Welcome to the release blitz for PLAYING FOR KEEPS,a stand-alone adult contemporary romantic comedy, by USA Today bestselling author, Julie Hammerle. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her Giveaway.
Synopsis USA Today bestselling author Julie Hammerle’s quirky romantic comedy about two strangers, a fake relationship, and a teeny mid-lie crisis…
Bryce Barrett has disappeared off the face of the earth. Well, technically she’s just temporarily hiding out in a teeny Midwest town, away from her ruined marriage and professional demise…at least until she can figure out her next steps. But when she bumps into her ex—dressed in what could be only described as “dumpster chic”—she does the only reasonable thing a woman can do: panics and pretends the cute security guard on the scene is her new boyfriend.
Free-spirited nomad Jake Warner knew returning to his hometown was a bad idea. It’s bad enough that his family’s pressuring him to step into his dad’s hypercompetitive shoes and settle down, but when a complete stranger (cute, though possibly unbalanced) enlists him as her fake boyfriend, Jake knows he’s making some questionable choices…especially when he inexplicably goes along with it.
Now these two mismatched misfits are temporary allies against a town filled with happy, normal, and annoyingly stable people. Fake dating keeps everyone off their back while they plot their respective escapes. But nothing botches a plan more than unexpected chemistry…
Exclusive Excerpt “Ted, hello.” Bryce offered him her hand, and he pulled her in for a quick, friendly kiss on the cheek. She stiffened up. Damn it, is that moldy cheese smell me? No. It’s Ted. It must be Ted.
After he let her go, Ted spoke to the woman next to him, “Ree, this is my ex-wife, Bryce. Bryce, this is Rita, my girlfriend.”
We lah-dee-frickin’ da, Ted went and got himself a girlfriend.
But I have beaver slippers.
Bryce bit her lip to keep from laughing or crying, she wasn’t sure which.
Rita offered her hand to Bryce. “It’s nice to meet you. Ted has told me so much about you.”
“Yeah, nice to meet you, too.” Bryce greeted her ex’s new girlfriend with a perfunctory handshake as she took the opportunity to give Rita the once-over. She was the kind of effortless beauty Bryce, with her hair dye and multi-session workouts and (previously) gluten free, vegan diet, had only ever dreamed of being. Rita, whose luminous face apparently had no need for makeup, wore her long, dark hair in a cascade over her shoulders. Her white pants and nautical-striped shirt were right out of a J. Crew catalog.
Bryce folded her arms across her dingy, dirty t-shirt.
“What are you doing in town?” Ted asked.
He was definitely staring at her pants—or, well, his pants. She crossed her legs, trying to hide the big, gold “Michigan.” “I’m…I live here.”
Ted laughed. “You live in Wackernagel?”
Bryce frowned. “Well, I have the house here.”
“Yeah, you do, but I…I figured you’d sell it the first chance you got.” Ted laughed. “What about work?”
He hadn’t heard. Somehow news of her great professional demise had not reached Ted.
Bryce said a quick prayer of thanksgiving for loyal friends, Ted’s aversion to social media, and the fact that their work circles didn’t overlap. His high school teachers’ crowd didn’t have much contact with Big Law beyond Bryce.
“I’m taking some time off.” Bryce crossed her arms.
“Like, a sabbatical?” Rita asked.
Bryce nodded. Sure, let’s call it that.
“Good for you.” Tim smiled softly. “I’m glad you’re finally taking some time for yourself.”
Yeah, that’s what I’m doing. Bryce shot him a relaxed, self-assured smile. Might as well let him keep thinking things are wonderful. No harm in that. “Things are going really well for me here, in fact. I’m fixing up the house”—or, technically, redecorating it with old chip bags, empty wine bottles, and assorted other garbage—“and I’m really finding myself”—by binge watching TV shows, eating ice cream, and sleeping all day.
“That’s great,” Ted said. And his eyes were back on Bryce’s pants.
These stupid pants. They were blowing her cover. Her current outfit screamed everything but “I’m thriving!” Bryce chuckled, trying to make light of her oddball clothing. “I see you’ve noticed what I’m wearing.”
Ted’s eyes widened. “I have. Have you?”
She tamped down any annoyance at his semi-snide tone.
Author Julie Hammerle
About the Author USA Today best-selling, RITA nominated author, Julie Hammerle (she/her) writes romantic comedies for adults and teens. Before settling down to write “for real,” she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, when not writing, she ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her music playlist reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list.
She lives in Chicago with her husband and her two kids and a dog.
Welcome to the book blitz for I USED TO BE FUN, a standalone adult contemporary/women’s fiction novel, by Melanie Summers. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
“Insightful, entertaining, and satisfying. A deliciously dishy look at a typical American family behind closed doors.” ~ USA Today Bestseller Whitney Dineen
“A life-affirming emotional rollercoaster. Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette!” ~ USA Today Bestseller Kate O’KeeffeA richly satisfying family dramedy for any woman who has asked, “Whose life is this?”
Jessica Holloway is miserable. As mom to two ungrateful, almost-grown children and wife to one appreciative-but-needy husband, she has all-but-abandoned the extraordinary—and extraordinarily fun—woman she used to be.
She may be smiling while she volunteers at the school’s dog wash fundraiser, but inside, she’s seething. Having traded her future as a high-powered attorney for motherhood nearly two decades ago, she’s now desperate to reconnect with the woman she once was.
Pushed to her breaking point, Jessica is secretly terrified at what she might do.
Go on strike permanently?
Take the dog and run away to Mexico?
Tell her mother-in-law what she really thinks of her?
Whatever it is, it’s going to be a disaster. Because this time, Jessica will stop at nothing to get her power back – no matter the cost.
Excerpt #1 She was bored. No, not bored. How can someone so busy be bored? It was more like disconnected—slightly separated from everything and everyone around her. She didn’t see the point of any of it, which seemed ridiculous because on paper, Jess had it all. A healthy, mostly-happy family, a part-time job she didn’t mind going to, financial security, good friends. It was enough that she felt guilty wanting anything more. But that didn’t change the fact that she did want more. She wanted to live. Some other life. One that amazed her or, more accurately, one in which she was amazing. Before she was Jessica Halloway, she was Jessica Saunders. And Jessica Saunders was supposed to be extraordinary. She was going to do something important in this world, like run a Fortune 500 company or be a high-powered attorney. She’d be out in the world making her mark and people would say, ‘There goes Jessica Saunders. Look at her. So determined and talented, not to mention dressed to kill.’ Jessica Saunders had actually settled on going to law school, and had even scored in the top five percent in the country on her LSAT. But then she got married and she and Mike decided he should focus on his career first, since he already had his degree and only needed to sit for the exams to get his Chartered Professional Accountant designation. But then Winnie came along, followed by Noah, and pretty soon, she’d forgotten all about picking up her studies where she’d left off.
That had happened so long ago, she completely forgot that she used to be thrilled by it all. Jess Saunders was one of those enthusiastic, take-life-by-the-horns sort of girls. The life of the party. She’d dance all night, she’d laugh all day. She was witty. Smart. Great at banter. People were drawn to her. She loved everything. Impromptu trip to Mexico? I’ll grab my passport. Sex? Yes, please. Plenty of it. Mountain mud pie with caramel sauce for dessert? Hand me a fork.
Jess missed her. She really, really frigging missed her. She knew that impressive young woman was buried somewhere inside her. She must be there, right? So, where was she?
Author Melanie Summers
About the Author Melanie Summers also writes steamy romance as MJ Summers.
Melanie made a name for herself with her debut novel, Break in Two, a contemporary romance that cracked the Top 10 Paid on Amazon in both the UK and Canada, and the top 50 Paid in the USA. Her highly acclaimed Full Hearts Series was picked up by both Piatkus Entice (a division of Hachette UK) and HarperCollins Canada. Her first three books have been translated into Czech and Slovak by EuroMedia. Since 2013, she has written and published three novellas, and eight novels (of which seven have been published). She has sold over a quarter of a million books around the globe.
In her previous life (i.e. before having children), Melanie got her Bachelor of Science from the University of Alberta, then went on to work in the soul-sucking customer service industry for a large cellular network provider that shall remain nameless (unless you write her personally – then she’ll dish). On her days off, she took courses and studied to become a Chartered Mediator. That designation landed her a job at the R.C.M.P. as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for ‘K’ Division. Having had enough of mediating arguments between gun-toting police officers, she decided it was much safer to have children so she could continue her study of conflict in a weapon-free environment (and one which doesn’t require makeup and/or nylons).
Melanie resides in Edmonton with her husband, three young children, and their adorable but neurotic one-eyed dog. When she’s not writing novels, Melanie loves reading (obviously), snuggling up on the couch with her family for movie night (which would not be complete without lots of popcorn and milkshakes), and long walks in the woods near her house. She also spends a lot more time thinking about doing yoga than actually doing yoga, which is why most of her photos are taken ‘from above’. She also loves shutting down restaurants with her girlfriends. Well, not literally shutting them down, like calling the health inspector or something–more like just staying until they turn the lights off.
She is represented by Suzanne Brandreth of The Cooke Agency International.
Synopsis Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed…an alternate future for the Romanov sisters from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Lost Season of Love and Snow.
With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships.
But they can’t distance themselves from the world forever.
Olga learns that a peer of the realm has accused the late Empress Alexandra of betraying Russia and her allies during the Great War. Under the spell of the scheming Grigori Rasputin, Alexandra disclosed military secrets to the enemy and pursued a separate peace with Germany. If this rumor becomes history, it will destroy her mother’s legacy and her sisters’ futures.
Disguised as “Olivia,” a wartime nurse turned maid, Olga accepts a position in Lord Hammond’s household. There, she works to discover the truth about her mother. When Olga meets his lordship’s heir—an alluring, enigmatic war veteran—her situation grows even more precarious. Could she fall for the son of her new enemy? As she learns more about the tragedies of his past, Olga realizes the connection between their families is more complicated than it appears.
Excerpt: August 1918
The fugitive lay on her back, bruised limbs pressed flat, hidden alongside her sisters underneath a mound of coarse blankets. As the ambulance rumbled to a halt, gasoline fumes flooded the rear compartment, masking the heavy odor of their unwashed bodies. Her breathing grew labored. She didn’t know where they were or who had stopped them. She only knew they must not make a sound.
Over the past weeks, they moved slowly through land held by the Bolsheviks. Every evening at dusk, they ate carefully rationed portions of tinned meat and dry wafers while their two saviors—agents from England with forged papers identifying them as officers of the Red Guard—checked the radio transmitter for word of Allied progress toward the northern ports along the White Sea. Then, during the scant hours of darkness afforded by the short summer nights, they traveled a tortuous course to avoid military checkpoints.
Bundled in tattered sweaters, Olga and her three sisters were gaunt. Their neglected hair hung limp about their shoulders. But their faces once adorned postcards, calendars, and boxes of fancy chocolates. If detained, they would be recognized at once.
The missing daughters of the tsar.
Anastasia’s warm body pressed closer, trembling as she tensed her jaw and tried to stifle a cough.
A terrifying scenario unfolded in Olga’s mind. Thick boots pounded on the roadway before soldiers with red stars tacked to their lapels tossed the blankets aside and dragged Olga and her sisters back into the hellish world they’d been so desperate to escape. What if this journey had been for nothing? Worse than nothing because they had left their parents and sick little brother, Alexei, behind.
Olga was twenty-two years old and the eldest. It fell on her to get them through this nightmare, no matter the outcome.
She felt around until she located her youngest sister’s hand. She held it tight, flinching at the hard calluses and pus leaking from an erupted blister on the pad of Anastasia’s thumb.
Deep masculine voices, muddled and indistinct, rumbled outside. The fingers of Olga’s free hand balled into fists, rage displacing fear. The Bolsheviks may have stolen everything she held dear, but Olga would confront them as a true Romanov. Unbroken. When they raised their revolvers, she would hold her head high and ensure her face haunted these traitors for the rest of their lives.
The back door of the old field ambulance creaked open. Tentatively, Olga drew the blanket down. After hours of near-darkness, sunlight momentarily blurred her vision. When Olga released Anastasia’s hand and sat upright, a cool breeze caressed her forehead.
Before her stood a broad-shouldered gentleman of about fifty, with black brows, a full beard flecked with gray, and brown eyes behind wire-framed spectacles. The man wore a khaki tunic, as Papa had during the war. The coat’s golden buttons and belt buckle gleamed in the morning sun.
“Your imperial highness.” The gentleman removed his hat and bowed his head. He had spoken in English. She assumed he was the commanding officer. A half-dozen other men stood behind him, each dressed in the same khaki uniform. Some rose on tip-toe to get a closer look at Olga.
None bore a red star on his lapel.
Her sisters emerged from under the blankets. They pressed her shoulders, exhalations warm on the back of her neck.
“I think he’s in charge.” Tatiana, the second eldest, whispered in Olga’s ear. “And waiting for you to speak first.”
A spark of hope ignited in her heart, yet Olga didn’t trust these strangers. It had been far too long since anyone outside her family had shown her kindness or respect. For months, they had been kept under constant watch: shoved about, subjected to barking orders and humiliating whims, and made to feel they clung to life by the thinnest of threads. Olga remembered the defeated expression on her little brother’s face when she’d said goodbye for the last time. Even her once proud father bent under the weight of captivity.
Their saviors, the two men who had rescued them from that nightmare, rounded the vehicle and walked toward the soldiers, broad smiles brightening their ruddy faces.
And then the words fell from Olga’s tongue easily, as Mama had always preferred to speak English with her family. “We are here then? We’ve made it to British soil?”
“We have delivered you to Arkhangelsk. From here, you will be transported to your new home.” “We are in your debt, sir.”
Olga waited because she knew he would say more. There had to be more. While they had been rescued, their parents and brother remained imprisoned in Ekaterinburg, along with a handful of loyal servants.
“You will return for the others, won’t you?” she said, heart thumping. “My family. Our doctor. My mother’s maid. You must promise.”
The officer held her gaze. “The Bolsheviks fortified their defenses around the city’s perimeter. We can’t send our agents back to the house.”
Faced with those terrible words, Olga couldn’t bring herself to ask anything else. Couldn’t bear to hear it was too late. Her stomach churned, but she must not break. Not here. Not yet. As the eldest, she needed to stay strong. For her sisters.
When Olga said nothing more, the officer turned back to his men. Three soldiers joined him, lining up before her sisters to help them out of the ambulance.
“I know you are in pain,” the officer told her. “Remember that you and your sisters are safe. You survived. And we have done everything in our power to find a secure place for you. I promise.”
Author Jennifer Laam
About the Author An avid history nerd, Jennifer currently lives in California with a spoiled tabby cat named Jonesy. When not reading or writing, she enjoys planning cosplay for the next San Diego Comic-Con, experimenting with vegetarian recipes (to mixed results), and obsessing over House Targaryen or Baby Yoda.
Future You here, coming to offer a little advice: hang on for dear life. This summer is going to be a wild one. I know what you’re thinking: Life’s going so well! I don’t have a care in the world! Wrong. That culinary career you love so much? It’s about to go up in smoke, and your boyfriend? Yeah…he’s a goner too. If only love were as simple as, say, actually adding yourself to the lease agreement so you don’t suddenly find yourself loveless, jobless, and homeless!
Did your five-year plan include moving back in with your family and sharing a bed with your Nonna? No? Well, hate to break it to you…it’s exactly as traumatizing as it sounds.
Have you had enough? Too bad. Buckle up—it gets worse. Your new boss is a professional baseball player, and he’s hot, like really hot, but you’ll pretend not to notice because he’s a single dad and it feels wrong to ogle him in front of his innocent child. Unfortunately, he thinks you’re sexy as hell too. Unrequited love is one thing; mutual off-limits pining destined to explode in the worst of ways? What could go wrong…wrong…wrong… (That’s me fading out because you have to take it from here, kid. Good luck! Don’t screw this up for me.)
Your future (wiser) self
Author R.S. Grey
About the Author R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of over twenty novels. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughter, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com
Reclusive fantasy author turned famous when his series got developed into a mega TV hit. Except now I’m way behind deadline, and the whole world is waiting to see what I’ll write next. The pressure is getting to me, and I. Can’t. Write.
Cue: small town where people don’t recognize me.
Cue: my assistant insisting on a personal chef to keep me fed and nothing more.
Cue: finding the first bit of inspiration I’ve felt in months whenever she’s around…
Am I a walking cliche now, or what?
Dani Cooper seems to have her own hurdles to jump this holiday season. Newly divorced, looking for her next move. She’s the first person who’s seen me for me in way too long. And I see her, too–as way more than just an employee, a divorcee, a cook. She’s becoming my muse…
But when my Christmas deadline hits, will it spell the end of us, too?
My Review This was just the right light-hearted romantic comedy I needed over the holiday season. Filled with lots of sweet, funny moments, it tells the tale of Matt, a younger, hotter, George R.R. Martin-type, who is trying to write the last book in his series at the same time that the television series based on his books is set to begin their last season of production. Too many similarities to ignore it, but that’s what makes it so fun and relatable. When recently divorced Dani is hired to cook and clean for the reclusive author as he pounds out his manuscript, these two end up falling for each other. But with Matt leaving just after the new year, both of them know this isn’t mean to last. Except what if they both want it to?
Plot The story itself is pretty predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a hoot. It’s delightfully whimsical, filled with quirky characters and hilarious moments that kept me turning the page. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming, but nothing earth shattering. Just enough to remind me that the story wasn’t as predictable as I thought. The author’s style and well-developed characters carries the story to perfection.
Characters I loved everything about this wacky cast of characters. Dani, Matt, Dani’s family, the slightly eccentric neighbor, and even Matt’s assistant are well differentiated and utterly delightful. There is no one that you love to hate, in fact, the only real antagonist is the calendar eating away at Matt’s deadline and the opportunities for Matt and Dani to spend time together. Also maybe Matt’s stubbornness.
What I Loved About WRITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 1. The Town. This is a really fun small-town romance that feels straight out of Stars Hallow.
2. Writing. I enjoyed reading about Matt’s writer’s block, his ability to find anything to do other than write, and his back-and-forth with his editor. All things I can relate to!
3. Dani. As a forty-something divorced mom, she wasn’t the least bit silly but also wasn’t overly serious. She was believably zany while also being down to earth.
4. Matt. His stubborn tenaciousness contrasted with his ability to procrastinate grounded him in reality so well. We’re all a little bit juxtaposed. But his more straight-laced style to Dani’s free-spiritedness was a nice balance.
5. Christmas. I love a good holiday romance and this was a Hallmark Christmas movie in book form. I loved every minute of it.
Bottom Line A delightfully quirky holiday romance that warmed my heart and made me smile.
About the Author USA Today bestselling author Julie Hammerle writes young adult novels that focus on nerds, geeks, and basket cases falling in love. On the YA side, she is the author of The Sound of Us (Entangled TEEN, 2016) and the North Pole romance series (Entangled Crush, 2017). For adult romances, look for Knocked-Up Cinderella in the fall of 2018. A graduate of Butler University with degrees in secondary education and Latin with a minor in music, Julie lives in Chicago with her family and enjoys reading, cooking, and watching all the television.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE ITALIAN HOLIDAY, a standalone adult contemporary romantic comedy by Nicole Sharp. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Struggling writer Keats McCall is Italy bound by Valentine’s Day – but it’s certainly not for amore. She needs to escape her mindless barista job, the four walls of the rented room closing in on her, and the memories of last year’s disastrous break-up. Thank the Roman gods she can pack a bag and passport and run to her sister in Florence, Italy, in the hopes of getting her life back on track.
Keats expected to spend her days meandering through the rain-soaked cobblestone streets of Florence. What she didn’t expect was Lorenzo, who smells of espresso, Italian history and self-assurance, to propel her on an unimaginable journey.
From Florence to Venice, Keats basks in a luscious exploration of Italy and Lorenzo while she tries to figure out if the escapist mindset of an Italian Holiday can duct tape her life back together.
Excerpt #2 “God, that will be romantic, won’t it? Rome with someone you love…”
It was nice to hear that a man could still surprise his girlfriend in a romantic way, that there was still love out in the universe.
Lorenzo didn’t respond to my posturing about the surprise, but his study of me took on an intensity. I wanted to lean away from his intrusive stare, but forced myself to stand my ground and keep my smile steady. After all, I had spent the last hour studying him, and I interrupted first.
He moved then, thankfully breaking the strange moment as he rummaged around in the soft briefcase at his feet. “Ah…” He turned back and produced a small velvet box, took a deep breath and then proceeded to open the box slowly, reverently. His hand was shaking just showing me the ring.
“Oh…wow,” I whispered. “It really is going to be a romantic trip.”
He looked down at the ring and his shaking hand, frowning. “I was thinking about doing it on Valentine’s Day.” He cleared his throat. “I haven’t really been able to talk to anyone about this…” he excused as we both continued to silently study the ring. He nervously cleared his throat again, then quietly asked, “Does that seem…cheesy?”
“No,” I whispered, then reached out and gently touched the ring. I couldn’t imagine a world where someone flew to a foreign country to propose to me with a gold ring that glittered and blinked. But that was the insecurity brought on by the recent breakup. Of course, I couldn’t imagine that world because my ex-asswipe hadn’t even been able to bring himself to go to the store and get my antibiotic filled when I was really sick.
“It’s beautiful,” I verified. Though how could anyone question the breathtaking beauty of the large oval diamond encircled by a halo of smaller diamonds. It was truly stunning.
“It took me two weeks to choose one,” he admitted.
“What’s your girlfriend’s name?”
I smiled and pointed to the ring. “So, it would seem that you are just as excited and anxious as I am about this trip.”
He gave a soft laugh. “I am excited,” he turned the ring toward him so he could study it at a different angle, “and anxious…” he admitted, then cleared his throat once more. “I would argue, however, that some of us are better at handling our emotions than others.”
I finally met his eyes as I exclaimed, “I can’t help it! Excitement works me up…it flips and kicks in my gut. It makes me wear my emotions on my sleeve.”
“Well–” He might have been meaning to say more when a passing flight attendant’s gasp interrupted, “Oh, oh! Did she say yes?”
I blinked up at the flight attendant and then glanced over at Lorenzo; we frowned at each other.
A woman across the aisle leaned over and when she saw the ring, added her own gasp. “I’ve never been on a flight where someone proposed.”
“Oh, no…” I started.
Lorenzo shook his head and emphatically pointed. “No no, not her.”
“Gee, thanks,” I muttered over my shoulder at him.
“No, sorry. You seem…interesting,” he tried as he closed the ring box.
I leaned across the aisle and explained to both the passenger and the flight attendant, “He’s going to propose to his girlfriend in Rome. He was just showing me the ring.”
They were evenly disappointed.
“Such a shame, you make a cute couple,” the flight attendant said, then continued down the aisle.
I gave a snort of disbelief and muttered, “You know, going to Rome to propose on Valentine’s Day is just as exciting.”
As Lorenzo put the ring back in his bag, I touched his arm and reassured, “That is beautiful. Good job. All around.”
“I feel…” He stared over the seats stretched in front of us, trying to find what he was feeling. A shake of his head, he asked once more, “Do you think it’s trite to propose on Valentine’s Day?”
“Not at all. It’s going to be perfect.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” he affirmed.
Author Nicole Sharp
About the Author Legend has it that Nicole Sharp was born to hippies during an ice storm in Stone Mountain, Georgia. While confirmation of said events cannot be agreed upon, one fact is for certain, it was a Tuesday.
By age twelve, Nicole was sure of two things: 1) She wanted to be a writer and 2) She wanted to travel. She begged her parents to allow her to voyage alone to exotic lands. They permitted her to go from California to Boise, Idaho to visit a great-grandmother.
After muddling through the college years, Nicole graduated with a Bachelors in History (think Greeks and Romans). Why didn’t she major in English if she wanted to be a writer? There were better stories in history class.
Nicole is Italian. According to Ancestry.com it’s a rather low percentage, but she feels that she is at least 51% Italian. When she returned to the homeland, she fell in love with the Italian cappuccino, so much so that she studied the language until she was fluent; thus she could order the magical elixir herself: Posso avere un cappuccino, per favore!
Nicole’s first concert was to see the bluegrass group The Seldom Scene when she was a fifteen-year-old, thanks to her parent’s bluegrass phase. However, she never admits it, and instead tells everyone that They Might Be Giants, whom she saw in college, was her real first concert.
Her first car was a yellow Chevy Celebrity and her favorite job was working as a docent in a museum in an old mining town in Colorado. She has written extensively about both.
Welcome to the cover reveal for PLAY BY MY RULES, a standalone adult contemporary romance by Michelle Karise, releasing February 28, 2023. See below for information on the book, preorder links, and a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
All I wanted was a cup of tea, but I got early morning shenanigans.
Stolen beverage order? ✔️
Furious confrontation? ✔️
Asked out by a thieving, sexy, tall drink of . . . ✔️
It wasn’t the best start to my day, but it had to go up from there. Right?
It was my first day at my new job, and I wanted to make the best impression. I arrived at the office with minutes to spare, and who did I bump into again? The gorgeous thief. Harrison Cooper was the president of my company and my boss.
It was fine. Really. Resisting the heated flirtations and stormy kisses designed to bring me to my knees would be no problem.
Office romance? ✔️
My past exposed? ✔️
Shattered world? ✔️
Now how do I pick up the pieces?
Play By My Rules is a standalone, BWWM romance novel.
Author Michelle Karise
About the Author Michelle Karise is a type-A romance author of stories featuring black female leads and the men who love them. She spends her days organizing, planning, and executing corporate initiatives. When she’s done with her workday, she spends her evenings crafting titillating tales of infatuation, passion, and pleasure. Michelle makes her home in Missouri with her overprotective dog, Rooney.
Welcome to the blog tour for DOC SHOWMANCE, a standalone adult contemporary romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Zoe Forward. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis From USA Today bestselling author Zoe Forward comes a new enemies-to-lovers veterinary RomCom.
I would say Dr. Ian Todd is my archenemy. But that would require us acknowledging each other, which we haven’t done since we graduated veterinary school.
He’s famous. As in, he’s the world’s “Sexiest Veterinarian Alive” with his own wildlife TV show and a string of glamorous girlfriends.
I’m infamous as a reality TV emergency veterinarian with a snark mouth, take-no-crap attitude, and zero dating life.
When asked to fake a romance with him on TV to boost my ER show’s ratings, I want to say no-way, but the extra money will pay off my brother’s loan shark debt. Even though Ian broke my heart, playing his love interest shouldn’t be hard, especially if it means getting to watch him squirm.
Lines get blurred when the TV setups stop feeling fake. Can I chance this might be real love?
Excerpt #3 “Amber,” I said slow. “I’ve been giving you space, but I’m not giving up this time. I know we weren’t good for each other in the past.”
She dropped her head. “Don’t do this, Ian.”
I stepped in front of her so we were facing each other. I brushed a knuckle over her cheek and pulled her hair back behind her shoulder. “I’m not at this clinic for the job. I’m here for you. To have a second chance. Or, really, a first chance since we never gave ourselves a chance before.”
Would she see my words as real or bullshit for the camera? This wasn’t rehearsed. This wasn’t something I was told to say. I meant it. I could’ve walked away from the baloney of this show at any time. Sure, I wanted my own show back on TV, and I never wanted to hear about what happened in Colombia again, but I could survive without being on TV. My vlog was still wildly hot. I stayed here to see her again.
“Ian,” she said, breathless. “I don’t think—”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked, bending so our mouths were lined up so close but not touching. “What does a man like me do when the woman he wants more than anything won’t forgive him for a mistake when he was younger and stupid?”
She closed her eyes and held completely still, but I hadn’t missed the pain and uncertainty brewing in her hazel gaze. Then she moved out of my grasp. “I have to see an appointment.”
As she exited the office, the cameraman lowered his camera and said, “That was masterful, Dr. Todd.”
Her head swiveled. The vicious scowl communicated she’d throttle me if she could. Any hint that was real—because it had been—was now shattered.
Author Zoe Forward
About the Author Zoe Forward might admit to you she’s almost prepared for the zombie apocalypse before the fact she writes contemporary and paranormal romances. Her novels have won numerous awards including the Prism, Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence, Golden Quill, Carolyn Readers Choice Award, and the Booksellers’ Best Award. She’s best known for her sexy, laugh-out-loud Keepers of the Veil series, which has won numerous awards. She’s a board-certified veterinarian. You can find her residing in the South with the love of her life, a menagerie of four-legged beasts and two wild kids.
Welcome to the cover reveal for THE SPLATTERING OF SILENCE, a standalone adult fantasy by M.M. Gargiulo, releasing February 3, 2023. See below for the cover, information on the book, and a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
THE SPLATTERING OF SILENCE by M.M. Gargiulo
About the Book Title: THE SPLATTERING OF SILENCE Author: M.M. Gargiulo Release Date: February 3, 2023
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Synopsis Life left Phillip so abruptly, he entered the afterlife with very little sense of self. He managed to find his way to Valhalla, the resting place of warriors, and begins to piece back the story of his life. Shockingly, he manages to find the love of his life, but another stands firmly in his way.
Welcome to the blog tour for THE ENDGAME, a standalone adult contemporary sports romance, by Bianca Borell. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive teaser, and a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
Synopsis Every girl with a brother grows up with one fundamental rule: his best friend is off limits. That’s one rule she longs to break when he crashes into her life.
Amelie Weston has been taking the safe path for as long as she can remember. Not disappointing her parents by pursuing the career she wants. And not pursuing the guy she’s been crushing on.
But she’s tired of being the good girl.
Her brother’s best friend is pushing her to stop being a people pleaser and open the bakery of her dreams. Little does he know he’s also at the top of the list of her heart’s greatest desires… and he’s making himself impossible to resist.
Levi Kingston fully intends to become a legend on the field as one of the best quarterbacks ever. He must stay focused and work relentlessly toward his goal. He doesn’t have time for distractions… until he meets his best friend’s sister, and his well-laid plan is challenged.
Bad timing, responsibilities, and loyalty to her brother keep them apart. But the connection between them only grows stronger. Their feelings become impossible to ignore, and the fight against them is pointless.
Will they take a chance on love? Or waste an opportunity for long-awaited happiness?
Author Bianca Borell
About the Author Bianca Borell is a contemporary romance author, voracious reader, nature lover, and unapologetic daydreamer. She spends her nights deciding between getting up to write or trying to silence the voices of her characters. The battle is never-ending.
She has a weakness for tormented characters, second chances, and happy endings.
She currently lives in Germany with her amazing husband and indulges in way too many pastries than she should.
For updates, news, and releases, be sure to visit Bianca’s official website at www.biancaborell.com.
Welcome to the book blitz for WHISKEY ON OUR SHOES, a standalone new adult contemporary romance by Tonya Preece. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Eva dodges the fans, media, and gossip that follow her supermodel mom and rock star family members by wearing disguises. After an aimless gap year, she struggles to figure out what she wants from life. She moves in with her famous guitar god brother in Austin while he recovers from a drunken stage stunt accident and tries to stay sober. When a hot Texas cowboy named Alex takes Eva by surprise, she risks her safety and security of anonymity by letting him into her unconventional life.
Alex is captivated by Eva and promises to protect her privacy. Yet he has a secret of his own—the fling he had with an older woman is fraught with scandalous potential for him and now Eva. He broke free of that mistake months ago, or so he thought. As things heat up with Eva, his old flame returns and won’t leave him alone.
Just when Alex thinks he has the reins on the situation, his ex teams up with a gossip reporter hell-bent on invading Eva’s privacy. The resulting exposé, with a sly spin on a recent encounter with his ex, is Alex’s worst nightmare, and Eva’s unsure what to believe. Can she face the world with Alex at her side or will she return into hiding?
Excerpt #2 I drive to the house, and she’s on the porch wearing shorts and a tank top. The sight of her does my heart good. She runs to me as soon as I leave my truck. I pick her up and love the way she wraps her arms and legs around me.
I laugh. “What’s got you in such a good mood?”
“You’re here.” Her bare legs squeeze my hips, and she kisses me. I could become real used to this, with her breasts mashed against my chest and my hands cupped under her butt.
“Come on.” She slides down my body—oh damn, that was hot—and takes my hand. “Hector’s teaching me to cook. We’re making salmon with roasted red pepper pesto.”
In the kitchen, Hector’s setting out ingredients and cookware. “Hello, Alex. Eva wants to learn to cook. Any idea what that’s about?”
“No idea.” I grin, appreciating the Wonder Woman apron Eva’s putting on.
“You like it?” She strikes a pose.
“I love it.” I pull her to me and kiss her, long and hard.
Hector clears his throat—loudly. “Are we cooking here, or what?”
“Sorry, Boss.” Eva laughs, and I move to the other side of the bar.
A pen and notepad call to me, begging me to draw the scene. In my sketch, I nickname Hector “Honcho,” as in head honcho. I draw Eva in a Wonder Woman costume. She and Hector put the salmon in the oven, and she heads over to sit down by me at the bar when he orders her to the sink. “These dishes aren’t washing themselves.”
“Sir, yes sir!” She salutes him. “Show me what to do.”
He explains what needs to be washed by hand and what can be put in the dishwasher, like it’s the first time she’s done this. How strange and different from me. I’ve been washing dishes since I was five years old. Mom had me stand on a chair to reach the sink.
Hector throws together a rice and vegetable side dish.
Once everything’s ready, Eva and I carry our plates to the theater room.
“Have you watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” she asks.
“Yeah, it’s good. Cassidi and I watched the whole series a few years ago.”
“I’m up to the ninth episode.”
By the end of the show, we’ve finished eating and share the after-dinner mints she brought from the kitchen. She shuts off the lights. We get comfy in the oversized theater seats and play the next episode. It’s about nightmares coming true in an alternate reality. One of them involves a character being chased by a scary clown.
Eva switches the lights back on and shudders. “I hate clowns.”
“I’m sorry, I forgot that part of this episode. We can skip it if you want.”
“No, I wanna see the end, but can I sit on your lap?” She laughs. “Wow, how cheesy.”
“I like cheese,” I joke. And of course, she’s welcome to sit on my lap anytime she wants.
She leans against my chest, and I put my arms around her. She smells delicious. It’s the usual vanilla but with a hint of something else. Peaches?
The rest of the show is lost on me. I concentrate on having her close.
As the episode ends, she nestles her head between my neck and shoulder and our fingers entwine. Can she hear how fast she makes my heart race?
I press my nose to the top of her head. “You smell like peaches and cream.”
She looks up at me with those beautiful green eyes. “Is that a good thing?”
“It’s a very good thing.” I kiss her, and she shifts on my lap, pushing the button to recline my seat back. Soon, she’s lying on top of me.
Author Tonya Preece
About the Author Tonya Preece writes romance and contemporary young adult fiction and incorporates music into all her books in one way or another. She lives near Austin, TX where she’s a small business manager for a forensic engineering firm. She and her husband enjoy traveling, live music, wine, and spoiling their fur babies.
As an active SCBWI member since 2015, Tonya has volunteered for several conferences and has served as a critique group facilitator. She joined the Writer’s League of Texas and The Author’s Guild in 2021. She’s serving as the 2022 WriteOnCon Financial Administrator and Critique Boutique Coordinator.
Tonya’s 2022 debut, Whiskey on Our Shoes, was selected for the 2019 #WriteMentor program. One of her YA novels, THE MISSING MEMORIES OF CORDY O’REILLY, earned her a 2020 scholarship/mentorship with Austin SCBWI and was a finalist at the 2018 Houston SCBWI conference.
An avid consumer of written stories, Tonya reads and/or listens to an average of 75 books a year. Some of her favorite YA authors include Jeff Zentner, Julie Buxbaum, Sarah Dessen, and Robin Benway. In adult romance – Kate Clayborn, Christina Lauren, Helena Hunting, Emily Henry, and Abby Jimenez. Series she tries to keep up to date on: Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Recent mainstream faves are Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Five Fun Facts about Tonya that aren’t reading or writing related:
1. She volunteers at a local food pantry, where she’s enjoyed serving weekly since 2017.
2. Her travel bucket list includes Italy, Ireland, and Bora Bora. Australia would be awesome, too!
3. She loves ziplining, indoor skydiving, and rollercoasters.
4. She’s a fan of bands like With Confidence, Broadside, All Time Low, State Champs, Sleeping with Sirens, and As It Is.
5. In her free time, she can be found indulging a jigsaw puzzle habit and/or binging shows like Outer Banks, Never Have I Ever, Downton Abbey, Bridgerton, Good Girls, Veronica Mars, and iZombie.
Synopsis I left the United States to find inner peace. Instead, I find myself confronting a malicious ghost.
Astyr Salt is a spiritual and emotional empath who moved to England with the intent to forget about a traumatic, supernatural event that occurred during her freshman year of college. However, when she takes a spiritual cleansing assignment in a haunted country home in Essex, she is isolated with all her own pent-up emotions.
These emotions energize the ghosts inhabiting the country home, helping them draw their own tragedies to the surface. Searching for the truth, Astyr is forced to relive the past. And the deeper she dives into the country home’s horrific history, the more the intertwined memories place her in the path of an evil and demented predator.
A blend of contemporary fantasy, horror, and mystery, Bly is inspired by Henry James’s classic novella, The Turn of the Screw.
Excerpt #2 I find myself sitting on the bench in the center of the box hedge maze behind Bly. To some relief, there are no endless hallways, staircases, or doors. Nothing unusual. Well, for the most part. The lake glistens in the distance, yet there is no light in the sky. No moon. No stars. Even the tree line that separates the manicured lawn from the woodlands and fields is swallowed by the inky blackness that conceals the sky. The only light is the candle that sits on the bench next to me. The flame steady, but dim. I take in a breath of crisp air and turn toward Bly. The house is completely dark, and from the exterior, nothing appears out of the ordinary. No extra windows or doors. Yet, something is still off.
Touching the pentacle charm on my bracelet, my thoughts travel to Nolyn. Despite his absence, I sense a small amount of his energy radiating from the tourmaline, acting as my anchor. Ever since I came to Bly, the anxiety I once felt in my dreams has started to ease. Maybe it’s because my mind has been focusing on Bly and the spirits of the house. Or maybe it’s because I have been wearing the bracelet both day and night since Nolyn gave it to me. I’m not really sure. Yet, I’m still feeling an emptiness. Especially right now, sitting in the darkness alone. I didn’t realize how much I have been missing him. How much I want him here with me.
The candle beside me suddenly sputters out, and a deafening silence envelops the estate. The temperature drops to the point that I cross my arms over my chest and rub my hands over the sleeves of my white nightgown. A presence glares down at me from the windows of the third level, above the governess’s rooms. I tilt my head to meet its gaze, only to find nothing but thin air. For several moments, I refuse to avert my eyes. My breathing becoming shallow as my chest constricts. Then I hear childish giggles and leaves crackling under a pair of running feet. I stand and turn, accidently knocking the candle from the bench in the process. The box hedge around me begins to grow vertically, climbing from two feet to four feet to six feet. In a matter of seconds, I’m in the middle of a box hedge maze that reaches ten feet high. My heart pounding, I work my way down the path that should lead me out of the maze. Unfortunately, having left the unlit candle by the bench, I’m walking blind. I lightly brush the palms of my hands over the branches and leaves on either side of me. My hyped-up imagination half expects large spiders or creepy vines with a mind of their own to crawl out of the evergreens.
I take several turns that should have led me out of the maze only to find myself trapped in a dead end. I back myself out and continue down the last path I was on. Taking a few more turns, I find myself at another dead end. This happens again for a third, fourth, and fifth time. Obviously, the maze has become more complex than when I first started. I take a breath and silently ask for Geb’s guidance as I attempt to draw energy from the earth. Finally, a soft, prickling sensation tickles the soles of my feet. I continue to walk until I feel it becoming stronger. The energy of the earth leading down several bends and U-turns. The box hedge falls away from my palms, opening into a wider space. In front of me are two doors, one a black-stained oak and the other a light honey-stained pine.
The prickling energy fades when I step forward to examine the doors. There is nothing obvious. No signs. No guards. No sphinx. I place my palm on the first door to see if I can get a sense of the energy on the other side. Nothing. I try the other door, just to be sure, but the only thing I can sense is the masked energy approaching me from behind. I turn, hoping to catch sight of the presence. Sadly, all I can see is darkness. The presence brushes the back of my head, running over my neck. I shiver while I feel the presence pick up several strands of my hair. The smell of fresh cut grass, tobacco, and alcohol wafts by as a frigid chill envelops me.
Author Kelsey Ketch
About the Author Kelsey Ketch is a young-adult/new-adult author, who works as a Wildlife Biologist and Data Analyst. During her free time, she can often be found working on her latest work in progress. She also enjoys history, mythology, traveling, and reading.
Twin thieves attempt to pull off a daring heist in Stolen City, the sophomore fantasy novel from DAUNTLESS author Elisa A. Bonnin.
The city of Leithon is under Imperial occupation and Arian Athensor has made it her playground.
In stealing magical artifacts for the Resistance, bounding over rooftops to evade Imperial soldiers, and establishing herself as the darling thief of the underground, Arian lives a life wrapped in danger and trained towards survival. She’ll steal anything for the right price, and if she runs fast enough, she can almost escape the fact that her mother is dead, her father is missing, and her brother, Liam, is tamping down a wealth of power in a city that has outlawed magic.
But then the mysterious Cavar comes to town with a job for the twins: to steal an artifact capable of ripping the souls from the living–the same artifact that used to hang around the neck of Arian’s mother. Suddenly, her past is no longer buried under adrenaline but intimately tied to the mission at hand, and Arian must face her guilt and pain head-on in order to pull off the heist.
As Arian and Cavar infiltrate the strongest fortress in Leithon and Liam joins the Resistance as their resident mage, the twins find themselves embroiled in court politics and family secrets, and the mission becomes more than just another artifact theft. The target is now the Imperial rule, and Arian will go to any length necessary to steal her city back.
Excerpt #1 There was a sudden blur of motion. Two figures darted across the wooden planks that spanned the roof, so quickly that no one would have been able to see them unless they were looking up just as Cavar and Linna were. From this distance, it was impossible to pick out any details, only that there were two of them, moving quickly, heading west over the roofs.
“What was that?” Linna asked, puzzled. “I thought the roof-top paths in the Imperial Quarter were closed. They’re too well guarded.” Cavar grinned. Maybe it was the coffee, or maybe it was the sudden charge in the air, but he couldn’t help the thrill of excite-ment that ran through him then. His informant had been right. He crushed the empty cup in his hand, tossing it into a nearby wastebasket.
“Apparently nobody told them that.”
A clamor rose from the east, a discordant alarm. The people in the streets looked up, but of course there was nothing more to see. Cavar slipped his hands into his pockets and started to walk, thinking. The Imperials would be out in force. A theft in the maximum- security vault of the First Aelrian Bank wasn’t something they could over-look. He had to catch them first.
If they were heading west, they would have to get down off the rooftops to cross the Road of Law. That would be where their pursuers would try to catch them, and if Cavar was lucky, that was where he would meet them too.
Linna hurried to catch up with him, a shadow at his side. Together, they cut through Leithon’s evening crowds, its Imperial citizens stopping to murmur at each other in wonder and confusion at the rising alarms. She didn’t try to stop him, but he could hear the impatience in her voice when she spoke up.
“You can’t tell me you mean to go after them. We’ll walk right into an Imperial patrol.”
“Aren’t you curious how they’ll get out of that?” Cavar asked, grinning.
“I’m more concerned with keeping us out of an Imperial prison.” “It’s a little too late for that, isn’t it? After all, we’re here to take their most prized artifact.”
Linna rolled her eyes. “And those are the thieves you want to hire to help us do it? Do you even know a thing about them?”
He knew a few things, thanks to his mother. But he couldn’t blame Linna for her skepticism.
The Athensor twins, the last children of eth’Akari.
He felt a shiver run down his spine, a flutter of excitement in his belly.
It was said that the Weavers were the agents of the world’s fate, weaving its loose threads together to keep them from getting tangled. But in that moment, Cavar felt as if he had been woven into the tapestry, by some hand other than his own. As if fate had gotten tired of their hubris and had decided to show the world that she could make even a Weaver dance on her strings.
It was an utterly exhilarating feeling, and Cavar couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.\
Author Elisa A. Bonnin
About the Author Elisa A. Bonnin was born and raised in the Philippines, after which she moved to the United States to study chemistry and later oceanography. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Germany to work as a postdoctoral scientist. A lifelong learner, Elisa is always convinced that she should “maybe take a class in something” and as a result, has amassed an eclectic collection of hobbies. But writing will always be her true love. Publishing a book has been her dream since she was eight years old, and she is thrilled to finally be able to share her stories. Dauntless is her first novel.
Welcome to the blog tour for THE RISE, a standalone adult romantic thriller, by Ross King and Shari Low. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on their giveaway.
When we bury our secrets, they always come back to haunt us… Their rise was meteoric.
Only a few years before, they had been three friends from Glasgow, just trying to survive tough lives of danger and dysfunction. But on one Hollywood night in 1993, they were on the world’s biggest stage, accepting their Oscar in front of the watching world. That night was the beginning of their careers. But it was also the end of their friendship.
Over the next twenty years, Mirren McLean would become one of the most powerful writers in the movie industry. Zander Leith would break box-office records as cinema’s most in-demand action hero. And Davie Johnson would rake in millions as producer of some of the biggest shows on TV.
For two decades they didn’t speak, driven apart by a horrific secret.
Their past is coming back to bite them, and they have to decide whether to run, hide, or fight. Because when you rise to the top, there’s always someone who wants to see you fall.
An exciting new glam thriller for the fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid, Liane Moriarty and Jo Spain
Excerpt #1 Prologue
The 65th Academy Awards,
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles,
29 March 1993
The heat of the lights is as oppressive as the thick cloak of insecurity and desperation that shrouds the audience.
Billy Crystal steps to the podium, his laconic grin a teasing, gentle rebuke to a collection of egos teetering on the edge of explosion.
His fourth time in the role, Crystal introduces the presenter of the next category with an ease born of confidence and familiarity. Romcom queen, Lana Delasso, glides onto the stage, blonde hair an homage to her namesake and idol, Lana Turner. Her nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress will be decided later and she’s done everything possible to win. Everything. In her fifties now, the best surgeons have ensured that she doesn’t look a day over thirty-five, her white, cobweb Versace gown, defying the rule that you should never show cleavage and legs at the same time. The physical reactions in the audience are instant and visceral: tight smiles of envy on bejewelled women coincide with ferocious erections under some of the $1,000 tuxedos sitting next to them.
Her words are white noise until they reach the point: ‘…. Best Original Screenplay.’
Behind her, on a thirty-foot screen, the nominations roll.
Husbands and Wives by Woody Allen. A smattering of applause, hesitations fuelled by the desire to come down on the right side of the moral judgement on Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter. In Hollywood, picking sides has little to do with principles and everything to do with career enhancement.
Lorenzo’s Oil by George Miller and Nick Enright. More applause. Camera zooms to a row in which the suits are overshadowed by Susan Sarandon’s uncommon beauty.
Passion Fish by John Sayles. A movie that was released in only two theatres, grossing only a few tickets over $36,000 before its nomination.
Unforgiven by David Peoples. A crowd-pleaser. Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, the audience of stars greets it with a show of worship reserved for work that has been touched by a deity.
The Brutal Circle by Davie Johnston, Zander Leith and Mirren McLean. An outsider. A harrowing story of a life born in violence, lived in violence, cut short by violence.
The big screen spans several seats, but all eyes are on the ebullient form of the producer, Wes Lomax, legendary head of Lomax Films, the studio responsible for more million-dollar-grossing movies in the last decade than any other.
The image returns to Lana Delasso, revelling in her moment. The same fingers that caressed a very married studio mogul only an hour before, now slide delicately along the folds of the gold envelope.
‘And the winner is…’
‘The Brutal Circle by…’
Sycophantic cheers drown out the names; stars rise to their feet, determined to ensure that when Wes Lomax watches the playback, he will see them heralding his triumph.
In the chaos, the director in the gallery is a fraction late in switching to the three bodies that move towards the stage, all of them almost as unrecognizable as the extras hired to fill the seats vacated by stars drawn to the restrooms by the call of nature or the need for a line snorted off the top of a toilet. When the zoom lens on Camera 5 finally catches up with the winners, they are ascending the stairs to the stage.
Davie Johnston, at twenty-two the youngest winner of an award in that category in Academy history, strides forward with the surety of a man with an unblinking eye on his destination – the spotlight of an Academy award winner and membership of one of the most exalted, exclusive clubs in the world.
Behind him, Mirren McLean, in the only haute-couture dress she has ever touched, her wild mane of Titian curls tamed to match the elegance of the midnight-blue Dior gown. Unaccustomed to heels, she steps with care, her expression a mix of concentration and disbelief.
Finally, with a demeanour that suggests reluctance, Zander Leith. For every woman who tried to ignore her partner’s sexual interest in Lana Delasso, here is six feet two inches of payback. Wide shoulders, his square jaw set in a brooding grimace, he could be heading to a wake, not the spotlight of a winner.
When only a few feet separate them, Lana’s eyes meet his and she instinctively flinches as he responds to the flirtatious flutter of her lashes with almost visceral scorn, his disdain barely masked by his own thick, black lashes. Rebuffed.
While the outside remains a movie goddess, on the inside she is twelve again: the odd kid at school that even the trailer-park waifs avoid. The one that turned into the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, but still felt she had to respond to the summons to Wes Lomax’s yacht and service his lust and his ego to get his support for her own nomination.
Davie Johnston takes the Oscar and moves forward to the microphone.
‘I just want to say thank you—’
More applause. Most of the audience know of this trio, despite the fact that they are barely out of their teens. Wes Lomax has ensured that their story has saturated the Hollywood press in recent months. All three are credited as writers on the script, but Mirren steered the story behind the scenes, while the two men played leading roles in a movie that had blown up at the box office. The success was due, in part, to a publicity and distribution campaign usually reserved for A-list releases, and, in part, to the fact that it was a damn fine piece of cinema. It was a raw, hardcore two hours of urban menace that had a generation of American teens queuing for their Saturday-night thriller kicks. It hit $15 million on the balance sheets after the first month, then word of mouth set it on fire. It was now well on the way to Lomax’s $100million target.
This was the kind of American dream, the triumph of the underdog, the discovery of wonder that this city loved. Three childhood friends from Scotland, pals from a run-down housing estate who’d stuck together in poverty and disfunction, before going on to be the creative talents behind an outstanding script discovered by Wes Lomax when he took his annual golfing trip to the UK. It was beyond surprising that these kids had managed to get their work in front of Lomax. Even more so that he’d taken enough time off from screwing high-class escorts in the presidential suites of the best hotels in the UK to read it.
Now the audience in the red velvet chairs furrow their brows as they try to decipher Davie Johnston’s accent. This isn’t the Scottish burr of Sean Connery. Nor does it come close to the accents they heard from Davie and Zander in the movie. It is harder. More guttural. Like bullets being sprayed from a gun in a scene from Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino’s big hit of the previous year.
‘Thank you to the Academy. Thank you to all of you for letting us be part of this incredible world. And most of all, thank you to the brilliant Wes Lomax. We owe him everything.’
Camera 3 zooms in on Lomax and millions of people watch him nod, eyes glistening, a godfather acknowledging gratitude from his chosen family.
Davie bows to signal the end of his speech, then punches the Oscar into the air. Neither Mirren nor Zander step forward. Recovered from the sting of Zander’s rejection, Lana sweeps them off stage right into the unbridled chaos of runners, technicians, gophers and make-up artists brandishing thick brushes at agitated stars.
They are propelled into a press room, cameras flashing, journos screeching questions, all of which they answer with naive honesty. Barely a few years ago they were hanging out in cafés, pooling their money to buy chips. Now they are on Hollywood’s biggest stage and Davie Johnston isn’t even going to pretend for a second that he’s not loving it.
How are they enjoying Hollywood? Fine. Great. Aye, it’s, erm, amazing.
Are they here to stay? Dunno yet. It depends. Nothing decided.
Is their next project already underway? No plans yet. Nothing concrete. Just ideas.
Davie answers most of the questions, with an occasional contribution from Mirren.
Lou Cole, a young, sparky journalist on the LA Times, changes the pattern.
‘So, Zander, how does it feel to be called the new Hollywood heart-throb?’
His bashful grin is automatic, and conceals the fact that for the second time that night his eyes flicker with pure contempt.
‘I don’t think Tom Cruise has anything to worry about.’
Oblivious to the underlying sentiment, the press pack laugh, as Paula Leno, Lomax Films’ hard-ass head of publicity, sweetly but firmly calls an end to the photocall, determined to minimize the risk of a fuck-up and all too aware that the next winners will soon be arriving on the conveyor belt of achievement.
Finally alone, there is a pause as each of them absorbs the last ten incredible minutes of their lives. Davie is the first to react, throwing his arms around Mirren and squeezing her.
‘We did it. Shit, I don’t believe it.’ As always, his enthusiasm oozes from under his skin. It has been that way all their lives. Davie is the life force, the driven one, the chancer. Mirren is the voice of reason, the one with emotional intelligence, always in touch with how everyone else is feeling. And she knows there’s a problem here.
Over Davie’s shoulder her gaze has locked with Zander’s, dispelling all notion of celebration. She can see the storm that’s been brewing for far too long is about to roar with thunder. Davie doesn’t get the memo. His first burst of excitement over, he turns to the new Hollywood heart-throb. His lifelong friend, bonded as youngsters by a shared recognition that no one really gave a fuck, their symbiotic pairing paying no heed to the reality that in the gene pool of life, Zander got height and physical perfection, while Davie got the kind of non-threatening appeal that made women want to ruffle his hair and tell him about their last broken heart.
‘C’mon, man, that was incredible! Did you hear them? That was for us. That has to make everything worth it. C’mon, man…’
The desperate repetition isn’t lost on any of them. Mirren’s teeth clench together as she raises her chin in defiance. She knows there is no point looking for resolution and rapprochement with Zander, and she refuses to show weakness by trying.
Her instincts are right.
For the last photograph, Zander was asked to hold the Oscar to give the picture editors a range of different images to choose from. Now he tosses it to Davie like it is a can of Bud pulled from the fridge to wash down a burger.
Davie’s reflexes are just quick enough to save it from the floor.
‘You got what you wanted.’ Zander’s words are barely louder than a whisper, yet drown out all other sounds. ‘Now both of you can fuck off, and if I ever see you again, walk the other way.’
Authors Shari Low and Ross King
About the Authors In January 2022, Shari Low celebrated 21 years since the publication of her first novel, What If?. Shari went on to be a best-selling novelist, publishing over 30 books, including My One Month Marriage, One Day In Summer, One Summer Sunrise, The Story Of Our Secrets and her non-fiction collection of parenthood memories, Because Mummy Said So.
In late 2020, her first novel, What If?, was updated and re-published. In January 2021, the sequel, What Now? was released, followed in April 22 by the third book in the series, What Next?. All three novels became international best sellers.
In real life, once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband and a labradoodle. Her two teenagers have now left home, so she spends an inordinate amount of time on video calls checking if they’re eating well and keeping up to date with their laundry.
For all the latest news, visit Shari on Facebook, twitter, instagram or at www.sharilow.com
Ross King is the author of the bestselling Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, as well as the novels Ex-Libris and Domino. He lives in England, near Oxford.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE MESSY TRUTH ABOUT LOVE, a standalone new adult contemporary romance, by C.L. Walters. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
A fresh start is exactly what Hannah Fleming needs after getting dumped by her cheating ex-boyfriend. While getting rejected was awful, nine weeks removed she’s recognizing the benefits, seeing that relationship for what it was: unhealthy. Then, Hannah bumps into her high school crush, Seth Peters, and is offered a second chance to see if what was in the past can once again be magical in the present. But when her past threatens her second chance, she must determine how hard she’s willing to fight for her future.
A fresh start is exactly what Seth Peters needs. New place. New people. New opportunities. Except, he runs straight into one of the greatest unresolved moments of his past, Hannah Fleming. Suddenly life is offering a second chance with her, but can he hold onto all he’s learned over the last few years to make a future with Hannah work? Or will he backslide into old ways of being to hide the truth of his darker past?
Excerpt #1 I rush through the first set of doors at Hammill, my eyes unfocused, replaying where I went wrong in the conversation with Sebastian, and bump into someone hurrying out. The books in my arms flop out, falling to the ground in a syncopated succession of thuds. “Oh. I’m so sorry,” I say and bend down to pick up the books, which I don’t want to get wet.
Shoot. Shoot. I’m so late. Matilda is going to string me up by my nails.
“So sorry,” a deep voice says at the same time. “My fault. I wasn’t–” A familiar voice, stalled now on his last word.
I look up into a face I recognize. Warm amber eyes. A dimpled smile. My heart remembers jumping around in my chest with that familiar rhythm before my eyes and mind put that recognition together. “Hannah?”
“Seth?” A smile spreads across my face and every nagging thought evaporates. “What are you doing here?” My smile won’t stop and communicates with the rest of my body that it needs to get involved in the joy. My heart hammers against my ribs. My face heats.
The last time I saw him–
My heart trips over the memory and won’t let me visit it out of self-preservation. He looks like high school Seth, but different. Older. His nose is still slightly crooked. His mouth, with perfectly proportional lips, still cuts adorable dimples into his cheeks when he smiles, which he does, causing his amber eyes to sparkle. His brown hair is darker now, effortlessly styled so that wavy locks stray across his forehead. He’s still taller than me. His face is wider, and it makes me wonder about the rest of him hiding underneath the jacket.
My heart adds a hot hum of awareness in my chest.
He’s a friend—I tell myself—one I haven’t seen in a long time.
He bends down to help me with the books. “Wow. I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going. And it’s you!” We’re crouched down together in the entryway of Hammill between the sets of doors. Someone opens the outer door, and a burst of cold finds its way under the hem of my coat and drifts up my back.
“What are you doing here?” I don’t know why I glance around, but I do, as if he’s materialized from thin air and will disappear again when the spell wears off. “How are you? It’s been, what?” He grabs the last book.
He holds the book out to me, and his eyes grasp ahold of mine. “Since that summer after senior year.” July. The beach. I remember.
I tilt my head, surprised.
I know the last time I saw him. The memory played on repeat in my mind, my dreams, my inner overthinking-monologue far too long after it happened. I try to play it cool. “Yeah! I think it was on the 4th of July get-together at the beach. After graduation.” I can’t stop smiling, and my cheeks are starting to ache. I wonder what he remembers about that night. We texted some after. Then he moved away, and the chats became fewer and farther between until they stopped altogether.
Someone opens the door from the library on their way out.
I step to the side and grasp the sleeve of Seth’s coat to draw him to the side with me. The girl walking past glances at Seth and does a double take. Not surprising. He’s always captured the girls’ attention. I refocus on his smile. No dimples.
Author C.L. Walters
About the Author As a kid, CL Walters, world revolved around two things: stories and make believe. She’s built a real life around those two things: a teacher of stories and a writer of make believe.
With four books now published, she’s looking forward to her fifth release October 13, 2020, a YA Contemporary Romance called The Stories Stars Tell.
Sign up for her newsletter for news, goodies, and fun (www.clwalters.net)
Welcome to the book blitz for ACCIDENTALLY WORKING CLASS, a standalone adult chick lit/women’s fiction, by Karly Lane. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
Synopsis Socialite Quinn Appleton knows how to live life—at full speed and with no limits. She has the perfect life, an amazing boyfriend, friends by the bucketload and an eye for fashion. Life is good.
The Appletons are a household name, their eponymous biscuit empire having been in the family for over one hundred and fifty years, making them one of the country’s richest families. They are no strangers to controversy either, constantly gracing the covers of gossip magazines, caught in compromising positions at outrageous parties.
But CEO and matriarch Lady Elizabeth Appleton has had enough. Tired of her children and grandchildren not pulling their weight and dragging the once respectable Appleton name through the mud, she decides to cut them all off financially.
With her life in ruins, Quinn is just one Jimmy Choo heel away from living in a cardboard box when Gran gives her an ultimatum: take a job at the company for six months and her trust fund will be reinstated. The catch? She must do it under a false identity and work her way up—no one can know she’s an Appleton.
Surely it can’t be that hard to hold down a lousy job? After all, millions of other people seem to do it. But Quinn is about to learn just how different the world is when you find yourself suddenly working class..
Excerpt #2 After yet another seemingly endless long day, Quinn kicked off her heels and sank to her bed, massaging her aching feet one at a time. She was desperate for a bath, but an image of the scum rings around the tub at the end of the hall sent a shudder through her. ‘Looks like a hot shower it’ll be,’ she muttered despondently, dragging herself back upright to find her comfiest lounging clothes before heading to the bathroom.
She opened the bathroom door and a wave of steam poured out to greet her. As it cleared, she found herself staring open-mouthed at a man who was shaving, standing naked except for a fluffy white towel wrapped around his hips.
She did a double-take—her fluffy white towel!
‘Hi,’ he said, far more calmly than the situation warranted.
‘That’s my towel!’ she shrieked.
He slowly looked down at the towel in question, which was tucked, somewhat haphazardly, around his lean hips, before glancing back up at her.
‘Yeah, sorry. I forgot to grab mine.’
‘Well, take it off!’
He kinked a lazy eyebrow and gave a slow smile that momentarily distracted her outrage.
‘Well, okay, if that’s what you want,’ he shrugged, putting down the razor and moving his fingers to the corner of the towel, holding it gingerly across his hips.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ she gasped, coming to her senses.
‘Giving your towel back.’
‘Oh my God. You’re naked. I don’t want to see you naked!’ she snapped, then swallowed nervously. I mean, it wouldn’t be the absolute worst view in town, a little voice inside reasoned, before she shook her head swiftly to dislodge the wayward thought. ‘What’s wrong with you?’
‘Just trying to keep you happy.’
She stared at this man before her, half his face freshly shaved, the other half still covered in shaving cream, watching her through slightly amused dark-blue eyes, and found herself close to tears. It really was too much. All she’d wanted was to take a hot shower to try and wash away the frustration of another day working in a stupid job she hated, and now she was standing here, being laughed at by some half-naked stranger wearing her Abyss and Habidecor one hundred percent Egyptian cotton towel!
‘Hey, I’m sorry,’ the stranger said, his demeanour changing instantly. ‘Seriously, I jumped in the shower and forgot my towel. I saw this one and figured I’d be able to duck back to my room and get dressed and replace it before anyone knew it was missing.’
‘Are you freaking crazy? You were going to use my towel—a complete stranger—and then just put it back?’ It was beyond gross.
‘I was planning on washing it first,’ he said, sounding insulted she’d even consider him doing anything less.
‘Oh, well, that’s big of you,’ she snapped, wiping her eyes before sniffing and searching for the box of tissues she’d put in here that morning.
‘We were out of toilet paper,’ he said sheepishly, looking across the room where the tissues sat on the floor beside the toilet.
Quinn’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Just when she figured this day couldn’t get any worse, it just kept proving her wrong.
Without a word, she turned on her heel and walked out of the bathroom.
Author Karly Lane
About the Author Karly Lane lives on the beautiful Mid North Coast of NSW in Australia. A certified small town girl, she is most happy in a little town where everyone knows who your grand parents were. She writes women’s fiction – everything from romantic suspense to family sagas and life in rural Australia. She has romantic suspense titles published under Karlene Blakemore-Mowle and her latest release, Third Time Lucky is available now.
Welcome to the blog tour for HEADS ON FIRE, a standalone adult contemporary romance by Elora Nicole Ramirez. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
Nova Scofield isn’t looking for anything serious. She’s not looking for anything at all, actually. Still recovering after walking away from her narcissistic fiancé weeks before their wedding, she is happily focused on her floral shop, Wild Flora.
But then Jax Stratford walks into the shop and Nova suddenly remembers what it’s like to feel the gravitational pull of chemistry. For one night, she allows herself the freedom of letting her desire lead her.
The only problem is Jax isn’t a one night stand — he’s a potential business partner. Despite her best judgment, she agrees to a date and finds herself falling head over heels.
But Nova’s ex refuses to let go — he keeps showing up and threatening to take over the flower shop she built with her best friend — making it impossible for Nova to move on from their relationship and the control he had over her.
To make matters worse, history surfaces and her ex shares something with her, making it seem Jax has kept the truth from her this entire time.
Will she give into the heat she feels with Jax?
Or will everything she’s worked for turn to ash?
Excerpt #4 Music drifts from inside and I feel his chest vibrating from laughter.
I look back at him, my arms around his neck.
“What’s so funny?”
He leans his head back, glancing at the stars above us. “This song. I haven’t heard it in ages.”
“Dancing in the Moonlight?” I ask.
He nods, and finds my gaze. “My mom would have these dancing parties with us growing up and this was one of the songs she’d play. We go outside, under the moon, and just be completely stupid with each other, spinning around under the stars.” His eyes twinkle and scratches at something on his cheek. He goes quiet for just a few seconds, lost in memories.
“That sounds amazing,” I say. “My parents were incredible growing up — I’m so grateful for the relationship I have with them. But we don’t have any fun memories like dancing under the stars. It’s more like, creating presentations to determine where we are going to vacation this summer type of vibes.”
His eyebrows shoot up. “Are you serious?”
I laugh, my turn to go quiet with the memories.
“The last time we did it, my uncle actually won. We ended up going to Palm Springs simply because he wanted to experience the mind-melting heat.”
“Hopefully y’all had a pool to cool off in during the day?”
“Oh yeah. It was actually a beautiful spot. I would go back in a heartbeat, just not in the middle of July.”
Stepping back, he holds out his hand. “Wanna dance?”
I stand there for a moment.
“Here? Now?” I blink.
“Well, it’s what the song says, right?”
He claps to the beat, doing a quick turn on his heels before looking at me again with an inviting smile. I laugh, surprised by the shift in conversation, but grateful for his willingness to hold the heavy spaces as well as the silly moments. His green eyes look back at me and I sigh. This is the third time this man has gotten me to dance with him. There’s no way I will be able to say no.
I tentatively place my hand in his, and he twirls me around. “It sounds like you need a core memory of dancing under the stars.”
I laugh again, soaking in the moment. He’s not missing a beat, his shoulders moving with the rhythm and his feet slowly stepping side to side before doing a quick shuffle and moving me with the music. His hips rock side to side and before I know it, I’m not thinking about our conversation from earlier or whether the team breaking down the event inside will come out and see us and wonder why we haven’t left yet. I’m lost in the feel of his hips against mine, his hands on my back, and the confidence he has in leading us around the wooden porch. He pushes against my back, twirling me again, and I spin a few feet away.
My hands go out to the side and I groove for a few beats before getting a playful glint in my eye.
“You know this is where I run toward you and you lift me like Baby in Dirty Dancing.”
“If this were a rom com, yes,” he agrees. Instead, he holds his arms out to me in an invitation, and I don’t run toward him because we’re not that stupid to attempt a trick like that on a whim. We know this moment, just like all of our other moments, are held with care and with the knowing that it might be our last. But right now? Right now we’re experiencing something deeper than any movie anyway. I walk with the beat and turn my back to him when we reach each other and he wraps his arms around my waist and we stay there, moving in tandem with massive smiles on our faces, the stars sparkling above us and the fire cracking beside us, in our own little dance party for two.
It was better than any rom-com I’ve ever seen.
Author Elora Ramirez
About the Author Elora Ramirez has always been a word girl.
It started when she was four, when she taught herself how to read and write as a way to entertain herself while her grandmother kicked and danced in aerobics class. She cut her teeth on books from Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space — including her Fischer Price kitchenette, the pages of picture books, and Highlights Magazines.
She’s matured a bit since then, now choosing to write in the margins of her books and on the mirrors of her bathroom ideas and thoughts surrounding story and what makes us human. By day she leads a team at a tech company, waking up before the sun rises to get in her love for words before stepping into her role of helping others see the plot line of their own story under development.
Intuition and beauty get her through the day, as well as her chef-husband and their little lion son. Curious Obsession is her fourth novel.
Welcome to the book blitz for EVERYTHING WE ARE, a standalone new adult contemporary sports romance, by Darby Blake and Sienna Ray. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on their giveaway.
Synopsis Thea Jenson has her future meticulously planned out. Graduate from college. Get a job. Marry her high school sweetheart and have two beautiful children. When she decides to transfer schools, her brother suggests she move in with him and his unruly hockey roommates. Everything in her life is going according to her plan . . .
. . . until she bumps into Kyler in their kitchen and sparks fly.
Kyler Rose, the starting center for the Northport University hockey team, is done for the moment he lays his eyes on Thea. But he can’t allow her to become a distraction. He’s determined to make it to the NHL. That’s if he doesn’t get booted for failing grades first. And even though he’s on scholarship, it doesn’t pay his bills or provide for his family. Neither do the tips he earns from his bartending gig. When an offer to make some fast cash falls in his lap, he takes it, thinking no one will care if he gets hurt . . .
. . . except Thea does care.
But just as Kyler finds a way to navigate his feelings for Thea, an unexpected link to his family comes to light and he finds himself in the fight of his life to protect those he loves the most – his family.
Kyler “Last call,” I holler out and prepare for the rush of people coming to the bar. It’s Thursday night, and for the most part, quiet. I know a few kids from school who are hanging out, but the rest of the crowd are summer stragglers, determined to extend their vacation by a couple more nights. I can’t say I blame them. The idea of starting classes next week is daunting, and I’m not looking forward to the Monday through Friday hassle of having to study, sit through lectures, and prepare for the upcoming hockey season.
People start to leave. The regulars tell me goodbye, and some wish me good luck. I’ve spent countless hours talking to them about school and hockey. They’ll come to the games when they start, and most will show up when our Blue Line Club has some event where fans can come meet the players. Some forget I’ll be working up until hockey season starts, and then my days will vary. Even though I’m on a scholarship, I still have to work. The “full-ride” offer schools give is pretty much a joke. Granted, they pay for my schooling, on-campus food, and books, but that’s it. If I need clothes, a damn snack, or gas for my car—it’s all on me. Most of the guys on the team still get an allowance from their parents. No such luck when it comes to my parents. Actually, just a parent. My dad bailed when I was two, leaving my mom to raise my sister and me on a very limited income. To say I grew up on the struggle bus would be an understatement, and I’m only where I am because of sponsors. There’s no way in hell my mom would’ve been able to afford to keep me in the hockey programs without programs aimed at helping underprivileged kids.
A hottie comes up to the bar with her empty martini glass. She’s been in town for two weeks, taking advantage of the late season sales, which are meant to increase tourism in Northport. “Hey,” she says in what should sound like a sultry voice but comes off as raspy and a bit too loud because of all the extra bar noise.
“Manhattan?” I ask her as I take her empty glass and set it with the others I need to wash. When I turn back to her, she’s leaning on the bar with her breasts pushed together. After two weeks of trying, the answer will still be “no” from me.
Author Darby Blake
About Darby Blake Darby Blake is a pen name for New York Times Bestselling Author Heidi McLaughlin. Darby’s first novel, EVERYTHING WE ARE, co-written with her best friend, is due to be released in June 2022. Learn more about Darby by visiting darbyblake.com.
About Sienna Ray Sienna Ray is a quietly introverted author living in the UK. She lives with her other half and despite aspirations to be an author in her school days, has only just recently embarked on her writing journey. Her debut novel, EVERYTHING WE ARE, co-written with her best friend, is due to be released in June 2022.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE RIGHT KIND OF UNEXPECTED, a stand alone new adult contemporary romance, by Rayna York. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Tess hasn’t experienced many kindnesses in her eighteen years. When her boyfriend abandons her at a small-town gas station, it’s just one more crappy event to add to the pile. Without a car, money, or cell phone, her options are limited, and calling her parents isn’t one of them. So when the family that owns the business throws her a lifeline, she grabs hold. Because even the worst situations can have a silver lining, and this one is a town called Jasper Creek, a diner everyone calls Earl’s, and a young mechanic named Colten Reed.
Rayna York’s standalone novel gives readers the small-town romance they crave with enough feels to make the heart sing. It’s the perfect feel-good, summer romance.
Excerpt I rush to the bathroom at the side of the building and lock the door behind me. I can’t deal with this anymore. I grip the sides of the pedestal sink and drop my head, breathing deep. In, out, in, out, fighting for calm.
Why? Why did I think this was a good idea?
Three days ago, Dax and I were on our way to a gallery opening when I mentioned I’d never been to Disney World. He said he hadn’t either. I commented on how it would be fun to jump in the car and go. High school graduation was over, my parents were in Europe, I didn’t have any plans for the summer, so the next afternoon we were on the road.
I lift my sunglasses to the top of my head and startle at the red-rimmed, brown-eyed zombie staring back at me. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since we left, and I forgot to take my makeup off last night, then Dax was in such a hurry this morning.
Maybe our relationship was always a mess. I don’t know. We’ve only been together for six months. In New York, Dax and I got along great. There were parties, restaurants, people, and places to fill our time. Now, without the distractions and being stuck together in mostly confined spaces, I realize we don’t have as much in common as I thought. But it’s more than that. He needs to be right about everything and nags me until I concede to his views. I never noticed him doing that before. There are a lot of things I didn’t notice before.
I use a little soap and water on a paper towel and clean the black smears from around my eyes. It cleans the makeup off perfectly, but the dark circles and puffiness remain. I slide a hair elastic from around my wrist and pull my brown mop of humid-induced frizz into a messy bun.
With a deep sigh, I slide my glasses back over my eyes and push the door open into the bright sunlight. I take in the beautiful field dotted with wildflowers behind the gas station, then close my eyes and lift my face to the sun, disregarding the intensity on my pale skin. I breathe in the fragrant smell of green that only a sweltering heat can produce.
It’s time to put an end to this impromptu adventure. It ceased being fun after the first five hours. And it’s my car, my time, my money. With renewed strength, I turn on my heels, ready to confront Dax and get my car keys back. I’m heading home with or without my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. I can drop him off at a bus station if he wants to continue the trip.
I round the corner of the building. Wait, what? Where is it?
I walk to the two ancient gas pumps and turn in a circle, taking in the white building with peeling paint, and everything else in the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree radius, but the car is nowhere in sight. I walk to the other side of the building, thinking he might have parked in a different location while getting something from inside, but the car isn’t there either.
Author Rayna York
About the Author Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure, so being the new kid was always a challenge. Where change was the norm, books were her constant–a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE ISLAND OF SUMMER SUNSETS, a standalone adult contemporary romance, by Susan Sands. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Sail away with this heartwarming beach read about hope, family, and finding out who was meant for us.
Among the dunes and salty spray, off the South Carolina coast, where the daily tide swells and the minnow counts are the only news in town, something big might just change Janie Brooks’s life forever, for better or worse.
In the small southern village of Fripp, Janie’s life is moving along at about the same slow pace as the island—exactly the way she wants it. After the death of Janie’s husband, unable to find her own way, she spends her days with the seagulls and swallow-tailed kites, in the serene bliss of the Atlantic coast.
Until newcomer Ryan Kennedy and his teenage daughter move into the rental down the street, shaking up Janie’s well-ordered, simple life. Ryan has enough to deal with, being a single dad. All he wants is to move into a brand-new house in this quaint community and start fresh. But, with Janie down the street, that might be easier said than done.
Will Janie and Ryan find their own version of paradise? Or will one get in the way of the other?
A summer escape that will whisk you away to an island getaway and have you wishing for a seaside retreat with your feet in the sand and the golden sunset at your back. The Island of Summer Sunsets is perfect for fans of Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak, and RaeAnne Thayne.
Excerpt “Hey there, Janie-girl,” Joe Murphy called from atop the wood decking that wrapped around the old marina’s general store.
His gruff voice pulled Janie Brooks’ attention his way as she walked up. She waved, the salty air blowing between them.
“What can I get for you this morning?” he asked, wiping his large hands on a rag as a seagull squawked overhead in search of its morning meal.
Joe, owner of the general store at the end of Fripp Island’s seaside marina, towered over her. At five-foot-nothing, being towered over wasn’t unusual for Janie, but Joe was a giant of a man, with a steely-gray, grizzled beard that matched what was left of his hair. He reminded her of an ocean-facing house that had stood up to the salty sea air and endured the test of time. He was… weathered.
“Hey, Joe. I need a couple of bags of ice, some minnows, and Momma’s newspaper. How are the shiners today?” Janie asked, peering into the murky vat of bait minnows that lined the old clapboard wall of the building, trying to determine how active they were. Their smell was oddly comforting. It reminded her of going there as a little girl with Momma and Daddy. And then, with her late husband, Daniel. She loved visiting the marina before anybody else was up and around.
Something about the familiarity kept her thoughts on the day-to-day, not allowing her mind to move into memories that were still too painful to relive. The music of sameness filled her: the gulls, the glorious sunrise, and the smells of the island. Anything else put her into new territory, and Janie wasn’t ready for anything new. Even after two years.
“Just got ’em in yesterday. Should do you for a couple of days.”
Janie pointed toward the vat. “Momma wants two dozen, please.”
She noticed then that something was different about Joe that day; his manner was a little more distracted than usual. He’d looked over her head toward the entrance to the marina a couple of times already.
Joe pulled out the net, scooping up approximately twenty-four, then throwing in several more for good measure. Then he filled a plastic bag with water, dumped in the tiny silvery fish, and used a tube to inject oxygen from the tank before tying off the top with a rubber band. That would keep them alive until Janie got home and put them in the minnow bucket. He handed the bag over to her.
She looked up, shielding her eyes from the brightness of the morning daylight with her hand. It was early, but the sun was making a spectacular appearance over the water. The blaze of orange contrasted against the layers of cool blue in the sky just above. Below, the darker surf was almost glassy in its stillness, as it often was this early.
“Your momma fishing off the dock today, or y’all going out in the boat?” Joe asked.
“We’re going out tomorrow to hunt for driftwood on Pritchards Island’s beach. We’ve got some special orders for candle holders that could use a few more pieces.” Janie referred to her “sea treasures” business that she and Momma ran together. “She’s planning to do some fishing while we’re at it. Might throw a line in on the dock this afternoon.”
There was a limited window for maritime travel between tiny Pritchards Island and Fripp Island. Both were nestled among the string of more than one hundred islands from South Carolina down to Georgia, and if it weren’t for the stretch of ocean separating the two barrier islands, it would only be a half-mile walk between them. High tide happened twice a day, but the exact timing changed daily by roughly an hour. Tides were the gods of everything here, pulling the water from the canals that snaked through the marshes, so getting across by boat had to be carefully timed.
Joe’s gaze followed Janie’s. “Gonna be a good day for it tomorrow.”
They stood silently for a moment, looking upward at the sky, which had now transformed into a full-blown daytime blue.
“A perfect day, according to the forecast.”
Most days on Fripp Island were perfect days as far as Janie was concerned. But this day seemed to sparkle. Truth was, they lived in paradise on this tiny slice of an island many people west of Georgia and north of the Carolinas had never even heard of.
Fripp was quiet this early in spring since the lucky tourists who knew about the island invaded during the warmer months. The late March weather was warm but breezy, with a few puffy white clouds floating by. Being surrounded by nature’s beauty on a protected bird and wildlife sanctuary was all Janie wanted.
Janie carried over the bag of minnows and set them on the floor of her golf cart.
“I’ve got some of that sweet cornbread mix from the mill your momma always asks for.” Joe peered up the stairs toward the entrance of the general store.
Janie was extremely fond of Joe. He ordered specific things he knew his customers liked. “Then I’d better grab the mix too while I’m here.”
Janie started to follow Joe when someone caught her eye, causing her to turn instinctively. A tall, sandy-haired man had just parked a four-seater golf cart on the crushed shell lot and was walking over.
“Hey, Joe,” she muttered, just loud enough to get his attention.
“Yup?” He raised grizzled brows.
“Who’s that?” She nodded as furtively as possible toward the newcomer.
He was tall, dark-haired, lean, and moved with a grace that caught her eye. It was apparent the man wasn’t a regular resident because she’d never seen him before. Not only was he unfamiliar, but, dressed in faded jeans and a worn blue T-shirt, he was clearly a misplaced underwear/sunglasses model who’d washed up on their island out of season.
Joe lowered his polarized glasses and glanced over, his sun-damaged blue eyes having a look. “Hmm. Looks like he’s here earlier than expected.”
“Who?” she hissed, wanting to know before the guy got to them. It would be nice to have a clue what was happening around here.
Joe eyed her for a long second. “That’s my nephew, Ryan. Got some interest in our new resident, do you, Janie-girl?” Joe winked at her, grinning as she flushed a dark, beet red.
Janie knew she was doing this because it was the curse of being a redhead. And one with freckles, too. Her skin told the world her deepest thoughts. Like a flashing billboard.
Janie’s curiosity competed with her awkwardness over Joe’s nephew’s unexpected appearance. So she ignored his taunt.
“Resident? How did I not know about someone new moving in?”
Joe had mentioned his nephew a few times in the past, but they’d never met. And she would have remembered him.
“It happened pretty quickly. Must’ve slipped my mind the last time you were here.”
Judging by his smirk, she knew Joe had misinterpreted her reaction as interest instead of mortification. After last year, when Joe had tried to set her up and it had failed miserably, he, of all people, should have understood where she was coming from.
The nephew came closer. Joe raised a hand in greeting toward the man as he neared them. Janie eyed her golf cart and wondered if she could make it there fast enough to avoid saying hello, but then she realized how silly that was.
Joe let out a low rumble of laughter. “Come and say hello.”
Janie Brooks was no coward. Never that. And Joe was like family, so she had little choice.
“Fine. He’s your family, after all.” There. That would stop any ideas Joe had about possible interest in his nephew.
“C’mon then.” He grasped her shoulders gently and maneuvered her forward as if she were a child, causing Janie’s face to flame up like a flare gun, something that didn’t happen often but had happened twice in the last five minutes. But then again, in Fripp, she was rarely caught off guard…
Author Susan Sands
About the Author Susan Sands grew up in a real life Southern Footloose town in Northwest Louisiana, complete with her senior class hosting the first ever prom in the history of their tiny public school with half the town chaperoning. Is it any wonder she writes Southern small town stories full of porch swings, fun and romance?
Susan lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband, Doug, their Labradoodle, Watson, and lots of material for her next book. Her three adult children are in various stages of finishing college and getting off the payroll.