with the steady softness of disjointed home life, but instead here I am, lurched to the side of the road, the air frigid in the tiny cabin of my car, listen­ing to a voice mail I never thought I’d hear.

I replay the message:

“H-hi, this message is for Dr. Madeline Pine. If you get this, I’m Matthew Reyes, a private investigator working on behalf of a family. Listen, I was hoping you could please call me back at this number, I—I’d really appreciate it. We have a sixteen-year-old female who died on school property. The police believe it’s an accident, but the mother hired me to be sure. The girl was found at the bottom of a hill. No witnesses. I thought you might be able to help—given your expertise. Please call me back. Thanks.”

I repeat his words in my head. The girl was found at the bot­tom of a hill—I can picture it, picture her. She’s there, fallen sideways, her body splashed across the woodland floor. Moss and stones, skin and blood, leaves and twigs. I don’t know her, but I don’t have to. I already feel as if she were mine.

The man who left the voice mail, Matthew Reyes, has a voice both gravelly and weary, and I know what he wants the moment he mentions the school. Police often believe they can demand anything they want and get it immediately—even psychological evaluations—but it takes time to gain trust from strangers, and even more time to tease out the truth. Espe­cially from teenage girls.

I start weighing my options. I’m not sure I’m capable of this, of anything. Especially after last year…especially after what just happened in that too-hot office during this morn­ing’s disastrous therapy session.

My face flushes at the memory of the woman who’d been sitting cross-legged in front of me. Her beautiful face. Her pink silk shirt blurring out of focus. Her condescending tone—as though the therapy sessions weren’t all for her benefit to begin with.

That’s what I have to remind myself. That’s what I have to hold on to. They’re for her. Not me. I’m the one who’s fine. I should be taking comfort in that, taking comfort in the fact that I never have to see her beautiful face again, never have to be reminded of—

It’s over. I didn’t have a choice before. Now I do. I have lots of choices. An avalanche of choices. My life before today was preprogrammed for me. Not anymore. I fixed it.

Tears slip down my cheeks. I bite them back, strangle the phone in my lap, squeeze it so tight I wonder how it fails to snap in two. Choices. Possibilities.

My mind whirls as I punch the gas, merge into traffic, race home. I run inside, slam the door, bolt the lock. Gaz­ing around my gloom-infested house, I shrivel back as wind blows branches of a nearby tree, scraping the side of the house like fingernails.

Peering at the bulging paper bag of prescriptions on the kitchen island, my eyes prick with tears. My glasses fog. I take them off, rub the lenses clean on my turtleneck.

After so many months, the pills should be working. I should stop taking them altogether. Just throw them all in the toi­let, flush them down, watch them whirl around the porce­lain bowl.

I think of words my daughter, Izzi, said to me: Mom, please just stop.

Stop.

I don’t know the person I’ve become, too empty, too full, all at once. I need to change. I want to be different. Every day, I think of ways I can be. It can still happen. I’m free now. I have choices now, possibilities. Maybe it’s never too late to change everything. Maybe I just need to escape.

Besides, wiggle room is all it takes for a snake to get out of its skin.

The phone rings again. I snuff the urge to hurl it across the room before glancing at the screen. It’s the same num­ber as before. The same number as the voice mail. I hold my breath and answer.

“Hello?”

“Hello—is this Dr. Madeline Pine?”

“Um—yes. It is.” My heart thuds. “Who’s this?”

A sigh of relief, deep and heavy, into the phone. “This is private investigator Matthew Reyes. Thank you so much for answering, Dr. Pine. I—I know it’s a chaotic time of year and you’re probably busy with family but…would you be able to make a trip up to Iron Hill?”

“I—I don’t know where that is.”

“It’s about two hours north of Poughkeepsie. Upstate New York.”

“Right, okay.” Far. Very far. Too far for my ailing car to make it. I know I should just buy a new one, but I can’t. My husband Dave always said the color perfectly matched my eyes. Now I can’t even remember the last time we looked at each other.

“So, are you busy this weekend?” Reyes asks, then pauses. “I mean, you’re sure you don’t mind ditching your family right before the holidays?”

“When you put it that way, it sounds horrible.” Awkward laugh. “But, um, my husband and daughter aren’t home now, anyway—they’ve gone away to visit my in-laws.”

“You have no idea how grateful I’d be if you could make it,” he says, sounding hopeful. I don’t know what he looks like, but I can imagine him smiling. “I mean, I’ve been call­ing around to different psychologists all day, and—well, it should only be for a couple of days. You’d definitely be back by Christmas, the latest.”

I wince, feel a surge of sorrow. I’m too embarrassed to admit that Dave and Izzi have no intention of spending the holidays with me this year. It’s what I deserve after what I did.

“I’m sorry,” I say, “please refresh my memory. Have we ever met? You said you’re a private investigator hired by the victim’s—er, the deceased’s—family?”

“Yes, I mean, we haven’t met, but I read about the work you did on the Strum case last year. I believe one of the victims was around the same age as our current victim. And I pulled up your book online—Dark Side: A Psychological Portrait of the Criminal Female Mind. You specialize in women. Just so hap­pens the case is at an all-girls boarding school.”

My stomach clenches. Focus. Deep breath. I shift my gaze to the calendar hanging in the kitchen. I don’t even know why I bother to keep one anymore. I have the same schedule now, week in, week out. Before, the month of December would’ve been filled with holiday office parties, Izzi’s end-of-year school activities, Dave’s plans for winter break, which I’d always beg him to change.

I glance up. Friday, December 16. This morning’s therapy session slashes across my mind again. I see her face. Blank, empty. Her lips begin to curl around a word. I see myself in the reflection of her eyes. I’m close. Closer. I swallow hard.

“The, um, the students don’t go home for the holidays?” I ask, slumping down to the floor.

“Winter break is Saturday, the tenth to New Year’s. A few students stayed behind.” Reyes pauses. “The students who either couldn’t travel for various reasons or chose not to go home.”

I lean the back of my head against the wall.

Reyes continues. “The school is asking me to wrap up my investigation before students and staff return January 2.”

“Okay…”

He senses my discomfort, keeps talking. “Please. Please say yes. You mentioned you have a daughter. How would you feel if it were her?” he asks. “If she was found dead, you’d want closure, right? To be sure everything was done by the book and no stone was left unturned.”

My stomach flips. “Of course I would.”

“So, please. Please say you’ll help.”

I think of my daughter, Izzi, the lengths I’d go to if she was found at the bottom of a hill. Even if it was an accident, I’d want to know why. I’d want to know how she got there.

If she was alone. Afraid. Or if someone else was responsible. I’d want to know. I’d find them, I’d—

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I confess.

I shut my eyes, see her face again, legs crossed, sitting prim in that too-hot office, the heat blasting, the furniture too big for the tiny space. I tug at the neck of my sweater, suddenly tight, see my reflection in her eyes—close, so close.

No. Stop. I suck up a big breath, blow it all out.

“I don’t know if you’re aware, but after that case last year—” My voice cracks.

“The Strum case?” A note of curiosity in Reyes’s question.

“Yeah. Since then, things have been difficult. I ended up taking some time off—”

“I—I wasn’t aware. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. It just—it makes cases like this difficult.”

“Oh—”

“But before I say yes or no, can you give me an overview? What, exactly, I’ll be doing when I get there? I want to be sure I know what I’m stepping into.”

Reyes lets out a breath. “Yeah—yes, of course,” he says, a hint of desperation in his voice. “Well, it happened at a private, all-girls boarding school called Shadow Hunt Hall. They have a very small student body on a very large campus. It’s densely wooded and incredibly isolated. It’s one of those ‘back-to-nature, no technology on campus’ sort of places. The girls are mostly… I guess the best word for it is—troubled?”

“Isn’t that the best kind of girl?”

“Uh, here,” he says, ignoring my attempt at a joke. “I’ll send you some info.”

I glance at the screen, see he’s texted a link to the school’s website. I tap it open, swipe down the page. The school is an­cient. Giant and stone, with iron gates and actual turrets, like a possessed fairy-tale castle. The curriculum looks interesting.

Definitely nontraditional. It’s all music and arts and dance. I skim the mission statement:

We believe in a holistic, individual approach to learning and reha­bilitation, focusing on a curriculum centered on nature, group trust, and a healthy mind-body connection.

Code words for no junk food or internet.

Reyes waits patiently on the other end as I peruse the site. I click on the Tuition & Financial Aid page and flinch. A single term is more than twice the down payment we put on the house.

“You there? Dr. Pine?”

I lick my lips. “I’m here.”

He pauses. “I’m having trouble getting any of the students to even talk to me,” he admits. “That’s why I need you.”

I think of Izzi, chewing on her fingernails, avoiding eye con­tact when I ask how her day went. Ever since she started high school it’s been all one-word answers—good, fine—before she’d bound upstairs, not to be seen again until dinner.

So I can’t imagine how the girls at this boarding school would react to a male private investigator showing up out of nowhere, prodding them with questions right after their classmate died. No doubt they’d recoil, want nothing to do with him.

“Okay… I’ll help you,” I whisper.

 

Excerpted from The Night It Ended. Copyright © 2023 by Katie Garner. Published by MIRA, an imprint of HarperCollins.

 What I thought about The Night It Ended

Criminal psychiatrist Dr. Madeline Pine is asked to consult with a detective regarding the death of a student at a remote girl's school.  There are many questions about what happened to Charley, and the detective turns to Madeline, an expert in female criminals and a published author regarding a famous murder case. 

I'm not going to say much more about the plot because I wouldn't want to spoil anything.  This was a visceral read for me, with the first 85% of this book having me scratching my head and just feeling something wasn't right.  The school is creepy, the headmistress is creepy, the custodians are creepy, and the girls are definitely keeping secrets.  There's so much weirdness going on, I didn't know what to focus on. I kept hoping that at some point it will all make sense.  Oh, and the good Dr?  She just might be the most strange in this potpourri of strangeness.

I was really worried there wasn't going to be a payoff.  But there was!  It just happens in the final pages of the book, when the twisty truths are revealed.  I have to say I wasn't expecting it, and it explained most of what had me shaking my head during most of the book. That was satisfying and I did enjoy how the author cleverly put this story together.  

So overall, an entertaining mystery/thriller with a surprising payoff at the very end. I'm giving this 4 stars because I wished the pace of the beginning had been more brisk and I think there were some missed opportunities for a bigger surprise factor at the end, but I was glad I stayed with it until the end.


About the Author

 

Author Bio:

Katie Garner was born in New York and grew up in New Jersey. She has a degree in Art History from Ramapo College and is certified to teach high school Art. She hoards paperbacks, coffee mugs, and dog toys and can be seen holding at least one of those things most of the time.

​Katie lives in a New Jersey river town with her husband, baby boy, and shih-poo where she writes books about women and their dark, secret selves. The Night It Ended is her debut novel.

Social Links:

Author site: https://www.katiegarnerauthor.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgarnerauthor

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62679690-the-night-it-ended

 

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