Code of Honor (Knights of Honor #3) by Alexa Aston-Review & Guest Post

Code of Honor (Knights of Honor #3) by Alexa Aston-Review & Guest Post

Code of Honor

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon. uk /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date March 27,2 017

365 A.D. – After the Earl of Sandbourne banishes his supposedly unfaithful wife to a convent, his young son Michael swears never to set foot on the family’s estate until after his father’s death. Michael will then claim his title as the new earl and restore his beloved mother to a place of honor.

Fifteen years pass, and the now-knighted Sir Michael Devereux serves Lord Geoffrey de Montfort at Kinwick Castle. He accompanies the nobleman and his family to a wedding, where Michael unknowingly falls in love with the bride before he even knows her identity.

Lady Elysande Le Cler is angry that her usually indulgent father went against her wishes and betrothed her to a stranger prior to his death. Now as her wedding day approaches, dread fills her—until she meets a dashing stranger who helps her deliver a foal. Elysande loses her heart to this knight, frustrated that they can never be together.

Join Michael and Elysande as they find fate has other plans in store for them.

••••••••••

REVIEW: Code of Honor is book three in the fabulous Knights of Honor series. This romantic highland story is the tale of Michael Devereux and Lady Elysande. There are appearances of familiar characters of the de Montforts (Geoffrey and Merryn) from previous books.

This is a very well written story about highland knights and the time period is 1365 A.D. Many issues are brought to the surface that women had at that time (being property with no rights…). Marriage was mostly arranged and not a matter of love or choice for the female and sometimes not for the male either.

This wonderfully romantic story is, however, a tale of true love winning over all odds. Sir Michael meets and falls in love with Elysande (name unknown to him at the time) as he helps her birth a foal in the stable at his liege lord’s sister’s estate. Complications arise when he finds she’s the bride-to-be that they’ve come to see married. And there the story begins and takes off with many twists and turns. Just when you think love wins…it turns again. I spent several hair pulling moments thinking…”what now!”

Alexa Aston is the pen name of one of my favorite authors, whose stories are well and truly woven with adventure, history and romance. She has never written one that has disappointed me and this story is no exception to that. If you have followed this marvelous series, you’ll enjoy this romantic adventure as it winds its way into your imagination and heart.
Grab a copy and sit back for a wonderful time!

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Georgianna

guest post

I wake up some days and have to think who I am. Most people don’t have that problem. They are who they are.

But I’m three people . . .

This all began when I started my writing journey. I sold Music For My Soul, a medieval romance, to Soul Mate Publishing October 2012. Immediately, my publisher told me I needed to create an author website, Facebook page, and begin tweeting. My last name is difficult to pronounce. I already had a FB page–and didn’t want to confuse my family and friends. So I decided I would go with a pen name. I could keep the Real Me and the Writer Me somewhat separated. Different emails would keep the personal and business sides organized. I was ready to select a new name!

I chose Lauren Linwood. I liked how it looked on the page. I love alliteration. And when I Googled the name, the only thing coming up was Linwood, NJ. This was opposed to the first name I came up with—already a NY jazz singer—and the second name I tried out—a porn star! After several attempts at selecting a pen name, I because Lauren—Identity #1.

Fast forward a few years. I recently signed on with Dragonblade Publishing, founded by the Queen of Medieval Romance, Kathryn Le Veque. Kathryn loved my writing but said I was all over the map, having writing four western historicals, three medieval romances, and two romantic suspense novels as Lauren. Kathryn emphasized branding and sticking with a single sub-genre of romance for at least ten novels in order to gain a reader base before I branched out. She also felt since Lauren had written in three different types of romance that I needed a new pen name for my Dragonblade books and a fresh start.

Thus, I became Alexa Aston—who will stick with writing historicals—while Lauren will keep with contemporary romance. I began again, creating for Alexa her own author website, personal and business FB pages, and opened a new Twitter account and email address. As Alexa, I’m the author of the Knights of Honor series. The series will run ten books long, but each one can be read as a standalone.

I’m ecstatic to be with a quality press such as Dragonblade Publishing, and I am having the time of my life writing my first romance series. I hope you will give the Knights of Honor a whirl. You can start Book 1, Word of Honor, for only 99 cents. It’s an Amazon exclusive, so if you’re in KU, you can begin reading the series for free! Word of Honor introduces Geoffrey and Merryn de Montfort, my anchor couple. They will appear in the remaining nine books, sometimes in a small role and at other times a larger one.

In the meantime, read Georgie’s review of Code of Honor—Book 3. Michael Devereux and Elysande Le Cler meet under unusual circumstances. Happy reading!

 

About the Author Black and Orange

Alexa Aston’s is the author of The Knights of Honor, a medieval romance series that takes place in 14th century England and centers on the de Montfort family. Each romance focuses on the code of chivalry that bound knights of this era.

A native Texan, Alexa lives with her husband in a Dallas suburb, where she eats her fair share of dark chocolate and plots out stories while she walks every morning. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and can’t get enough of Fixer Upper or Game of Thrones. Alexa also writes romantic suspense novels as Lauren Linwood.

Contact Info:

Website: https://alexaaston.wordpress.com/

Newsletter Sign-Up: http://madmimi.com/signups/422152/join

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoralexaaston/

http://madmimi.com/signups/421128/join

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexaAston

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The Beautiful Thief (Stolen Hearts #2) by Mallory Crowe-Review & Guest Post

THE BEAUTIFUL THIEF (Stolen Hearts #2) by Mallory Crowe-Review and Guest Post

The Beautiful Thief

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date March 14, 2017

She was the one that got away. The one time Adam couldn’t finish the job. The one time his conscious got the better of him.

Now she’s back and Adam has two options: Kill her or help her get the revenge she deserves.

No matter how convincing her arguments may be or how distracting he finds her, he was raised on one staunch principle that has kept him alive so far. Never trust a pretty face.

••••••

REVIEW: THE BEAUTIFUL THIEF is the second installment in Mallory Crowe’s contemporary adult STOLEN HEARTS series. This is Melody Murray, and mercenary Adam Smith’s story line. THE BEAUTIFUL THIEF can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty although I recommend reading the series in order for backstory and cohesion.

SOME BACKGROUND: Following a theft that went horribly wrong, Melody, along with her sisters Jennifer and Toni vow revenge against the men who stole from the sisters something that can never be returned.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Melody and Adam) THE BEAUTIFUL THIEF follows Melody Murray on the hunt for the men responsible for destroying the Murray sisters’s lives. Adam Smith aka Blondie is one of the men present the day that Mallory witnessed the murder of someone close to her heart but a murder for which Adam was not directly responsible. What ensues is the building relationship between Melody and Adam, and the cross country journey of Melody and Adam as Melody seeks revenge for a murder and betrayal.

Adam Smith is a mercenary; a gun for hire whose first encounter with Melody ended with chaos and death. Melody Murray is a reluctant thief; a cautious thief who wants nothing to do with her family business but a thief seeking retribution for the murder of her mother; our heroine is determined to use Adam Smith to get what she wants. The relationship between Melody and Adam is quick to develop as our couple must work together toward a common goal. The $ex scenes are limited, seductive and intimate without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text.

There are a number of secondary and supporting characters including Melody’s sister Toni, and her partner in crime, former Chicago police officer Scott Hart; hired killer James Weston; the daughter of one of the men Melody is hoping to destroy –Willa Belli, and Jadon Belli, COO of Cordon Enterprises.

The world building focuses on revenge, retribution, family and love. Melody Murray is determined to avenge her mother’s death but too many distractions including a threat against Willa Belli; the interference of Melody’s ex-husband; a police warrant out for Melody’s arrest find our couple seeking refuge in out of the way places. There is a limited amount of trust between our leading couple including the fact that Melody was willing to kill the man with whom she is falling in love.

THE BEAUTIFUL THIEF is a story about revenge; about one woman’s determination for retribution for the murder of her mother; about one man’s penance to help the woman he could never forget. The premise is fast paced, entertaining and captivating; the characters are passionate and determined; the romance is sensual. THE BEAUTIFUL THIEF is an animated look at love on the run.

Reading Order and previous reviews
The Cocky Thief
The Beautiful Thief

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy

The Cocky Thief promo

Book 1 THE COCKY THIEF is ONLY 99¢ for a limited time (ebook only):

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO /

Guest Post

Hello! I’m really happy to be writing this guest post for The Reading Cafe! Sandy has always been so great to me and I only hope I can be a little entertaining to give back to all of her readers 🙂

Because blogging isn’t my specialty, I asked Sandy to give me a few recommendations for topics to discuss. And she gave me a great list of options and my answer to each of the craft related topics were “I don’t know”.

Now as a full time writer with over twenty books out, I should know how I do this for a living. I’m not naive enough to think I just walked up to a keyboard and thanks to my overwhelming talent, coherent stories just started to flow.

But when I write, I’m not thinking of craft. I’m not thinking of the nuts and bolts. I’m very driven by characters and where my intuition leads me when I write. But after countless discussions with other writers and private talks with friends it, finally hit me.

There’s a reason I don’t have to plot out each individual character arc. There’s a reason I don’t have to write a super detailed outline with action points carefully planned. It’s because of my childhood. When I grew up, I didn’t just casually read. I DEVOURED books. When I was in elementary school, I was reading my mother’s full length mystery novels. In middle school, I was well into romance books. Because I wasn’t super popular (that’s a post for another day…), I’d have some days where I wouldn’t even leave the house in the summer. I’d just shut myself in my bedroom and see how many books I could get through. It was a competition with myself. (I cannot stress how strange I was as a teen.)

Looking back, I think my obsessive nature when it came to those books gave me more knowledge on craft than a thousand writing workshops I could attend. So am I talented? I like to think so, but I think one of my biggest advantages in the competitive publishing world is the early foundations set up from reading book after book after book after (okay, this could go on for a while…)

So the best advice I can ever give any advanced, amateur, or up and coming writer is to keep on reading and never stop.
Happy Reading!

~~Mallory Crowe

About The author

Mallory CroweABOUT THE AUTHOR — Mallory Crowe is the award winning author of the Fractured Farrells series, the Bad Boys of the Underworld series and many other novels. She grew up surrounded by rescue dogs and escaping into romance books whenever possible. After trying to do the “adult” thing by getting an accounting degree and CPA license, she decided to try her hand at writing and never looked back.
An avid traveler, reader, and Netflix addict, Mallory currently lives in Michigan, with her husband and three laid-back dogs.

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/croweink
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iiy4cF
Website: http://mallorycrowe.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mallorymcrowe/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMalloryCrowe
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13623321.Mallory_Crowe

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Axel: Rescue One (Six Saviors 13) by Carly Fall-Review & Guest Post

AXEL: Rescue One (Six Saviors 13 ): Rescue One by Carly Fall-Review and Guest Post

Axel

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / Smashwords / Signed Paper Back with Swag 

About the book: Release Date March 19, 2017

With his tattoos, dark, dead eyes and sketchy past, almost everyone in the silo keeps their distance.

However, people aren’t always what they seem.

Is there more to Axel than meets the eye?

••••••••••

REVIEW: AXEL is the thirteenth installment in Carly Fall’s contemporary, adult SIX SAVIORS paranormal/sci-fi romance series focusing on a species from the planet SR44. This is SR44ian Axel a member of the Rescue One team from planet SR44, and half human/half SR44ian Eden’s story line. Eden is the daughter of one of the original Six Saviors Hudson. AXEL can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty but I recommend reading the series in order for background and cohesion.

BACKGROUND: There were 6 original Savior warriors from planet SR44. The warriors were sent to earth over 220 years ago to stop and eradicate the 12 murderers who escaped from one of the moon colonies of planet SR44. The Colonists, as they were soon called, made their way to Earth, took the human body form, mated with the females and populated the earth with Colonist DNA. The earthly descendants will either manifest good or bad qualities; the savior warriors are part of the elite military from planet SR44, commissioned to remove the Colonists from Earth including the descendants with bad DNA. The beings on planet SR44 are incorporeal bodies of mist and smoke, each bearing a different color, but in their corporeal bodies on Earth, their eyes will glow their familiar- planet SR44 color each evening. Their mission has yet to be completed; their planet has been destroyed; and a new group of SR44 men and women have arrived in search of the original six saviors.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Axel and Eden) AXEL focuses on the forbidden relationship between Axel and Eden-a relationship forbidden by the man Eden recently learned was her father. Hudson and the rest of the SR44 males don’t trust Axel-he is dark, brooding, and silent, and not without some demons that are slowly destroying what’s left of his mind. With the recent discovery of Eden and her twin brother Benedict as direct descendants of SR44ian Hudson, the Saviors and their mates have taken extra precautions to protect our story line heroine believing she is too naïve and young to understand the world around her. What ensues are Eden’s attempts to bring Axel into her life, and the ongoing battle with a new enemy determined to destroy the SR44ians.

The relationship between Axel and Eden is one of immediate attraction although Axel has been warned not to go near or interact with Hudson’s daughter. Eden is a strong willed female determined to exert her independence and in doing so places herself in a dangerous situation. The $ex scenes are intimate and compelling without the use of over the top sexually graphic language and text.

Most of the previous story line couples play secondary and supporting characters. We are introduced to Axel’s friend and tattoo artist Foster whose story will be continued in Carly’s new spin off series-OPERATION UNDERWORLD- a series about a clandestine organization whose members have special abilities to hunt those paranormal entities determined to cause harm to humans. The first book in the series comes out in April 2017.

AXEL is a story about one man whose dark past controls his present, and one woman whose looking for love from a man who is afraid to let go. The premise is heartbreaking, encouraging and sensitive; the characters are colorful and energetic; the romance is provocative and passionate. Carly Fall ‘s SIX SAVIORS series is an impassioned look at otherworldly beings trying to do the best in an impossible situation.

Previous Reviews

The Light Within Me
Finding My Faith
Reborn
Beverly’s Rebirth
Destiny’s Shift
Tangled Fates
Dreamwalker
Atonement
Justice
Titus
Roman
Six Saviors Christmas Novella
Axel

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy

 

The Light Within MeNOTE: Book 1 in Carly Fall’s Six Saviors series THE LIGHT WITHIN ME (ebook format only) is currently FREE at most ebook retailers:
Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO /

When Abby and Noah meet, there is an explosive attraction between them that neither can deny…

As a shy, awkward, social misfit, Abby has gone her whole life feeling as though she’s different from everyone else and she simply doesn’t fit in well with society as a whole. She longs to feel a real connection with someone, and she finally does when she meets Noah.

Unbeknownst to Abby, Noah is from another world and his sole purpose is to hunt down the evil of his people that was unleashed on Earth hundreds of years ago. He’s certain he isn’t going to be able to return to his home, and anger and the need for revenge are his constant companions. His focus has been eradicating the evil and making them pay for taking his life on his world away from him.

Noah tries desperately to fight his attraction to Abby so he can keep his focus on his mission. But when Abby gets dragged into the evil and mayhem from Noah’s world, he realizes that maybe with Abby he can find a home here on Earth…if he can save her in time.

Guest Post

Imagine waking up in a hospital and noticing a red glow around some of the staff. Perhaps you would think that you’d hurt your head in the accident that put you there, but when you see these people flashing their fangs and drinking off of the patients and other members of the staff, maybe you’d think you’d completely lost your mind!
But, have you?

For Connor Dickson, the answer is a resounding no as he comes to terms with the fact he can see vampires, and they live and work among the human population.

Welcome to Operation Underworld!

Operation Underworld

When my fellow author Elise Marion approached me with the idea of us collaborating on this project, I was on board within seconds. I loved the idea of writing books about a clandestine organization that polices the paranormal entities secretly living among us!

I will be releasing the first three books in the series: A Touch of Blood, A Touch of Love, and A Touch of Death.

All three of these will be releasing in April / May so that readers don’t have to wait. Elise will be tackling demons in her first three books, releasing May / June.

Here’s the blurb to my first book, A Touch of Blood:

He cheated death once. Can he do it again?

After surviving an explosion deep in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle, Marine Connor Dickson has been left with a supernatural ability—he can detect vampires living among the human population.

With this knowledge comes the realization that there are good and evil among the vampire nation. After witnessing a horrific death at the hands of a vampire, it becomes his own personal mission to police the rogue entities and stop them from harming humans.

He is recruited into Operation Underworld, an organization where their sole purpose is to hunt the criminal entities of paranormal species. His first assignment is to find out why humans are going missing from nightclubs in Los Angeles.

When he meets the beautiful Sami Karim, he discovers they are working on the same missing persons case. As his attraction to her grows, he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding many secrets, as well as lying to him.

A shocking twist of events reveals Sami’s true agenda, leaving Connor devastated, fearing for his own safety, and ultimately, forced to face his enemy on his own.

I hope you’ll join us for Operation Underworld, and if you’d like to receive notification on when the books release, you can sign up here

Click HERE to sign up for notification releases

When paranormal creatures step out of line, Operation Underworld must step in to intervene … because sometimes, regular law enforcement just won’t do.

about the author

Follow: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Carly Fall 2I am a wife, a mother and a slave to Nicky the dog.

I think chocolate and wine should be considered their own food group, and I wish Christmas happened twice a year.

I love the hot summer nights here in Arizona when my family and I play in our pool until late at night, and I hate 99.8% of politicians.

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Fight For Her (MMA Fighter Romance #1) by Vanessa Vale-Review & Guest Post

FIGHT FOR HER (MMA Fighter Romance #1) by Vanessa Vale-Review and Guest Post

Fight For Her

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / ibooks /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Re-release March 7, 2017

A fighter ready to give up the gloves.

A woman ready to take on the world.

Grayson Green’s an MMA champion who’s spent years in the limelight where fast times and fast women were easy to come by. The appeal is gone and he steps out of the ring to make some changes and get control of his life. All the training in the world can’t save him from the one-two punch of meeting Emory. She’s different. She has no idea who he is…and she wants him anyway. When someone from his past is prepared to take him down… and Emory along with him, he’ll do anything to fight for her…

Warning! This book has a super protective, super hot alpha male who will stop at nothing to protect his girl.

NOTE: This book was previously published under the title Naked Choke. Besides a new cover and title, new scenes have been added.

••••••••••••••••

REVIEW:  FIGHT FOR HER is the first instalment in Vanessa Vale’s contemporary adult MMA FIGHTER ROMANCE series. This is former MMA fighter and gym owner Grayson Green, and practical nurse/single mom Emory.

NOTE: FIGHT FOR HER is a re-release and former titled 2016 novel Naked Choke.

Told from dual first person perspectives (Emory and Grayson) FIGHT FOR HER focuses on the building relationship between thirty eight year old practical nurse Emory, and former MMA fighter Grayson ‘The Green Machine’ Green. Having met at a mutual friend’s engagement party Emory and Grayson were immediately attracted to one another but Grayson didn’t want to push Emory too fast realizing that the woman with whom he would fall in love had no idea who he was, or what he did for a living. Emory was a single mother whose only child recently left for college but in the ensuing time our heroine struggled with her new independence. With little experience and even less knowledge about the who and what of Grayson Green, Emory and Grayson would take their time until a series of threats and a break in pushed Emory into Grayson’s arms. What ensues is the building relationship between Emory and Grayson, a threat focused on scaring our story line heroine, and the embittered battle with someone from Grayson’s past.

The attraction between Gray and Emory is immediate but our heroine is a divorced mother of one and wary about what it is Grayson has to offer. Grayson struggles with his attraction to Emory and the possibility of bringing her into his world-a world embattled with demons from the past. The $ex scenes are intimate without the use of over the top sexually graphic language or text.

We are introduced to fellow MMA fighters Reed and Rob (aka Thor) as well as Emory’s neighbour (and wingman) Simon, several friends including newly engaged Paul and Christy, and the owners of a local family run restaurant-the Casales.

I do have one issue and that is the fact that our heroine was never gifted a last name by the author. I struggle to accept in today’s society that story book characters, especially women in a leading role, are relegated to first name only as though they were second class citizens and never entirely recognized.

FIGHT FOR HER is a slow building story of romance and revenge. The premise is optimistic and intriguing ; the romance is tender, affectionate and spicy; the characters are colorful and dynamic. FIGHT FOR HER is an enjoyable read that will captivate your imagination.

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy

guest post

French Fries — What’s your favorite?

There’s a debate in my house about the best ‘cut’ of a french fry. There’s waffle, steak fries, wedge, shoestring, curly… the list is long! I, personally, love the shoestring fry the best. They’re thin and crispy and there’s an equal balance of salt and potato. My husband likes the steak fry… boo. My kids like waffle fries and tater tots (that doesn’t really count as a fry, but they still like them). This makes dinner tough because no one is ever happy. We have to do a rotation of fry types so we each get what we want eventually. Do you have something like this in your house? Salad dressing, how well done a steak should be, how much mayo in tuna… I want to know!

About The Author

Vanessa ValeWho doesn’t love the romance of the old West? USA Today Bestselling author Vanessa Vale takes the sensual appeal of rugged cowboys a step further with her bestselling books set in the Montana Territory. They are much more than just sexy historical westerns. They’re deliciously naughty reads that sometimes push the boundaries of fantasy. It’s pure escapism with quite a few very hot, very alpha cowboys. When she’s not writing, Vanessa savors the insanity of raising two boys, is figuring out how many meals she can make with a pressure cooker, and teaches a pretty mean karate class. She considers herself to be remarkably normal, exceedingly introverted and fairly vanilla, which does not explain her steamy stories and her fascination with cowboys, preferably more than one at a time. She lives in the Wild Wild West where there’s an endless source of ‘research’ material.

Follow Vanessa: Website /Facebook / Twitter /Pinterest /Instagram /

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Going for the Goal (The Perfect Play #3) by Sara Rider-Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

GOING FOR THE GOAL (The Perfect Play #3) by Sara Rider-Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

Going for the Goal Banner

GOING FOR THE GOAL
Perfect Play #3
by Sara Rider
Release Date: February 13, 2017
Genre: adult, contemporary, erotic, romance, hockey

going for the Goal

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / BAM /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date February 13, 2017

Sara Rider returns with the third book in the Perfect Play series—a fast-paced, icy hot romance featuring a sports agent fighting an attraction to the NHL’s bad boy…and his ability to melt her heart.

In this perfect book for romance and sports fans, professional sports agent Jillian Nichols knows how to play the game to get what she wants. But admitting to what she needs has always been a challenge. Will she ever let her guard down long enough to let someone in? Or will the bad boy hockey player Nick “the Punisher” Salinger have to fight harder than ever for a chance to win her heart?

••••••••••••••••

REVIEW: GOING FOR THE GOAL is the third installment in Sara Rider’s adult, contemporary THE PERFECT PLAY erotic, romance series. This is professional hockey play/enforcer Nick ‘The Punisher’ Salinger, and sports agent Jillian Nichols’s story line. GOING FOR THE GOAL can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from previous story line is revealed where necessary. The reader was first introduced to our heroine in book two-Keeping Score.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Jillian and Nick) GOING FOR THE GOAL follows the personal and professional relationship between NHL enforcer Nick Salinger, and sports agent Jillian Nichols. Eight year earlier both Nick and Jillian were newbies in the world of sports: she an intern with an agent whose reputation as a misogynistic pig pushed Jillian to hand in her resignation; and he a rookie hockey player who spoke more with his fists than anything else. Fast forward to present day wherein Nick Salinger needs a new agent but Jillian Nichols refuses to accept any clients whose attitudes match the infamous Nick Salinger. When a disastrous fight with a teammate almost destroys Nick’s career, Jillian remains steadfast in her refusal to accept Nick as a client until the truth about what happened is finally revealed. What ensues is a campaign to rival all others as Jillian struggles to clean up Nick’s reputation while her own slowly begins to unravel and fall apart.

The relationship between our couple begins acrimoniously. Nick’s reputation as a fighter pushes all of Jillian’s buttons but neither Jillian or Nick has ever forgotten about their first meeting and the possibility of what never was. Jillian struggles to be accepted into a career dominated by the male of the species and with it comes the sexist attitudes of those who think themselves better than everyone else. The sex scenes are seductive, intimate and intense.

We are introduced to several members of the NHL’s New York Vipers including rookie Sebastian Liakos and his fiancée Alexa Whittaker , captain and goalie Mike Lambert, left wing Luke Anderson, and an assortment of coaches, trainers and team owner John Whittaker ; Nick’s younger brother Ben-a high school teacher and struggling actor; as well as Jillian’s former mentor Lou Parsons who sets out to destroy Jillian’s career. Soccer player Jaime Chen (Keeping Score) has a couple of cameo appearances throughout the story.

GOING FOR THE GOAL is a story of betrayal and revenge; romance and love; second chances and happily ever afters. The premise is lively and inspiring; the characters are dynamic and heartwarming; the romance is captivating and passionate. GOING FOR THE GOAL is a fascinating story line with a few twists and turns to the conflict resolution.

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Sandy

Guest Post-Black and Blue

Researching and developing the story line content —Sara Rider

When I first started writing the Perfect Play series, I didn’t intend to write about Jillian Nichols, the heroine of Going for the Goal. But after she made her appearance in Keeping Score as the agent fighting tirelessly for her underdog client Jaime Chen, it became clear to me that she had her own story to tell. I just wasn’t entirely sure what that story was.

To date, Going for the Goal is the book that required by far the most research. For the other novels in the series, I was able to draw on a lot of different real-life inspirations for storylines and character development. Writing about a female sports agent, however, didn’t come with a clear set of instructions. With the exception of Amelia Slater on the TV show Pitch, which didn’t air until after I’d written the book, there hasn’t been a lot of female sports agents featured in the media. For most people, Jerry Maguire remains the quintessential, and likely only, touchstone of sports agents. But Jerry Maguire’s brash personality and riches-to-rags story didn’t resonate with Jillian’s ambitious but earnest character.

Instead of starting with a plot idea like I usually do, I started with a fundamental piece of characterization. When Jillian first popped into my head, she came with a very clear and strict set of rules for herself, much like many other women who’ve had to work twice as hard to prove themselves in male-dominated industries:
1. Never work with arrogant jerks; 2. Never work with people you don’t trust; and, 3. Never, ever work with someone you’ve pictured naked. So naturally, when I was coming up with a love interest, it had to be someone who broke every single one of these rules. That’s where Nick Salinger comes in. The bad boy enforcer of the New York Vipers walks into her office on the heels of a scandal and demands she take him on as a client. The big question, of course, was why. Any agent could negotiate a trade deal or a salary increase, so why did this big, troublesome star want an agent with an unconventional practice to represent him?

The answer is that he wanted someone who could pull off the impossible: negotiate a deal to stay with a team who desperately wants him gone. Unfortunately, this meant I needed a crash course in NHL trade regulations and negotiation tactics. I’ve always been a casual hockey fan, but this required a heck of a lot more effort than putting on my Jets jersey and cheering on my team from my living room couch. I ended up spending endless hours talking to family and friends who self-identify as hockey fanatics, and scouring the Internet for resources. Anonymous agent blogs detailing the dark underside of the profession, profiles of the difficulties faced by female agents, and course listings for sports management programs were invaluable in developing the story and the various sub-plots in the book.

Ultimately, it was the forceful personalities of Jillian and Nick that helped me piece together the plot. Both are intensely stubborn people who are so used to taking care of others that they struggle with the idea of falling in love with someone equally bull-headed and devoted. In the end, flipping from a plot-first to a character-first approach to writing was a fun challenge that still allowed me explore a unique storyline. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

~~Sara~~

About The Author Black and Blue

Sara RiderYou can follow Sara at : Website / Goodreads/ Twitter/

Sara Rider writes contemporary romances full of heart and heat about strong heroines and the men who can’t resist them. Growing up, Sara dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. When that dream was squashed by her extreme dislike of running, she decided to do the next best thing: write about professional soccer players. By day, Sara spends her time working in the field of research ethics and daydreams about plotlines and character arcs. She spends far too much time at public libraries and never leaves the house without a paperback or an e-reader stuffed into her purse.

Giveaway-Black and Deep Blue

Sara’s publisher is graciously offering an ebook copy of GOING FOR THE GOAL to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

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Dare to Lie by Jen McLaughlin – Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

Dare to Lie by Jen McLaughlin – Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

 

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Dare to Lie
Sons of Steel Row series – Book #3
by Jen McLaughlin
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Dare to LieAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository

Description:
As an undercover DEA agent in the most powerful gang in Boston, Scott Donahue accepts the risks of living a double life. But when Tate Donovan, leader of the Sons of Steel Row, assigns Scotty to take his place in a bachelor’s auction sponsored by his sister’s sorority, he’s exposed to a whole new level of danger. Even though Tate makes it very clear—Skylar is off limits—the second Scotty sees her, he’s a goner. But how does he tell Sky she’s falling for a man who doesn’t exist?

Sky can’t resist Scotty’s cool confidence or the raw, edgy power oozing from his perfect body. She’s always been the good girl, but he brings out the bad in her. And even though she knows so little about who he really is, Sky’s willing to take the biggest risk of all. But putting her heart on the line is no guarantee that Scotty won’t slip through her fingers…

 

Review:

Dare to Lie by Jen McLaughlin is the 3rd book in her Sons of Steel Row series. As noted in my previous reviews, I love this series; as it has everything you would want in a romance suspense.  Dare to Lie grabs your attention from the start and doesn’t let go until the very end.  The story is action packed, exciting, and a great couple, with sizzling hot chemistry.  I also loved the epilogue at end.  Thank you, Jen McLaughlin for another wonderful story in your Sons of Steel Row series. 

We have been following Scotty Donahue since the first book, which revolved around our then hero and Scotty’s brother, Lucas.  We have all been waiting for Scotty’s story, knowing that his life was hanging by thread, since he was an undercover agent for the DEA.

Skylar Daniels, our heroine, is the sister of Tate, the leader of the Sons of Steel Row gang. She is in medical school, and her brother helps support her; but Skylar knows nothing about Sons of Steel Row.  Scotty has been assigned to replace Tate at a charity event , which was run by Skylar.  Almost immediately, you can see the sparks flash between them, but Scotty wants nothing to do with his boss’s sister, as he was already warned to keep his hands off her.  Skylar felt the attraction right away, and during the auction, she won a bid for dinner with Scotty, which started off badly, as he was very rude.  But the chemistry between them had sparks flying off the wall, and soon both of them would act on their lust for each other. Scotty doesn’t see himself in any kind of long term relationship, since he feels he isn’t a good man, and his life would put anyone close to him in danger. 

What follows is an exciting adventure of gang land wars that was very suspenseful; I could not put the book down.  A rival gang has been attacking Scotty, Chris (previous book hero), and killing off some of the gang members.  Scotty will work behind the scenes with the DEA to help them capture the rival gang.  When the war escalates to attacks against the women/family of Sons of Steel Row members, an all out bloody war ensues, which also puts Skylar’s life in danger and Tate finding out about the relationship between his sister and Scotty.   Scotty must put aside his feelings for Skylar to not only protect her, but Lucas, Heidi, Chris & Molly, too.  Will Skylar & Scotty find away to stay together?  Will Scotty survive his double life?

Skylar was such a great heroine, being smart, savvy, tough, independent and stubborn.  Scotty was pretty great too, but his life was filled with so many secrets and living a double life, which put him at risk always. In reality, I can see why Tate did not want Scotty to have anything to do with his sister.  Dare to Lie was another wonderful exciting and romantic story in this fabulous series.  I suggest you start this series with the first book, Dare to Run, and enjoy the writing of Jen McLaughlin.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

Guest Post

Sons of Steel Row

Hello, everyone! Thank you for having me here today! I’m Jen McLaughlin (though I also write as Diane Alberts) and I’m here today to talk about books, antiheroes, heroes, and the challenges all those things represent. My latest book, DARE TO LIE, is the third book in the Sons of Steel Row series. The series itself revolves around a gang in Boston that sells guns illegally, and the heroes in the books are anything but hero material. They’re liars. Killers. Criminals.

Yet we all fall for them anyway.

Everyone has their favorite type of books or heroes to write, and I have to say, writing the Sons of Steel Row guys has been one of my favorite moments in my writing career. It’s easy writing heroes who are likeable when they’re…well…likeable. But to take men who are criminals, men who kill for a living, and somehow turn them into characters that a reader not only will root for, but will fall in love with? Yeah, that’s frigging amazing.

And a huge challenge.

A challenge I (gladly) accepted. I thought it would be fun to look at the three heroes in the Sons of Steel Row series, and to talk a little bit about the challenges they represented.

Our first hero, Lucas Donahue, is fresh out of jail, and looking to mind his own business in DARE TO RUN. No one else is doing the same, though, and it’s not long until we find out he has a price on his head. I think the hardest part about writing Lucas was his undying loyalty to his family—aka his brother, Scotty. No matter what happens, or who tried to kill him, he refused to turn his back on his brother, and for a guy who killed for a living, this was hard to portray at times.

Then our second hero…ah, our second hero. DARE TO STAY with Chris O’Brien. It’s hard to say why he was such a challenge without creating spoilers for people who haven’t yet read the series, but the biggest challenge with him was making readers like him. Everyone went into this book hating him, and fully prepared to continue doing so, but by the time they finished the book, a lot of readers wrote me and told me he was their favorite hero—above even Lucas. I could easily say that he was my biggest challenge ever, and he’s my favorite, too.

Last, we have Scotty Donahue, in DARE TO LIE. Oh, Scotty is and always has been more of a hero than an antihero like the other two men in this series. He’s got a good heart, despite his actions, and this has never been a secret. The biggest challenge with him was making him toe the line between both of his worlds (again, no spoilers!) without ever having him wonder if he was doing the right thing in his one world. His faith in himself and his cause had to be one hundred percent true and real, and he couldn’t afford to slip up.

Is there a certain type of hero that you love to read about, that no matter how many times you’ve read a book with this type of hero, you can’t resist picking up another, and getting sucked into the story of how he becomes who he is meant to be, with the help of a heroine you can’t help but envy?

For me, it’s the bad boy with a golden heart that’s buried way, way, way deep down, under lots of armor and weaponry. I just can’t get enough of them, and watching them soften.

You?

 

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Jen’s publisher is offering a paper copy of DARE TO LIE to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe

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Highland Vixen (Highland Weddings #2) by Mary Wine-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

Highland Vixen (Highland Weddings #2) by Mary Wine-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

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HIGHLAND VIXEN
Highland Weddings #2
by Mary Wine
Release Date:February 7, 2017
Genre: adult, historical, Highland, romance

Highland Vixen

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Books-A-Million / Barnes & Noble / Chapters /Indiebound

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date February 7 , 2017

Fierce Highland war chief seeks comely lass for fun, frolic, and marriage

Marcus MacPherson is every inch the fearsome Highlander. He’s used to men averting their eyes and women cowering before him. He thinks he’ll eventually settle down with a nice, obedient bride. Instead, he gets Helen Grant… Stubborn as the day is long, fearless and dedicated to raising as much hell as possible, Helen is definitely going to challenge Marcus. And challenge him some more. And then some.

It’s anyone’s guess who’ll win this battle of the heart..

••••••••••••

REVIEW: 5 out of 5 for this reader folks!

Another fantastic Highland read by Mary Wine! LOVE LOVE LOVE! 🙂

Highland Vixen by Mary Wine is the second book in her “Highland Weddings” series and it sure lives up to its name. Vixen indeed! We met our leading characters in the previous book of this series called “Highland Spitfire” and while I suppose it is not necessary to read the first book you would miss out on so much back story, which in my opinion makes this book so good as the story continues on! Besides, there are returning characters in Highland Vixen, and I love reading how characters progress in a series after they get their HEA! 🙂

Marcus MacPherson is one studly, “don’t mess with me!”, fierce, scary , hot badass Highlander. He is the war chief of the MacPherson clan, second to his half brother (who happens to be the lead in the first book). He doesn’t mess around, and icky love stuff is the furthest from his mind .. despite the little vixen lass that resides as a “protected prisoner” of sorts in his castle.

Helen Grant is our vixen. She is fierce and bold, smart and very angry at her current living situation. While she has shared a steamy moment with Marcus, Marcus won’t claim her as his, but won’t allow another to step forward safely either. She is at her wits end and only wants to return to her home (which Marcus has threatened to burn if she leave MacPherson land).

Circumstance allows Helen to sneak away, but not without Marcus hot on her trail. When trouble comes about for Marcus, Helen agrees to marry Marcus, but NOT consummate the marriage so she can get an annulment once danger passes. Well Marcus is having none of that and despite the danger that comes knocking and threatens to take all he stands for, he has decided he is keeping Helen married to him at all costs! He is going to consummate this marriage one way or another and keep her forever.

YES, this is as steamy, perfectly angsty with a side of sass as it sounds! I love my Highland men all fierce and demanding, but deeply kind and protective, like Marcus … and my Highland woman full of attitude and courage, yet seriously lovely underneath like Helen. They are a perfect compliment to the other. Mary Wine really weaves some serious SOB villains as well! Ones that give you the creeps deep to your soul. You can almost smell their evil.

This is a perfect love story that carries an adventure that one would expect to find in a really fantastic Highlander story. If you love a good back and forth match between two well written characters then I highly recommend this book. The story line and side characters are a very decadent cherry on this perfect Highland sundae! LOL

HAPPY READING! 🙂

Reviewed by Rachel

Copy supplied by the publisher

 

excerpt

 

“I did nae have me hands on ye at all, lass,” he responded arrogantly. “And I owe me sire a wee bit of an apology for me thinking last evening because his advice is sound.”
She rolled over and over and right off the edge of the huge bed, but her knees were shaky, so she stumbled, grasping one of the posts that held the bed curtains. Marcus was watching her, his grin widening as he took in his effect on her. He was wearing nothing but his shirt, and his member was sticking out in the front of it.
He’d lulled her into a false sense of ease. She realized he was every bit as menacing as ever and had simply waited for his moment to pounce on her.
“Do nae look at me like that, Helen.” Marcus sat up on the side of the bed and watched her move away. “Ye told me yer maidenhead was the only thing ye have left that is yer own, so I pleasured ye without taking it. Is it so hard to think of me as a man who does nae want to act the brute to ye?” He patted the surface of the bed. “I want ye to choose me.”
Did she dare?
Dare was certainly the correct word. He was looking at her, every inch the hardened man she’d faced time and again, and yet there was much more to him now. He was attempting to push inside her, to that place where no one had ever been, to her deepest feelings. However, he was offering her a glimpse at his own in return.
Such a tangle of possibilities.
She looked at the pile of clothing that she’d left on the bench, caught between the need to maintain her pride and the desire to simply let it go in favor of… Well, she wasn’t sure what exactly she’d find in his bed. She ended up looking back toward him, seeking the answer in his eyes.
“Naught to say?” he asked. “There is a first.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” she exclaimed with her hip roll half laced. “There was a time when I knew how to speak kindly. Why do ye needle me until I can nae hold me tongue?”
He flashed her an arrogant grin. “Because I like ye the way ye are, no’ disguising yer nature to appease everyone about ye. Do ye have any idea how long it has been since a lass was honest with me? Since one came to me seeking me, and no’ me position? Ye are not the only one who feels isolated. As War Chief, I must be hard on the young lads, lest they fail to build up enough strength to survive. Smiling at them would be a disservice.”
Sometime during the night, he’d taken the time to pleat his kilt on a table that ran along the side of the bedchamber. His wide belt was already under it. It took only a moment for him to lean back, grasp the sides of the belt, and pull it all around himself. Most men used the floor, but clearly Marcus wanted to be ready, should there be a need to dress in a hurry during the night.
“It fell to me to either take ye or know without a doubt that I’d be sending me own men up against yer brothers because they refused to admit the cattle were ours.” He was buckling a second belt in place to make sure his kilt was secure. “Ye think I enjoyed it?”
“Yes, ye did,” she answered him. “Somewhat, anyhow. Admit it. Yer nature is suited to yer position.”
He offered her a cocky grin. “If ye’ll match me by admitting ye did nae think to notice I do nae always care for what me duty demands of me. That’s the thing about duty. Ye do it because it needs doing and others depend on ye seeing things through.”
“Fairly spoken,” she said softly while pulling her skirts over her head. The waistband caught on her hip roll, and she began to lace the waistband closed. “Ye are no’ a brute.” His smile was widening with victory. “But swine fits well, for ye knew well ye were twisting words last evening to get me into yer bed.”
He chuckled and opened his arms wide. “Taming a vixen requires cunning.”
Helen felt her temper stir at the use of the word taming.


 

 

Guest Post=Black and Red

For me, research is a two part thing. First off is doing the ‘foot work’ so to speak. That’s the researching. You either know that Elizabeth the first was born in 1533 or you don’t. If you intend to set your story in that era, this is information you need to know. Her mother was beheaded and if you want to go deeper, you learn things such as she was given the mercy of a French swordsman for her execution because the ax was often clumsy. Deeper still and you discover that some of the dates she was accused of having adultery were during her lying in, so completely false as her ladies would have been with her.

That’s part one. The dates, the circumstances. I actually love this stuff because for me, after I absorb the dry facts, I start to think about things like…okay, if there was a young daughter attending court, and in service to queen Elizabeth, what would her duties have been? What exactly was a lady in waiting. I would then learn that Elizabeth had ladies of the Bed chamber, of the presence chamber, and one the list goes. The duchess of Norfolk slept on a trundle bed that came out from beneath Elizabeth’s because that’s how close together they lived.

I like to take it all in and craft a book set in the era. Yes, it’s a fantasy story but I want my characters to be people of the time.

A second part of this is something I have done my entire life and that is historical re-enactment. I make the clothing and wear it. I take sword class. Dances that would have been done in Elizabeth’s court? Yes, I know a few. It’s also the little things, like turning bread on a table and trying….grrr….to bake it in an oven that you have to heat up with coals and no yeast during Elizabeth’s era. You learn to hum a tune because there is no music or make sure you are by the fire at night when someone pulls out an instrument.

I love to find little ways to fold all these details into my stories while still letting my charaters fall in love. It’s a challenge and a fun one.

Cheers!
Mary Wine

About The Author Black and Red

Mary WineAcclaimed author Mary Wine has written over 30 works of Scottish Highland romance, romantic suspense and erotic romance. An avid history-buff and historical costumer, she and her family enjoy participating in historical reenactments. Mary lives in Yorba Linda, California with her husband and two sons. Website | Goodreads | Facebook

 

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Mary’s publisher is graciously offering a paper copy of HIGHLAND VIXEN to ONE (1) lucky commenter  at The Reading Cafe

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9.. Giveaway runs from February 7-11, 2017

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Somebody Like You by Donna Alward – Review, Guest Post, Tour & Giveaway

Somebody Like You by Donna Alward – Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

 

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Somebody Like YouAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository

Description:
A kiss to last a lifetime

Aiden Gallagher was only five years old when he appeared in a photograph on the Kissing Bridge. The town of Darling, Vermont, has used Aiden’s image on the famed bridge—local legend has it that a kiss there results in everlasting love—as part of its tourism campaign. Now, twenty years later, Aiden is asked to recreate the moment with the woman he once kissed: Laurel Stone.

Recently divorced, there’s nothing Laurel wants less than to pretend happily-ever-after with Aiden. As teenagers, their romance was no fairy tale—and Laurel has never quite forgiven Aiden for breaking her heart. But now that she is back in her hometown, and keeps bumping into police officer Aiden, Laurel can’t deny that there’s still a strong flicker between her and her old flame. Could it be that the Kissing Bridge is working its magic on Laurel and Aiden—and that all true love ever needed was a second chance?

 

 

Review:

Somebody Like You by Donna Alward is the first book in her new Darling, VT series.  This was my first book by Donna Alward, and after finishing this story, it will not be my last.  I really enjoyed Somebody Like You.  This was a sweet pure romance, with a great couple, wonderful characters, within a nice small town atmosphere. 

Laurel Stone returns home to Darling, VT after her divorce. She is starting life anew by purchasing the local gardening store, and has sworn off men.  When her store is vandalized, she comes face to face with her high school crush, Aiden Gallagher, who is now a cop.  Aiden broke Laurel’s heart in high school, and she has never forgotten or forgiven him.  Aiden tries to apologize, saying he regrets what he did when he was 17.  But Laurel coming off of her divorce is very cold and wants nothing to do with Aiden.

There is also the famous photograph promoting Darling’s Kissing Bridge of 5 year old Aiden and Laurel kissing.  That picture has been there for 20 years, and now the town has approved changing the picture.  They want a grown up Aiden and Laurel to do another one. Aiden is willing, but Laurel wants nothing to do with it. 

Despite her misgivings, Laurel keeps running into Aiden, when he comes to her rescue a few times, and together they become involved in helping, George, a homeless man.  The mystery behind the vandalism in town, and George is a nice side story. 

What follows is a heartwarming story, with Laurel slowly rekindling her feelings for Aiden.  After having been hurt during her divorce, Laurel had given up on her dreams, closing her heart to being hurt again.  At first she was angry, bitter and cold towards Aiden, but he was such a wonderful hero.  He understood where Laurel was coming from, and took his time to win her over.  It was so much fun to see her begin to change and open herself up to love.  But even to near the end, Laurel would pull back, but family and friends, as well as Aiden would work to help show her the way to happiness.

Donna Alward has written a beautiful romance, and the sweet emotional ending was simply wonderful.  If you enjoy a pure romance, with a little bit of mystery, wonderful characters, then I suggest you read Somebody Like You. 

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

Guest postWhat Makes Small Town Romances so Special?
By Donna Alward

Family.

When I started thinking about this question—what makes small town romances so special?—I thought about the books and series that I’ve loved over the years and why. When it comes right down to it, small towns are about family. Either the family you’re born into, or the family you choose. Small towns are where people stick their noses in your business, but also where help is only a phone call away.

Small towns are vibrant and quirky and full of personality, just like most families. People look after each other. You know your neighbors. And right now we live in an age of more ways to connect and yet feeling more and more disconnected. But reading a book or a series set in a small town gives a reader a sense of connection. To place. To people. For those of us a little older, (emphasis on the “little!”) it’s a little nostalgic, perhaps reminding us of where we grew up, when times were “simpler” (though they sure didn’t seem simple at the time!). For slightly younger readers, small towns can represent the sort of place they’re longing for.

For me, it’s all about where you call home. In fact, that’s the main component of all of my stories—where my characters belong. Sometimes that’s geographical, and sometimes it’s more a matter of hearts, which is why my tagline is “Where your heart finds home.”

It’s kind of like Cheers for the romance reader. Small towns are where the characters go; where everybody knows their name. LOL

When I think about my favorite small town series, I think about places like Robyn Carr’s Virgin River, Sherryl Woods’s Chesapeake Shores. It’s the kind of place I envisioned when I wrote my first series for St. Martin’s, the Jewell Cove series set in Maine. And again with my new series, set in a cozy town called Darling in Vermont.

I’m hoping readers will open the book, step inside The Purple Pig Café, or the Ladybug Garden Center, or stroll along the Green to the Kissing Bridge, and feel like this is the sort of place they’d like to live. Set down roots. Fall in love.

I hope they start reading the pages and feel like they’re family.

 

excerpt

 

By the time they were through, it was nine o’clock and time to open. Being a Saturday, business was brisk. Her dad dropped off the supplies and offered to stay to help cover the tagging, but with the heavy shopping traffic, Laurel decided to wait until things died down. For now the tarps covered the tags, and she’d focus on her customers. Otherwise her anger would get the best of her and that was bad for business. By six p.m., things had slowed considerably.
Laurel had been going flat out for ten hours, stopping for only fifteen minutes to run to The Purple Pig for a sandwich. Her stomach growled, her feet hurt, there was dirt beneath her nails and she really, really wanted a shower and a glass of wine—in that order. Laurel had just dragged out the hose to water the fruit trees when a half- ton truck drove into the lot and parked in an empty space.
The driver hopped out, and her heart slammed against her ribs as she immediately realized how she must look. Dirty jeans, mannish golf shirt that did nothing for her figure,
scrubby ponytail through a Ladybug Garden Center ball cap, and prob ably smudges of dirt on her face and arms. Not that she was trying to look nice for Aiden or anything, but it was him getting out of the truck, looking sexy as hell in faded jeans and a T- shirt that stretched across
his chest and shoulders.
She could pretend she hadn’t seen him. Resolutely she turned on the hose and started watering the apple trees.
“Hey, Laurel,” he called out, and that erased any hope of avoiding him.
She turned off the hose and faced him. “Aiden. What brings you by? Looking for a shrub or tree or something?”
Keep it businesslike, she reminded herself. The last thing she needed was for him to know that he had the ability to fluster her.
“I heard about what happened.”
Of course he had.
“Don’t even. I’m still pissed.”
“I know it’s not what you needed. Did Crystal tell you that you weren’t the only one hit?”
Crystal must be the offi cer from this morning. “She did.”
“Well, that must make you feel better.”
She stared at him. “Better? Seriously? Since I opened a month ago, I’ve had to have the driveway re- graded, I’ve had to replace shrubs that were stolen from out front, deal
with a break-in and vandalism, and now tagging. Trust me, Aiden, the only thing that would feel better is if you actually did your job and found out who was doing this.”
She turned the hose back on.
He waited. He waited a long time. Several seconds, maybe thirty. Which was really not that long at all but definitely felt that way. She was watering the third tree when he sighed. “ You’re upset.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
He met her gaze, and his eyes were soft, even though she’d basically just accused him of not doing his job. The understanding she saw there made her stomach churn. She didn’t want to lash out, but that was what she did when she was hurt. Angry.
Stopping by was kind and thoughtful. She kept trying to make him out to be a bad guy, and he kept being nice. It definitely made it difficult for her to hate him. Particularly since her biochemistry betrayed her at every turn. Even now, when she was utterly preoccupied with the day’s events, she seemed to notice everything. His hair, his eyes, the breadth of his chest, the armband tattoo that looked like some sort of Celtic braid, peeking just below the hem of his T- shirt sleeve. The shape of his lips . . .
He muttered something that was as creative a curse as she’d ever heard, and sounded suspiciously Irish. She couldn’t help but laugh, and tried to clamp her lips shut again. But not before he saw and heard, and his eyes took on an impish gleam.
“ You’re not fine. You’re tired and upset and rightfully so. You’re also just as stubborn as you always were.” He put his hands on his hips. “I take it you’re not adverse to help, just help from me in particular.”
Her face heated. Dammit.
“Maybe this could be my penance,” he suggested, giving her a quick grin. And she wished she could take him seriously, but he always seemed to be teasing. It was one of the things she’d really liked about him and hated at the same time. Particularly now, when she wanted to be, if not mad, completely unaffected. And she wasn’t. He was trying to cajole her out of her mood and it was working.
“It’s Saturday night. Don’t you have a hot date or something?” She turned on the hose again. Focused on the large plastic pot holding a cherry tree.
“Nope. Free as a bird.”
Dammit again.
“Come on, Laurel. Peace offering. Manual labor for you to stop hating me.”
She glanced over at him. “Why do you care so much?”
He was quiet for a moment, and to her surprise the teasing expression left his face. After a while he answered, his voice a little lower. “I don’t know why I care what people think so much. I always have. I don’t like anyone to be mad at me. Maybe it has something with being one of the younger siblings in the family. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t like it that you’re still so angry.” His intense blue gaze locked with hers. “It’s starting to become a personal mission to win you over. To atone for past sins.”
“Good luck,” she said dryly, more touched than she wanted to admit.
His boyish grin was back. “Come on, Laurel. You know you can’t hold out forever. You think I’m hot.” He had the audacity to wink at her.
She rolled her eyes.
“You do. You have a thing for gingers. And you have to admit, I grew up kinda good.” His hands were still on his hips and he tensed his muscles so that his shoulders and chest tightened beneath the thin T- shirt.
“I think you’re a bit taken with yourself, to be honest,” she replied. And tried not to smile. She didn’t want to be charmed, but he was incorrigible.
“Laurel.”
Damn, his voice was all silky- smooth now. “Yes, Mr. Narcissist?”
“You know damn well you want to hate me and you can’t. Besides, I saw your face just now. Maybe if I took off my shirt . . .”
“Would you like to go somewhere private to be with yourself?” she asked, biting the inside of her lip. She shouldn’t be enjoying this so much. And she wouldn’t be, if she thought he was serious. But he was teasing her.
Like he used to do when they were friends. And today . . . she swallowed against a ball of emotion. Today she needed a friend, and all she’d had were well- meaning customers.
She looked over at him. “Jeez, Aiden. You’re looking a little flushed. I think you could stand to cool off.” And before he could reply, she flicked her wrist and aimed the spray of the hose right at the center of his chest.
The abrupt shock on his face was gratifi cation enough, but then he grinned and reached to take away the hose. She danced away, still spraying him, admiring how the shirt now clung to his skin and the little droplets lit up his face and hair. A laugh bubbled up through her chest and out her mouth as she darted around the trees, dragging the hose with her. But there were too many pots and not enough room to maneuver and within seconds he caught her, wrapped one strong arm around her and wrenched the hose away with the other, spraying her in the process.
Cold water dripped from her nose, down her neck, over her bare arms. Aiden held her close against his body, close enough she could feel the hardness of his muscles, and thrilled at it. Their breaths came fast, their chests rising and falling with both laughter and the exertion of the struggle over the hose. But it was the way he was looking down at her right now that made her feel as if the lack of air was strangling her lungs. All it would take was the tiniest move and he’d be kissing her. Her gaze dropped to his lips— he’d always had fine lips— and she swallowed, nervous and scared at her reaction and turned on as hell.
She looked up, which was a mistake. Because he was staring at her lips. And his arm tightened just a little bit at the hollow of her back. Oh God . . .
A car horn honked and Laurel jumped back. He let her go, but the gravity of the moment remained.

 

 

 

theauthor

Marti Corn Photography donna alward H-R 1600

While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!
Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

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giveaway

Donna’s publisher is graciously offering a paper copy of SOMEBODY LIKE YOU to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

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