Blog Tour: Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

Lady Sunshine

Amy Mason Doan

On Sale Date: June 29, 2021

9781525804670, 1525804677

Trade Paperback

$16.99 USD, $21.99 CAD

Fiction / Women/ Coming of Age

368 pages

About the Book:

ONE ICONIC FAMILY. ONE SUMMER OF SECRETS. THE DAZZLING SPIRIT OF 1970S CALIFORNIA.
For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods… until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.
Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all.

Review

I really enjoyed immersing myself in this book. I usually start my reviews out gushing over how quickly I sped through a book which I could have easily done with this story but something about it had me ingesting it at a much slower pace. The setting was dreamy and perfect. The characters all felt vivid and authentic. The story is told in dual timelines and I appreciated how well both sides of the story played off each other. I couldn’t help but love the steady unraveling of what happened in the summer of ’79 just a little bit more since there was an air of expectation over the whole thing. We know very early on that something devastating happened at the end of the summer which is reinforced by the present day storyline.

There are so many aspects of this story that I loved. The compound setting was a high point for me because I love the idea of people coming together and working together to build/make something. I was also a big fan with how much music plays into this story. Something about adding music to a story just makes it come alive to me and Doan did a fabulous job of integrating music into pretty much every aspect of this story. Jackie was a stunning main character and I fell in love with how flawed and broken yet strong and genuine she is. The way her character develops over each of the two storylines made my connection to her stronger as we navigate through her many ups and downs. I found Doan’s writing to be lyrical and enchanting which added to my love of this story.

I don’t know if it is because I grew up in the Bay Area and so a few of the places mentioned I was familiar with and evoked home for me but this story will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time. Two years ago Daisy Jones and the Six was my favorite book of the year and so it is no surprise how much I loved this one. If you love historical fiction stories involving music then this is one that demands you pick it up. Doan has created a slow and intimate story that is worthy of being on many best of lists.

Headshots by Sash Photography http://sashphotography.com

About the Author:

AMY MASON DOAN is the author of The Summer List and Summer Hours. She earned a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MA in journalism from Stanford University, and has written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, and Forbes, among other publications. She grew up in Danville, California, and now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

Social Links:

Website: https://amymasondoan.com/ 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyLDoan 

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

Pintrest: https://www.pinterest.com/amydoanla/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16722065.Amy_Mason_Doan 

Mailing List: https://amymasondoan.com/contact/ 

Excerpt


1

A Girl, Her Cousin, and a Waterfall

1999

I rattle the padlock on the gate, strum my fingers along the cold chain-link fence.

I own this place.

Maybe if I repeat it often enough I’ll believe it.

All along the base of the fence are tributes: shells, notes, sketches, bunches of flowers. Some still fresh, some so old the petals are crisp as parchment. I follow the fence uphill, along the coast side, and stop at a wooden, waist-high sign marking the path up to the waterfall. It wasn’t here the summer I visited.

The sign is covered in words and drawings, so tattooed-over by fan messages that you can barely read the official one. I run my fingertips over the engravings: initials, peace symbols, Thank you’s, I Love You’s. Fragments of favorite lyrics. After coming so far to visit the legendary estate, people need to do something, leave their mark, if only with a rock on fog-softened wood.

Song titles from my uncle’s final album, Three, are carved everywhere. “Heart, Home, Hope.”

“Leaf, Shell, Raindrop.”

“Angel, Lion, Willow.” Someone has etched that last one in symbols instead of words. The angel refers to Angela, my aunt. The lion is my uncle Graham.

And the willow tree. Willa, my cousin.

I have a pointy metal travel nail file in my suitcase; I could add my message to the rest, my own tribute to this place, to the Kingstons. To try to explain what happened the summer I spent here. I could tell it like one of the campfire tales I used to spin for Willa.

This is the story of a girl, her cousin, and a waterfall…

But there’s no time for that, not with only seven days to clear the house for sale. Back at the gate, where Toby’s asleep in his cat carrier in the shade, I dig in my overnight bag for the keys. They came in a FedEx with a fat stack of documents I must’ve read on the plane from Boston a dozen times—thousands of words, all dressed up in legal jargon. When it’s so simple, really. Everything inside that fence is mine now, whether I want it or not.

I unlock the gate, lift the metal shackle, and walk uphill to the highest point, where the gravel widens into a parking lot, then fades away into grass. The field opens out below me just like I remember. We called it “the bowl,” because of the way the edges curve up all around it. A golden bowl scooped into the hills, rimmed on three sides by dark green woods. The house, a quarter mile ahead of me at the top of the far slope, is a pale smudge in the fir trees.

I stop to take it in, this piece of land I now own. The Sandcastle, everyone called it.

Without the neighbors’ goats and Graham’s guests to keep the grass down, the field has grown wild, many of the yellow weeds high as my belly button.

Willa stood here with me once and showed me how from this angle the estate resembled a sun. The kind a child would draw, with a happy face inside. Once I saw it, it was impossible to un-see:

The round, straw-colored field, trails squiggling off to the woods in every direction, like rays. The left eye—the campfire circle. The right eye—the blue aboveground pool. The nose was the vertical line of picnic benches in the middle of the circle that served as our communal outdoor dining table. The smile was the curving line of parked cars and motorcycles and campers.

All that’s gone now, save for the pool, which is squinting, collapsed, moldy green instead of its old bright blue.

I should go back for my bag and Toby but I can’t resist—I move on, down to the center of the field. Far to my right in the woods, the brown roofline of the biggest A-frame cabin, Kingfisher, pokes through the firs. But no other cabins are visible, the foliage is so thick now. Good. Each alteration from the place of my memories gives me confidence. I can handle this for a week. One peaceful, private week to box things up and send them away.

“Sure you don’t want me to come help?” Paul had asked when he dropped me at the airport this morning. “We could squeeze in a romantic weekend somewhere. I’ve always wanted to go to San Francisco.”

“You have summer school classes, remember? Anyway, it’ll be totally boring, believe me.”

I’d told him—earnest, sweet Paul, who all the sixth-graders at the elementary school where we work hope they get as their teacher and who wants to marry me—that the trip was no big deal. That I’d be away for a week because my aunt in California passed away. That I barely knew her and just had to help pack up her old place to get it ready for sale.

He believed me.

I didn’t tell him that the “old place” is a stunning, sprawling property perched over the Pacific, studded with cabins and outbuildings and a legendary basement recording studio. That the land bubbles with natural hot springs and creeks and waterfalls.

Or that I’ve inherited it. All of it. The fields, the woods, the house, the studio. And my uncle’s music catalog.

I didn’t tell him that I visited here once as a teenager, or that for a little while, a long time ago, I was sure I’d stay forever.

Excerpted from Lady Sunshine @ 2021 by Amy Mason Doan, used with permission by Graydon House.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Sunshine-Amy-Mason-Doan/dp/1525804677 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lady-sunshine-amy-mason-doan/1137570752?ean=9781525804670 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/lady-sunshine-9781525804670/9781525804670 

Powell’s: https://www.powells.com/book/lady-sunshine-9781525804670 

Broadway Books: https://www.broadwaybooks.net/book/9781525811548 

Libro.fm: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781488211324-lady-sunshine 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Lady-Sunshine/Amy-Mason-Doan/9781525804670?id=8228253181468 

Target: https://www.target.com/p/lady-sunshine-by-amy-mason-doan-paperback/-/A-81262153#lnk=sametab 

Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Lady-Sunshine-Original-Ed-Hardcover-9781525811548/118720350 

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/lady-sunshine-a-novel/9781525804670-item.html?ikwid=amy+mason+doan&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=0bd161f9a9366fb59095bf4f608b9f53 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lady-sunshine-2 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/lady-sunshine/id1527559208 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Amy_Mason_Doan_Lady_Sunshine?id=-ET3DwAAQBAJ 

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Marine’s Mission By Deb Kastner

Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

The Marine’s Mission by Deb Kastner is available on June 29.

Book Description

This marine doesn’t want anyone’s help

…until an unlikely match changes his life.

Wounded ex-marine Aaron Jamison always follows orders—and the assignment to take on a service dog is just that. Still, trainer Ruby Winslow is definitely barking up the wrong tree when she insists a beauty-parlor poodle is his perfect match. But Ruby and her clever canine are determined to melt the heart of this battle-hardened marine. And they’ll teach him an unforgettable new trick—love.

Add The Marine’s Mission to your Goodreads!

Review

This is a very sweet and clean romance. Because of my health issues I connected easily with Aaron and the whole idea of service dogs. I did have some issues with Aaron and his old fashioned way of thinking about masculinity which in turn made him not that likable to me. I don’t think adding those things into the story were needed and instead we could have focused more on how losing his marine career affected him. I did really enjoy Ruby’s character and how much she loved all the dogs she trains and her passion for service dogs. The relationship between Ruby and Aaron was really more of a friendship for a large majority of the story since Ruby really had to break down Aaron’s walls. However, this book really skips around for the four weeks that they are working together so it felt like we got more scenes of them in their heads than together. That being said, while I wasn’t a fan of how rushed everything was at the end, I did enjoy when Ruby and Aaron were together. They had an obvious connection and it is always rewarding to see a grumpy hero open himself up. If you love stories involving dogs then this will be one that you will adore.

About the Author 

~Love Courageously~

Award-winning author Deb Kastner writes stories of faith, family and community in a small-town western setting.  Deb’s books contain sigh-worthy heroes and strong heroines facing obstacles that draw them closer to each other and the Lord. She lives in Colorado with her husband. She is blessed with three grown daughters and two grandchildren. She enjoys spoiling her grandkids, movies, music, reading, musical theater and exploring Colorado on horseback.

Connect with the Author

Website: https://www.debkastnerbooks.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/debkastner

Excerpt

The Marine’s Mission – Excerpt

Deb Kastner

“You should probably know I don’t want to be here.”

Those were the first words United States Marine Corps Sergeant Aaron Jamison blurted out to the ginger-haired woman who’d just approached him, welcoming him with a pretty smile and an enormous, dorky-looking black standard poodle standing at her side, both with curious gazes. As far as Aaron was concerned, her choice in froufrou dogs obviously said a lot about her, kind of like the movie stars who carried tiny pups around in their purses to show off to everyone.

This was the breed of dog she’d chosen to own, and she was supposed to be an expert? She was going to be his service-dog trainer, put him through the program, and his first impression was she was probably as fluff brained as her dog, not someone he wanted to be in charge of him. He’d been told to meet up with Ruby Winslow, his new contact at A New Leash on Love, and since she was standing out here in front of the building, waiting for him, he assumed this was she.

In general, he didn’t say much, and yet this time the moment he had stepped out of his truck, he’d put his foot in his mouth.

Two feet, even.

He’d blabbed exactly what had crossed his mind, and it wasn’t the greatest beginning for either of them.

Neither did it bode well for him when she immediately stopped in her tracks fast enough to make the dust cloud around her cowboy boots, sparks snapping in her light blue eyes as her gaze narrowed on him and her smile wavered. The black poodle stopped with her and stared up at her, curious as to her sudden halt.

He’d rented a truck from Denver International Airport to drive into the Rocky Mountains up to the small town of Whispering Pines, where Winslow’s Woodlands and the military service-dog program were located. The whole time he’d been thinking about how much he was going to hate the next four weeks and how he would rather be anywhere but here.

Every second was bound to be painful, both physically and mentally.

But in hindsight, he probably shouldn’t have said as much aloud, at least not until after they’d been formally introduced.

Ruby looked as if she were about to reply to his rude comment, but then she pinched her lips together, took a deep breath and apparently thought better of it.

“I just thought you should know,” Aaron continued, attempting to wind his way out of the knot he’d just firmly tied around his neck, “that although I have been given orders to show up and complete this program, I’m not exactly a willing participant here.”

He was a straight shooter, both literally as a sniper in Afghanistan and figuratively in the way he lived his life in and out of the marine corps. He didn’t say much, but when he did, he meant whatever words crossed his lips.

That said, he didn’t want to start a war with Ruby this early on in his new mission, even if what he spoke was the truth. He wasn’t here because he wanted to be. He didn’t even really want a service dog, although he wasn’t completely opposed to a tough-looking canine companion—a German shepherd, maybe, or a Belgian Malinois.

Not that what he wanted had ever once played into the situation. It didn’t. Not from the beginning. But that didn’t stop him from feeling angry and frustrated just thinking about having to endure the Veterans Administration’s direct orders. Of all the veterans they could have selected for the program…

Buy The Marine’s Mission by Deb Kastner

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9780369715043_the-marines-mission.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Marines-Mission-Rocky-Mountain-Family-ebook/dp/B08T1L75G5

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-marines-mission-deb-kastner/1138619588

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-marines-mission/id1548937028

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Deb_Kastner_The_Marine_s_Mission?id=Dw8UEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-marine-s-mission

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Awakened by the CEO’s Kiss By Therese Beharrie

Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

Awakened by the CEO’s Kiss by Therese Beharrie is available on July 27.

Book Description

Friendship is all she can offer…

…but he makes her want so much more!

The incredibly attractive man on Brooke Jansen’s doorstep is definitely not the new housekeeper she’s expecting. CEO Tyler Murphy is filling in temporarily, yet within days he’s turned Brooke’s carefully curated life upside down! Suddenly she’s living—and feeling—again. But her connection with Tyler is dangerous, exciting and strangely familiar… After losing everything once already, can Brooke risk her damaged heart again?

Add Awakened by the CEO’s Kiss to your Goodreads!

Review

The synopsis of this book sounds so sweet and intriguing but for me this book was pretty flat. The fact that Tyler is a CEO is barely mentioned and in fact he doesn’t even seem to even work for his company other than owning the rights to it. Which isn’t really a problem except for the fact that this book has the word CEO in the title and is even mentioned in the synopsis. I honestly thought the CEO the book was referring to was Brooke and I was baffled when it turned out to be Tyler. The romance had the potential to be so much more and I thought we were leading to a big emotional conflict but that never truly materialized. The biggest problem with this romance is that there were very few moments between Brooke and Tyler where we got to see them falling for each other. Instead we were in both characters heads so much that we ended up being constantly told how they were feeling which in turn led me to not having that strong of an emotional connection to the characters. This book did have moments of brilliance and the cameos by their dogs were always a high point. Unfortunately, the great moments were surpassed by the unremarkable moments and so for me this was just an average romance. Which doesn’t have to be a negative since I’m sure this book will be a great one for many people. If you enjoy clean romances that take place mainly in the heroine/heroes heads then you might want to consider picking this one up.

About the Author 

Being an author has always been Therese’s dream. It was only when the corporate world loomed during her final year at university that she realised how soon she wanted that dream to become a reality. She got serious about her writing, and now writes books she wants to see in the world featuring people who look like her. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her husband and dogs in Cape Town, South Africa. She admits this is a perfect life, and is grateful for it.

Connect with the Author

Website: http://theresebeharrie.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThereseBeharrie/

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15524274.Therese_Beharrie

Excerpt

Awakened by the CEO’s Kiss – Excerpt

Therese Beharrie

For the second time in his life Tyler Murphy was staring at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

The first time had been five years ago, at a coffee shop around the corner from the hospital. He had been visiting his sister, who’d just given birth to his nephew, and he had been dealing with some…stuff. Mainly the fact that his mother, who had passed away months before that, wouldn’t get to meet her first grandchild. The woman who had prized family so much wouldn’t get to see hers expand.

He’d needed some space from the hospital. And there had been Brooke. Standing at the counter, staring at the menu with a dazed look on her face.

He thought about that day a lot. The days after, too—that week they’d spent together. The sadness that had lurked in her eyes even when she was smiling. How often she would trail off when she spoke, as if she had forgotten what she was saying. She would always beam at him after, especially if he prompted her, and he’d put it down as one of her quirks.

Those memories were all he had of her. Her first name—only her first name—and his memories. It hadn’t mattered then. He had known she was the type of person who picked up litter when she saw it on the street. Who allowed elderly people ahead of her in a queue. She hoped for a world where people were kinder, less self-centred. She didn’t like intolerance, and she had told him about the times she’d stepped in when she’d witnessed it.

But her name and his memories hadn’t been enough for him to find her. He’d discovered that at the end of the week when she’d disappeared. They hadn’t shared any information about where they lived, who their families were. They hadn’t even exchanged contact details. It was as if they’d purposely avoided it. As if she had purposely avoided it.

He might have thought it dramatic if he hadn’t been staring at her now, waiting for her to recognise him.

He got nothing.

‘You’re not Tia Murphy,’ she said, her voice a frustratingly adorable lilt of confusion.

‘No, I’m Tyler Murphy.’ Which you already know. But I guess if we’re playing this game… ‘I’ll be helping you out for the next—’ 

He didn’t get the chance to continue. Brooke let out a cry as her body bumped against the door. Seconds later, the door opened wider. He didn’t catch what flew past them, but he knew it was some kind of animal.

‘No!’ she shouted. ‘Mochi, you come back here right now!’

She ran down the three steps that led to the front lawn, before bolting towards what Tyler could now see was a dog. He didn’t think she’d expected to chase after a dog. Or maybe she had; he wasn’t proficient in what kind of clothes people who required housekeepers wore.

Sure, technically, he could be one of those people, but his mother would have killed him. If he’d got a housekeeper now, she’d probably become undead for the sole purpose of killing him.

And, since he wasn’t ‘one of those people,’ for all he knew Brooke’s silky nightgown and flip-flops were standard attire.

Watching her running after a dog in that outfit lightened some of the tension he felt, but it couldn’t eradicate it completely. In fact, it complicated things. In the days they’d spent together, he hadn’t once seen this much of her. Now he could add the strength of her arms, the width of her thighs, to what he’d been missing.

Get it together, Murphy.

About the Author 

Being an author has always been Therese’s dream. It was only when the corporate world loomed during her final year at university that she realised how soon she wanted that dream to become a reality. She got serious about her writing, and now writes books she wants to see in the world featuring people who look like her. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her husband and dogs in Cape Town, South Africa. She admits this is a perfect life, and is grateful for it.

Connect with the Author

Website: http://theresebeharrie.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThereseBeharrie/

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15524274.Therese_Beharrie

~Cassie

Blog Tour: What Happens in Miami By Nadine Gonzalez

Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

What Happens in Miami… by Nadine Gonzalez is available on June 29.

Book Description

When a man on a mission is derailed by a beautiful woman, will one night ever be enough? Find out in this Miami Famous novel from Nadine Gonzalez.

Will one night be his undoing?

Alessandro Cardenas isn’t stepping out on the Miami art scene only for the hottest parties. Someone is forging his late grandfather’s paintings—and he’s determined to uncover the culprit. But when he crosses paths with gallerist Angeline Louis, the boundaries between mystery and seduction become blurred. Does Angeline suspect his ulterior motives…even as she surrenders to his kisses? Does she have secrets of her own? Or can Alessandro trust that their once-in-a-lifetime connection is real?

Add What Happens in Miami… to your Goodreads!

Review

This was a fun romance filled with great characters, amazing chemistry, and a surprising mystery element all set in the beautiful backdrop of Miami. Angeline and Alessandro start up a romance pretty much right upon meeting each other but in this book it works because they are still taking the time to get to know each other and both realize that their situation isn’t exactly long term. Both our main characters have some family drama in their past that is holding them back/still affecting them and it was rewarding to see this bring them closer together. I also really enjoyed the art scene in Miami that is a huge part of this story. There is a side aspect involving some stolen art that is being peddled and while I enjoyed what it brought to the story, I also felt that it was wrapped up too quickly and the story kind of dragged without it. Going into the book we already know what kind of ending we are going to be getting so when it took more added drama for it to finally happen I found myself losing interest. Alessandro’s friend group was so much fun in the glimpses that we saw of them and I look forward to hopefully seeing more of them in the future. If you a lover of romances then this might be a great one to pick up.

About the Author 

Nadine Gonzalez was born in New York City, the daughter of Haitian immigrants. Eventually, she moved to Miami, Florida, and fell in love with the people, weather, and lifestyle. She started her first novel while in law school and her modern romances reflect this vibrant city and unique mix of cultures. 

Nadine lives with her Cuban American husband and their beautiful son. For more visit her website: www.nadine-gonzalez.com

Connect with the Author

Website: https://www.nadine-gonzalez.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_NadineGonzalez

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16801719.Nadine_Gonzalez

Excerpt

What Happens in Miami – Excerpt

Nadine Gonzales

Angel checked her phone for the time. Only five minutes had passed. She had to chill out—famous people kept regular people waiting all the time.

Her trained eye zeroed in on the artwork. The space was, at its core, a gallery showcasing the homeowner’s eclectic pieces, all periods and trends colliding. She went over to a pair of framed paintings on a far wall. One was of a red apple hanging from a tree branch. The other was of a woman sleeping in a garden. She was naked if you looked past the strategically placed fig leaf. Angel was trying to decipher the artist’s signature when she heard the blunt sound of bare feet on tile. She glanced over her shoulder.

There he was, standing motionless by the sliding glass doors that opened onto a terrace. Whatever remained of the day’s sunlight spilled onto his broad, bare shoulders. He was practically naked—if you looked past the damp swim trunks, which wasn’t hard to do.

Tight and trim, he had the body of a lifelong swimmer. And it seemed to Angel that he had just emerged from the sea. His chest and limbs, sculpted and defined, glistened with water. His wavy black hair, cut close to the scalp, glistened. His bronze skin, touched by sunlight, glistened. With all that glistening sparkle, it was disquieting to meet his blank expression. His handsome face was impassive. From brow line to jawline, broad nose to full mouth, he gave nothing away. Was he perplexed to find her here? He’d been expecting Justine. Had anyone warned him?

But a sheepish grin quelled her fears.

“Sorry, I was expecting…” He paused to slip on a rumpled white shirt. “They said your name was Angel and I figured…”

He figured she was a man. Common mistake. She’d gone to school with at least three guys named Angel. To set the record straight, she stepped forward and introduced herself properly, business card and all. 

“Angeline Louis, sales associate with Gallery Six,” she said. “Angel, for short.”

He took the card and ran his thumb over the gallery’s embossed logo. Under his breath, he repeated her name. “Angel.” Why that moved her, she couldn’t say. Then he introduced himself. “Alessandro Cardenas.”

She would have liked to say: I know who you are. But that wasn’t technically true. She knew his name, age and ethnicity: Alessandro D. Cardenas, thirty-two, Cuban American. She’d seen most of his movies, including Shadows Need Light, the indie film for which he’d won an Independent Spirit Award, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar for best supporting actor. She was familiar with the brands he promoted, his political leanings, and she could name a few of his famous exes. He was a sex symbol, a social media star and a darling of the critics, in that order. And, it seemed, he was a serious art collector. That was a lot to know about someone you’d never met. More than she knew about her next-door neighbor.

“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Cardenas.”

Buy What Happens in Miami… by Nadine Gonzalez!

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488070679_what-happens-in-miami.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/What-Happens-Miami-steamy-romance-ebook/dp/B08P3LYF7Y

 Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-happens-in-miami-nadine-gonzalez/1138369409

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/what-happens-in-miami/id1541839001

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Nadine_Gonzalez_What_Happens_in_Miami?id=1yALEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/what-happens-in-miami

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Courting His Amish Wife By Emma Miller

*Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also kindly provided all info and graphics.

Courting His Amish Wife by Emma Miller is available on July 27.

Book Description

He offers her his hand,

but will she ever take his heart?

When Levi Miller learns Eve Summy will be forced to marry her would-be attacker or get shunned, he marries her instead. Now husband and wife, but complete strangers, they must figure out how to live together in harmony. But with Levi’s family questioning the motives for their surprise wedding, getting to know each other—and possibly finding love along the way—is harder than they expected.

Add Courting His Amish Wife to your Goodreads!

Review

This was a heartwarming and charming read that had me so swept up in the story that I ended up reading this in one sitting. I’m not that familiar with Amish life but I appreciated the glimpse I got into a different way of life. Eve is a wonderfully strong woman who has been treated terribly in her life and I loved her character arc as she grew into herself with the comfort of Levi’s family. I loved how complex things were between Levi and Eve, as well as Levi and his family. Since Eve and Levi got married so quickly to save Eve from being shunned everyone naturally assumes the worst in Levi. Miller did a great job handling Levi’s emotions as he is trying to live with people thinking badly of him as he keeps Eve’s secret and as he learns to be a husband to her. Levi’s family was a big joyous happy group of people and I enjoyed greatly getting to know them. It was so lovely to see the way they work together to get things done around their farm and house. Eve and Levi’s relationship is of course unconventional and I like that the author didn’t shy away from that. Instead, she embraced it and it made the sweet moments between them that much sweeter. There are a couple of trigger warnings I want to give for attempted sexual assault and a toxic/abusive parent. My only real negative of this book that both of the terrible men in Eve’s past have no repercussions for their disgusting and inexcusable behavior. Which perhaps is true to the Amish culture but this is a work of fiction and I would have liked to see something happen to them. Instead, we get a brief mention from Eve who prays for the man who tried to assault her and she has forgiven him. Which I can imagine would be triggering for some people so please be aware of that. If you are looking for a cozy and delightful romance involving a fun loving family then I highly recommend this book. Courting his Amish Wife is a part of a series involving Levi’s family and their community and I am eager to read those books as well.

About the Author 

Emma Miller lives quietly in her old farmhouse in rural Delaware amid fertile fields and lush woodlands. Fortunate enough to be born into a family of strong faith, she grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by loving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Emma was educated in local schools, and once taught in an Amish schoolhouse much like the one at Seven Poplars. When she’s not caring for her large family, reading and writing are her favorite pastimes.

Excerpt

Courting His Amish Wife | Excerpt

Emma Miller

Through the trees, Eve spotted her father’s windmill and ran faster, ignoring the branches and underbrush that tore at her hair and scratched her arms and face. She took in great gulps of air, sobbing with relief as she sprinted the final distance. She had prayed to God over and over throughout the night. She had begged Him to see her home safely. Now the sun was breaking over the horizon, and she had made it the more than ten miles home in the dark.

Bursting from the edge of the woods, she hitched up her dirty and torn dress, the hem wet from the dew, and climbed over the fence. In her father’s pasture, she hurried past the horses and sheep, her gaze fixed on the white farmhouse ahead. If she could just make it to the house, her father would be there. She would be safe at last, and he would know what to do.

Trying to calm her pounding heart, Eve inhaled deeply. At last, her breath was coming more evenly. She wiped at her eyes with the torn sleeve of her favorite dress. She was safe. She was home. Her father would protect her.

At the gate into the barnyard, she let herself through and slowed to a walk as she neared the back porch. Her father’s beagle trotted toward her, barking in greeting. Through the windows, she could see into the kitchen where a light glowed from an oil lamp that hung over the table. Her father and sisters and brothers would be there waiting for her. As she climbed the steps to the porch, her wet sneakers squeaked. Hours ago, she had crossed a low spot in the woods and soaked her canvas shoes.

She had almost reached the door when it swung open.

“Dat,” she cried, throwing herself at him, bursting into tears. “Oh, Dat.”

“Dochter.” Her father grasped her by the shoulders, but instead of embracing her, he pushed her back. “Where have you been?” he demanded in Pennsylvania Deitsch. He looked her up and down, not in relief that she was safely home, but in anger. “Where is your prayer kapp?”

Eve raised her hand to her hair to find it uncovered. “Oh,” she cried. “I must have… I must have lost it in the woods somewhere.” She brushed back her brown hair that had come loose from the neat bun at the nape of her neck to fall in hanks around her face. She pulled a twig from her hair. “Dat. Something terrible happened. I—”

“Where have you been all night?” he boomed, becoming angrier with her by the second. “Who have you been with?” he shouted. “To sneak out of my house after I forbade you to go? I should beat you!”

When she looked up at him, Eve realized she had made a terrible mistake. It had taken her hours to find her way home. She had walked and run all night, choosing the long way home because she had been afraid to follow any main roads for fear Jemuel would find her. She had climbed fences, been scratched by briars and been chased by a feral dog. At one point, she had been lost and worried she had walked too far, or in the wrong direction. But she hadn’t given up because she knew that if she could make it home safely, everything would be all right.

But looking at her father’s stern face, at his long, thick gray beard and his angry eyes that stared at her from behind his wire-frame glasses, she realized she was wrong. She wasn’t safe. And perhaps she would never be so again because she knew what her father was going to say before the words came out of his mouth.

He pointed an accusing finger. “You will marry that boy!” Amon Summy shouted, spittle flying from his mouth.

Eve lowered her head, tears streaming down her cheeks as she prayed fervently to God again to help her.

Buy Courting His Amish Wife by Emma Miller

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335758675_courting-his-amish-wife.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Courting-Amish-Wife-Love-Inspired-ebook/dp/B08T1YWCHX/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=courting+his+amish+wife+emma+miller&qid=1620827926&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/courting-his-amish-wife-emma-miller/1138619584?ean=9781335758675&st=AFF&2sid=HarperCollins%20Publishers%20LLC_7651142_NA&sourceId=AFFHarperCollins%20Publishers%20LLC

 Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/fi/book/courting-his-amish-wife/id1548936499 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Emma_Miller_Courting_His_Amish_Wife?id=ow8UEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/courting-his-amish-wife

~Cassie

Blog Tour: The Playboy’s “I Do” Deal By Tara Pammi

*Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

The Playboy’s “I Do” Deal by Tara Pammi is available on May 25.

Book Description

A billionaire’s Caribbean getaway just got a lot more interesting in this sizzling marriage of convenience story by Tara Pammi!

A convenient offer…

From the stowaway on his yacht!

Dev Kohli’s superyacht is Clare Roberts’s perfect hideout. A family betrayal has her running from a forced marriage. Trying to ignore the heat still blazing between her and Dev from their last encounter, Clare prepares to bargain with the billionaire…

Dev knows the PR expert can restore his company’s tarnished reputation. But agreeing to hide her in paradise—just the two of them—brings an intimacy he can’t escape. And as the threat to Clare increases, so does Dev’s need to protect her with something he never thought he’d offer—his ring!

Add The Playboy’s “I Do” Deal to your Goodreads!

Review

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t work for me. We know from the synopsis and the title that there is going to be a proposal but it doesn’t happen until more than half way through the story. There also isn’t a lot of action so instead we get pages and pages of the characters inner thoughts and it was hard for me to keep my attention fully engaged. There were aspects that were brilliant and I wish we had more of that instead. For instance, all the parts after they were married felt so rushed and I can’t help but think that it would have served the story better if the post marriage friction and relationship had been the focal point. The pacing of this book was just off in general since the ending was so rushed and all the remaining conflicts seemed to resolve in just a few pages. I do think that if you are a lover of romance, Harlequin romances in particular, then perhaps you might find this book enjoyable.

About the Author 

Tara Pammi can’t remember a moment when she wasn’t lost in a book, especially a romance which, as a teenager, was much more exciting than mathematics textbook. Years later Tara’s wild imagination and love for the written word revealed what she really wanted to do: write! She lives in Colorado with the most co-operative man on the planet and two daughters. Tara loves to hear from readers and can be reached at tara.pammi@gmail.com or her website www.tarapammi.com.

Connect with the Author

Website: https://www.tarapammi.com/

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

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

 Goodreads: h https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55870999-the-playboy-s-i-do-deal?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=4uuHtzGt2U&rank=1

Excerpt

The Playboy’s “I Do” Deal- Excerpt

Tara Pammi

What her friends also didn’t know, and Clare wasn’t about to tell them, was that their new client was the same man she’d had a one-night stand with recently. She’d never shared his identity with them, feeling a strange sense of protectiveness about that night. Also, because if she talked to them, then she’d have to own up that she’d mostly failed at abiding by the most important rule of one-night stands—keeping it strictly casual. Especially as Dev had clearly had no such problem doing that himself.

Athleta was far too big a fish for Clare to walk away from just because its CEO hadn’t proclaimed that he’d love her forever. And tonight had been her one chance to impress on him that her small PR firm could clean up his recently tarnished image.

Only the mobster’s goons had trailed her all the way from London to a conference in New York and then to São Paulo, and it was terrifying. Today the mobster’s intentions had been made crystal clear. He intended to simply…take her in lieu of the money he insisted she owed him.

For two weeks, she’d lived in terror of being snatched from wherever she was.

She’d been meaning to hightail it back to her hotel room when she’d spotted Goon Number One with a drink in hand on the main deck of the superyacht this evening. The short, blond, chubby-faced man had smiled angelically—clearly his cheerful appearance was a useful tool in nabbing unsuspecting women. It was the same man she’d seen leaning near the newspaper stand on the street where The London Connection’s offices were located, looking up at the sole window. The very same posh and supposedly secure street that they paid astronomical rent for.

He’d even bumped into her late one evening when she’d been rushing to catch the Tube after work. Apologized profusely. When she’d then seen him lounging in the foyer of her New York hotel, she’d wondered if she was hallucinating.

Now, he was here, aboard Dev’s yacht. Looking just as posh as the rest of the designer-suited men. Wearing an affable smile, chitchatting away. He’d almost touched her. Tried to talk to her as if they were long-lost friends. She didn’t have time to wonder how he’d got on board. She needed to hide. Now.

She ran her hand over her hips, contemplating the rounds the uniformed security guard was making. The emerald green silk skirt she was wearing had been a gift from Bea, and it gave her some much-needed courage. Without looking back, she stepped gingerly down the spiral staircase—who knew yachts could have staircases like this one?—and tried to not trip in her four-inch heels.

The champagne sloshed around in her belly again as she passed door after door. Peeked into one expansive lounge after another. Even in her panic, Clare couldn’t help marveling at the airy, contemporary spaces, the chic stylish interiors. The click-click of her stilettos on the gleaming floors sounded like a sinister countdown.

Heart pounding, she walked into the biggest cabin. 

For a second, she was thrown at the sheer size of it. A large bed with a navy-blue duvet looked so welcoming that she took an involuntary step toward it longingly.

It was the feel of the luxuriously soft cotton underneath her fingertips that made her realize she was pawing it. Her eyelids felt heavy, her entire body swooning with exhaustion. She’d been traveling nonstop for a week. Hadn’t slept a wink ever since that ghastly man had started following her. But she couldn’t sleep now. Not if she wanted to remain undetected until after the party wound down.

After one last wistful glance at the bed, she shook off the lethargic fog that threatened to engulf her. She was crashing from the shock of seeing that mobster’s henchman again. Moving like an automaton, she walked into a massive closet.

Buy The Playboy’s “I Do” Deal by Tara Pammi!

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488073540_the-playboys-i-do-deal.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Playboys-Do-Deal-Uplifting-International-ebook/dp/B08MQP7YFF/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-playboys-i-do-deal-tara-pammi/1138022723

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-playboys-i-do-deal/id1538754345

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tara_Pammi_The_Playboy_s_I_Do_Deal?id=2B0HEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-playboy-s-i-do-deal

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Cold Case True Crime By Denise N. Wheatley

*Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also kindly provided all info and graphics.

Cold Case True Crime by Denise N. Wheatley is available on June 29.

Book Description

True crime is her beat.

But this cold case is personal…

Samantha Vincent has turned her fascination with true crime into a popular blog. When an old friend asks her to investigate a murder the police couldn’t solve, she begins to suspect that the cops want this case to go cold. Sam is confident she’ll catch the killer when Detective Gregory Harris agrees to help her, but everything changes when she becomes a target…  

Add Cold Case True Crime to your Goodreads!

Review

This is a fun and dramatic romantic suspense that I throughly enjoyed. Our heroine, Samantha, was spunky and hard headed which were qualities that came in handy during her investigation. The fact that she is a blogger was just icing on the cake since that is something that all of us here can instantly relate to. Detective Gregory was a worthwhile hero for Samantha since most of the time he seemed more into her than the investigation. The investigation itself was where the dramatics came in and while some things didn’t make sense it was entertaining and engaging which are the important things. Samantha and Gregory are looking into the murder of her childhood friend, Jacob, since the whole town is certain they know who killed him. The only problem is that the potential killer just happens to be the son of the police chief. Gregory and Samantha’s snooping takes them into some pretty precarious situations and the ending was completely unexpected. This is a clean romance so if you aren’t necessarily a fan of romance than I still think this one that you would enjoy if the synopsis sounds intriguing to you. Harlequin Intrigue is my favorite of the different categories and this one lived up to my expectations.

About the Author 

Denise N. Wheatley loves happy endings and the art of storytelling. Her novels run the romance gamut, and she strives to pen entertaining books that embody matters of the heart. She’s an RWA member and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois. When Denise isn’t writing, she enjoys watching true crime tv and chatting with readers. Follow her on Instagram: @denise_wheatley_writer Twitter: @DeniseWheatley BookBub: @denisenwheatley Goodreads: Denise N. Wheatley

Connect with the Author

Website: https://www.denisenwheatley.com/p/i-am-lover-of-romance-happy-endings-and.html

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DeniseWheatley

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/denise-n-wheatley 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3118421.Denise_N_Wheatley

Excerpt

Cold Case True Crime – Excerpt

Denise N. Wheatley

Samantha Vincent flinched when the coffee shop door slammed shut behind her. She stared down the dark, vacant street in search of her car—she hadn’t realized she’d parked so far away.

The temperature had dropped severely since she’d arrived at the café. There was now a stinging chill in the night air. She set out toward the sidewalk, tightening her houndstooth-patterned scarf in an effort to block the wind as it whistled eerily past her ears.

Samantha had spent the day working on her popular true crime cold case blog, Someone Knows Something, and time had gotten away from her. By now, businesses were closed and most residents of small-town Gattenburg, Illinois, had retired for the evening.

A frigid breeze whipped through her golden-brown bob and blew open Samantha’s black wool peacoat, sending unsettling shivers throughout her entire body. But it wasn’t just the icy climate that had unnerved her.

She was still rattled by an email she’d received from Ava Jennings, an old high school friend whose family Samantha had grown close to after spending countless days at their home during her teenage years. In her message, Ava pleaded with Samantha to investigate her brother Jacob’s mysterious death, which police had just officially stated was cold with no leads.

Tree branches scraped against dim streetlights that barely illuminated the road. Samantha glanced down at the ground, her lone shadow a stark reminder that she was unaccompanied in the unnerving darkness. Moments like these brought on paranoid thoughts of all the unsolved cases she worked so hard to crack. Many of those victims found themselves in her exact same position seconds before their demise—isolated and vulnerable.

Samantha pushed those disturbing thoughts out of her mind and hurried along the pavement. Her feet ached in her high-heeled boots. But in spite of the pain, she clenched her jaw and fought through it, anxious to get off the desolate street and inside her car.

Just when Samantha’s convertible appeared in the hazy distance, the sound of screeching tires pierced her eardrums.

She stopped abruptly. The vehicle’s engine emitted a menacing roar.

Samantha spun around, almost losing her footing. Bright yellow headlights blinded her squinted chestnut eyes. She inhaled sharply, watching while the black sedan crept toward her.

She curled her hands into tight fists and took a step back, her lean legs quivering in the wind. Remembering the mini stun gun she’d slipped into her back pocket, Samantha pulled it out and contemplated making a run for her car. But she was too afraid to turn her back on the man she presumed was behind the wheel.

Collin Wentworth…

Buy Cold Case True Crime by Denise N. Wheatley!

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335489005_cold-case-true-crime.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cold-Case-Crime-Unsolved-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08SHXZNRS

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cold-case-true-crime-denise-n-wheatley/1138585931

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/cold-case-true-crime/id1547974598

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Denise_N_Wheatley_Cold_Case_True_Crime?id=me0SEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/cold-case-true-crime

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Missing in the Desert By Dana Mentink

*Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

Missing in the Desert by Dana Mentink is available on July 27.

Book Description

Five years ago, her sister disappeared…

Now someone is coming for her.

Who would believe that Mara Castillo’s sister—missing and presumed dead—suddenly sent a one-word text? Now Mara wants answers, even if it means stepping into a killer’s sights with her brother’s best friend, rancher Levi Duke, as her only protection. But with someone who has everything to lose after her, uncovering a long-buried secret could save her life…or claim it.

Add Missing in the Desert to your Goodreads!

Review

This was my first foray into the love inspired suspense category and I have to say that I am a big fan. Mentink did a great job of balancing the high suspense of the story with the character’s faith. This story starts out with intensity and it keeps up that high pace all the way through. I was so wrapped up in the mystery of what happened to Mara’s sister Corrine and all the extreme situations Mara and Levi find themselves in that I quickly devoured this book. Levi and Mara have a long history together and it was satisfying to see them connect in a romantic way while they waded through all the drama going on. The town of Furnace Falls and Levi’s Rocking Horse Ranch were huge parts of this story and Mentink did a fabulous job of transporting us to the Death Valley. The side characters were all enjoyable but the animals on the Ranch were so heartwarming and added some much needed levity to the book. Missing in the Desert is the second book in the Death Valley Justice series and from what was referenced in this book I really want to go back and read the first book in this series, Framed in Death Valley. I do think that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly for me and I would have preferred to see glimpses of what is going on with these characters in future books. Overall, this is a fantastic wild ride of a book with a clean and sweet romance.

About the Author 

Dana Mentink is a national bestselling author. She has been honored to win two Carol Awards, a Holt Medallion, and a Reviewer’s Choice award. She’s authored more than thirty novels to date for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense and Harlequin Heartwarming. Dana loves feedback from her readers. Contact her at www.danamentink.com

Connect with the Author

Website: https://www.danamentink.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Danamentink

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/dana-mentink

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7tY41VV_Velenocrku4LJw

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/202905.Dana_Mentink

Excerpt

Missing in the Desert – Excerpt

Dana Mentink

Levi Duke let the engine idle and rubbed his temple. Another headache, courtesy of the wreck. The headaches were probably temporary, the doctors said. He sighed. Yes, the car accident four months before had left him with a scar, but worse yet, his hospital time made him miss out on a perfect horse to add to his herd. That was the real pain of it.

“Not this time,” he said. “We’re gonna have ourselves a new mare, ’Jo.”

Banjo, the sizable mutt with a chunk missing from one ear, sprawled in his passenger seat and licked the knee of Levi’s jeans. The dog slithered his way under Levi’s palm until he got the ear rub he was looking for. Mission accomplished, he flopped over and presented his belly, long legs taking up more than his fair share of the room. His fleas and the mud were gone now, thanks to a bath that had been a struggle of epic proportions, his leg wound treated, too. His ribs were not quite as prominent as the day Levi had found him panting and half-dead in a dry creek bed. The dog had introduced himself with eyes desperate for help and the faintest of tail wags. Who could say no to that?

The cell phone chimed.

“We’re just driving past the Funeral Mountains.” Mara’s voice was cool, in spite of the faint Southern drawl. Never could hide her feelings. She was upset with him for inviting her brother, Seth, to partner with him in purchasing the Rocking Horse Ranch. Maybe she had a right to be. A busted-up old ranch just outside Death Valley National Park, a place so hot it was nearly uninhabitable four months of the year? Not exactly a surefire moneymaker. But it wasn’t really about the money—not for him, anyway. He was surprised Mara had even agreed to accompany Seth to meet the mare. Maybe Mara was softening to the idea? Not likely.

“Be careful,” he said. “Road’s steep. I’ll meet you at the farm and introduce you to Cookie. She’s a sweetheart.” Offered for sale by a local, the mare would be a perfect fit for their current herd of eleven if co-owner Seth approved. They needed more horses pronto to meet the tourist demands for the November Camp Town Days Festival the following week.

There was a pause. “All right.”

He forced cheer into his voice to counteract her lack of enthusiasm. “Laney and Beckett are having a barbecue at the Hotsprings. They asked me to invite you both.” His cousin Beckett’s hotel was making a slow recovery after the set of killings that had resulted in Beckett’s false imprisonment and a threat to Laney’s life. It was easier to forget those days now, as the couple prepared for the spring birth of their first child.

Mara queried her brother and returned her attention to the phone. “Seth says he’d love to go, but I have some business to work on.”

Business? Mara helped run her parents’ furniture store in Henderson, Nevada, some two hundred miles away. Odd that she’d have business here in podunk Furnace Falls. It wasn’t his nature to pry. Then again, she might just be making an excuse to stay far away from him. He blew out a silent breath. Horses were so much easier to read than people, especially women, most especially Mara Castillo.

Buy Missing in the Desert by Dana Mentink!

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335554444_missing-in-the-desert.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Missing-Desert-Justice-Book-ebook/dp/B08SHVGV52https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/missing-in-the-desert-dana-mentink/1138585921

 Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/be/book/missing-in-the-desert/id1547974850

 Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Dana_Mentink_Missing_in_the_Desert?id=6e8SEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/missing-in-the-desert

~Cassie

Blog Tour: The Rooftop Party By Ellen Meister

Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

THE ROOFTOP PARTY 

Author: Ellen Meister 

ISBN: 9780778309512

Publication Date: 5/25/2021

Publisher: MIRA Books

Book Summary:
A Host of Trouble…

In this witty and engaging novel, Dana Barry, the Shopping Channel’s star host, stops by the company’s rooftop party to pitch the new CEO her brilliant idea that just might save the flagging business, her job and possibly her love life.

As she chats with the smarmy executive, he backs her into a dark corner. For Dana, it’s a quid pro oh-hell-no. She escapes his lecherous grasp and grabs her drink on her way to the dance floor. Woozy, she blacks out.

When she comes to, the CEO is dead, fallen from the roof. Or was he pushed? And if so, by whom? It’s hard to know, but one thing is certain: Dana was close enough to be suspect.

Sure, she loathed how the creep moved in on her, but she’s no killer. Or is she? Truth is, Dana can’t remember much about those minutes. Now she has to use all her skills to prove her innocence to everyone, including her police detective boyfriend—and herself.

Meister’s latest is fun and breezy, a compelling, suspenseful read that entertains and keeps you guessing.

Review

This book is a crossover between a cozy mystery and a rom com and just an overall good time. Dana can be a bit much at times and she makes some questionable choices but she is mostly just a zany character that you can’t help but root for. Meister did a great job of balancing the mystery with Dana’s chaotic personal life. This book is 336 pages but it flew by because there is so much going on. There was a lot of different sub plots that I enjoyed but I have to say that I really loved all the parts of the story that had to do with The Shopping Channel. I haven’t watched much home shopping tv before but this book felt very realistic and gave me a whole new appreciation for anyone in that career. The Rooftop Party is the second book in the Dana Barry series and while things are referenced that happen in the first book I am still intrigued enough that I want to go back and read it. I do have to give some trigger warnings for sexual harassment, being drugged, miscarriage, and a toxic parent. This book is light and fun but it does touch on those topics so please be aware. If you are looking for the perfect summer read then I think this book is a real contender. Especially if you are fan of romance and mystery like I am.


Author Bio:
Ellen Meister is the author of  several novels including LOVE SOLD SEPARATELY,  DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE; FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER; THE OTHER LIFE and others. Ellen is also an editor, book coach, ghostwriter, and frequent contributor to Long Island Woman Magazine. She teaches creative writing at Long Island University Hutton House Lectures and previously at Hofstra University. Her latest novel is THE ROOFTOP PARTY. For more info visit ellenmeister.com.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @EllenMeister  

Facebook: @EllenMeister  

Instagram: @EllenMeister  

Goodreads

Excerpt


Dana Barry raised her fist to knock on the door and paused. She wasn’t easily intimidated, but walking into Eleanor Gratz’s office was like trying to open an umbrella in a hurricane, and she needed a moment to anchor herself. 

Not that Dana wasn’t used to stormy weather. Until she got this job at the Shopping Channel, her life had been one shitstorm after another. The last monsoon hit six months ago, when she was fired from her job at a mall store in Queens. With no acting auditions on the horizon, Dana didn’t know how she would pay her rent, let alone her student debt. So she did the only thing she could think of. She got drunk. And high. Thank god for her friend Megan, who burst in and dragged her to an open call. Now here she was, with a steady gig as a Shopping Channel host. And she was crushing it. 

Dana took a breath and rapped twice on the door. 

“If that’s not Anthony Bourdain with an exotic drink and two tickets to Fiji, get lost,” Eleanor called. Dana opened the door and stuck her head in. “You know he’s dead, right?”

“Like this whole place might be if I don’t get my work done.”

Despite the warning, Dana stepped inside. The sun-drenched office of the Shopping Channel’s head buyer was a study in whites, grays and aqua blues. Eleanor sat behind a long desk the color of sea pearls. She was sixtyish, with shoulder-length salt-and-pepper hair, offset by hammered-silver hoop earrings. She wore a jewel-toned top with bell sleeves, bohemian-inspired but sophisticated. A pair of tortoiseshell reading glasses rested low on her nose. Through the window behind her, the Manhattan skyline flexed its might against the sky.

“You want me to come back?” Dana asked.

“Like a yeast infection,” Eleanor said, but she sighed, relenting. “Sit down.”

Dana took one of the chairs opposite her desk and the two women studied one another.

Despite her bluster, Eleanor’s demeanor was open, and Dana took a moment to reflect. She could hardly believe how long she’d been at this job without screwing it up. Usually, she’d be cleaning lead out of her foot by now and filing for unemployment. But somehow, every self-sabotaging shot had missed. So she was living the life of an actual adult, with a paycheck that covered her expenses and then some. And sure, she missed the rush of going on auditions and the thrill of getting callbacks. She even missed nursing the hurt of rejections. But she didn’t miss getting threatening notices when she was late on her student loan payments. Or being so broke she couldn’t afford tampons without a discount coupon.

So for now, her acting ambitions were on hold. (Or at least the ones she could be public about.) In the meantime, the Shopping Channel gig was so much more than she had imagined. But lately, Dana worried it could all blow away. Despite her personal success, the company’s sales were down overall. They had even brought in a new CEO, sending a ripple of anxiety through every department.

That’s why she wanted to present her idea to someone important. And sure, it might be impolitic to leapfrog her boss to talk to the head buyer about it. But going straight to Sherry Zidel with the idea wasn’t an option, especially now that the business was so wobbly. Sherry was always tightly wound, but these days her jaw was tense enough to crack teeth.

“They tell me you’re our resident action hero,” Eleanor said, “saving us all from imminent demise.” She laced her fingers, and her emerald-cut diamond ring took center stage. It was flanked by sapphires, showcased in an art deco platinum setting. The piece was tasteful despite the size, and Dana could imagine cooing over it on the air.

“Some heroes wear capes and fight crime,” Dana said, offering a self-deprecating smile. “Me? I can talk for hours without taking a breath.”

Eleanor shook her head, her expression serious. “Silly girl, you don’t even know your own superpower.”

“Enlighten me.”

“It’s your eye for detail.”

Dana shrugged. She’d heard that kind of thing before. She noticed minutiae on an almost atomic level. It enabled her to talk about the quality of the polished rivets on a pair of jeggings with the same gushing enthusiasm she could rally for a diamond ring.

“I’ve been told it’s pathological,” she said.

“As long as you move products,” Eleanor said, “I don’t care what you call it.”

“That’s what I came to talk to you about—products.”

Eleanor shrugged as if to say, What else is new? People talked to her about products all day long. 

Dana hoped she could break through, and leaned forward to study Eleanor Gratz’s age-defying complexion. Though her face was softening around the jawline, there was barely a wrinkle. And nothing about her appearance suggested Botox or a face-lift.

“What kind of moisturizer do you use?” Dana asked. It was a question she had formulated on the elevator. She would flatter her way in, but earnestly.

Eleanor pulled off her glasses. “I know an opening line when I hear one.”

“There’s a reason I’m asking.”

“I would hope so.”

Dana regrouped. Eleanor wouldn’t respond to fawning or manipulation. She had to get right to the point.

“Look,” she said, “I know we’re not doing as well in apparel as we used to. And Sherry is leaning on me hard. But the fact is, there’s no way we can compete with the internet. All those fashion websites—they’re creaming us.”

Eleanor snorted. “With cheap rags. Made with cheap Chinese labor.”

“Awful,” Dana commiserated.

“Disposable clothes held together with spit and a prayer.”

Dana nodded, agreeing. “They can’t touch us on quality, but that’s hard to demonstrate on TV. Skin care, on the other hand…”

“Please don’t tell me you’re suggesting a skin care line.”

“Why not? I can sell it, Eleanor. I know I can. All I need is a couple of models and a tight shot of disappearing crow’s-feet.”

Eleanor laughed. “Honey, you really think this is an original idea?”

“I don’t know if it’s original. I just know I can make it work.” She had been studying the industry giants—HSN and QVC—and knew that any product with a strong demo moved like beer at a frat party. 

“Twenty years ago, when this was still a young company, I brought in a skin care line and it was a disaster.”

Dana straightened her back. “Maybe it wasn’t the right time or the right host or… I don’t know. Point is, twenty years is a long time. It’s worth another shot, don’t you think?”

“Which is why I’ve been pitching the idea every few years. But the board always knocks it down. It’s like they have PTSD from one loss on the books two decades ago.”

“What about that hand lotion Kitty used to sell?” People at the Shopping Channel rarely brought up Kitty Todd—the former star hostess who was found with a bullet in her head—but this was important.

Eleanor waved away the comment. “That California Dreams crap? It was a loss leader. The board holds it up as further proof we would always fail at skin care. I’m telling you, they’re dug in.”

Dana considered this as she pictured the man now occupying the largest office in the company. He had the look of an aging preppie, with a full mop of white hair and webs of burst blood vessels on his nose and cheeks. Evidence, she assumed, of a hard-drinking past, though today he seemed as sober as a judge.

“But we have a new CEO now,” she pressed. “Maybe he’ll be open to it.”

Eleanor released a bitter laugh. “Ivan Dennison.”

“He was brought in to shake things up, wasn’t he? Maybe this is just the—”

“He’ll never go for it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Trust me, Dana. I’d never get anywhere with Ivan…” She trailed off, as if she were burrowing deep inside an idea.

“What is it?” Dana asked.

Eleanor pursed her lips in thought. After a few beats, she lowered her head as if confiding something. “Dana, there’s a particular kind of man to whom women become invisible at a certain age. We’ve served our usefulness, and now we’re dispensable. Ivan Dennison wouldn’t hear me if I came in with a bullhorn.”

“You?” Dana asked. Eleanor was such an imposing presence this was hard to imagine.

“Trust me, I could burst into flames and he’d lean forward to light his cigar.”

Dana squinted, struggling to understand. “If he’s such a sexist, why did the board—”

“Because they’re desperate, and he’s a ruthless fuck.”

Dana sat back and tried to reconcile this description of Ivan with the friendly man who had been introduced to her on set. He’d been flattering and collegial, conspicuously straitlaced. The sort of man who found a way to work his marital status into every conversation with a woman.

“He seemed nice enough to me,” Dana said.

Eleanor indicated the entirety of Dana’s lanky twenty-nine-year-old appearance with a sweep of her hand. “Of course he did.”

“What if I pitched him the idea?” Dana asked, energized. “He seems to like me.”

“He probably wants to bang you.”

“So what?” Dana said. “He’s got this whole choirboy vibe going on. Like a born-again something-or-other. I don’t think he’ll come on to me.”

“And if he does?”

“He won’t.”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow, and Dana got it. Guys who constantly mentioned their wives were covering up their darkest urges. Caged beasts posing as carpool dads.

“I can handle it,” Dana said. “I promise.”

Eleanor stared at her, fingers tented, and Dana held her breath. She could tell the formidable buyer was actually considering it. Without warning, Eleanor rose and walked to a tall wooden armoire on the left side of the room. It was a pretty piece—more suited to a bedroom than an office—painted white and stenciled with delicate aqua waves. She pulled open the doors and stood on her toes to drag a navy-blue box from the top shelf. She brought it back to her desk and placed it in the center. It was a shiny, oversized cube, with the word Reluven stamped in gold foil on the side. Dana had never heard of the brand, but assumed it was a skin care company.

Sure enough, Eleanor opened the lid and began pulling out products and placing them on her desk, narrating as she did so. “One-step facial cleanser, exfoliating body scrub, firming mask, shower gel, nighttime eye serum, daily moisturizer with SPF 30, hydrating body lotion, retinol antiaging miracle creme.”

Dana studied the Reluven products, lined up before her like obedient soldiers in color-coordinated uniforms. Eleanor closed the box and picked up the scrub—a round gold jar about the size of a tub of whipped butter—and unscrewed the top. She held it toward Dana. “Smell this.”

Dana leaned forward, closed her eyes and breathed in. It was a delicate scent, fresh and young and nostalgic all at once, with a hint of gardenias. “That’s…sublime.” She took another sniff.

Eleanor’s voice went wistful. “It’s the best skin care line I’ve ever come across. If only I could get it on the air.”

Dana pointed to the body lotion. “May I?”

Eleanor nodded her assent, so Dana picked up the bottle, pumped a dab into her palm and rubbed her hands together. The feel was rich and velvety. She took a whiff, enjoying the same sensual smell as the scrub, and smoothed it onto her neck. Dana imagined her boyfriend, Ari, reacting to it as he kissed her there. The thought was enough to distract her, but she brought herself back to her mission.

“I can do this,” Dana said, studying Eleanor’s face. “I can get Ivan to agree to let us give this a shot.” 

The buyer leaned back in her chair, considering it, but Dana sensed she had already decided. She held her breath.

“Maybe,” Eleanor said, “but we have to approach this strategically.”

Dana inhaled a tingle of success. Eleanor was on board. “What’s the plan? Should I pop into his office? Better to make an appointment? I’m afraid he might ask what it’s about and then—”

“Easy, tiger,” Eleanor interrupted. “I admire your determination, but you need to keep your impulsivity in check. This has to be done methodically.”

“I’m listening…”

“You need to schmooze. Flatter. Build a relationship first.”

“The anniversary party!” Dana said, bringing her hands together. It was a big rooftop bash the company was throwing the following week to celebrate twenty-five years on the air, and as soon as she said it, Dana knew it was the perfect opportunity to pitch Ivan Dennison.

“It’s a good place to start.”

“It’s a good place to finish,” Dana insisted. “If I talk up the idea when he’s happy and relaxed, the center of attention…”

Eleanor shook her head. “Honey, you might know how to sell on TV, but there are nuances to the one-on-one pitch with a narcissistic executive.”

“What if he seems open to it?”

“Trust me, you have to play the long game. Get cozy with Ivan at the party, but do not bring up business. Eventually, he’ll come to you.”

“I don’t know,” Dana said. “I might need to strike while the iron is hot. It’s not like he’s going to fall in love with me. I think you have too much faith in my appeal.”

Eleanor tsked. “And I think you have too little.”

Excerpted from The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meister. Copyright © 2021 by Ellen Meister. Published by HQN Books.

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~Cassie

Blog Tour: Trouble in Big Timber by B.J. Daniels

Thank you to Harlequin for providing me with and ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all info and graphics.

Trouble in Big Timber by B.J. Daniels is available on May 25.

Book Description

He’s back at Cardwell Ranch

to find a killer.

Ford Cardwell is shocked when his college crush calls him out of the blue—even more so when he hears a gunshot. But when he joins forces with medical examiner Henrietta “Hitch” Rogers, she makes him wonder if the random call was a setup—not a murder. Together, they’ll need to discover the truth, but looking into the case will put them in the sights of a killer.

Add Trouble in Big Timber to your Goodreads!

Review

I was surprised by how much this book focuses on the mystery of what happened between Ford’s friends, Rachel and Humphrey. I expected this to be pretty romance heavy but the romance was definitely secondary to the story. This is a quick and twisted tale about a seemingly straight forward self defense murder but as Hitch keeps investigating she finds that things are just not adding up. The whole premise of this book was well executed and had enough twists in it that I was so enthralled that I didn’t want to stop reading. The ending was wonderfully suspenseful and a great way to end such a strong story. The romance did feel a little rushed but since this is a Harlequin romance I’m not holding that against it too much. If you have been interested in maybe trying out a Harlequin romance but romance isn’t typically your thing than this would be a great one for you to pick up. The romance is clean so nothing happens on page and the plot is an intriguing one that I think a lot of people would enjoy.

About the Author 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author B.J. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, and three springer spaniels. When not writing, she quilts, boats and plays tennis. Contact her at http://www.bjdaniels.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BJ-Daniels/127936587217837 or on twitter at bjdanielsauthor.

Connect with the Author

Website: https://www.bjdaniels.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100058056520669

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/b.j.daniels/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bjdanielsauthor 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/188611.B_J_Daniels

Excerpt

Trouble in Big Timber – Excerpt

B.J. Daniels

Ford shifted into Park and, hands shaking, pulled out his still-ringing phone. As he did, he had a stray thought. How rare it used to be to get cell phone coverage here in the Gallatin Canyon, of all places. Only a few years ago the call wouldn’t have gone through.

Without checking to see who was calling, he answered it, his hand shaking as he did. He’d come so close to going over the cliff. Until the call had saved him.

“Hello?” He could hear noises in the background. “Hello?” He let out a bitter chuckle. A robocall had saved him at the last moment? he thought.

But his laughter died as he heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from his phone. “Hello?” he yelled. “Who is this?” The scream was followed by a woman’s desperate pleas.

“No, please, don’t hurt me anymore.” Another scream and the sound of breaking glass.

“Hello?” He was yelling, frantic, having no idea who was on the other end of the call—just that she was in trouble. Had the woman meant to call 9ll? Maybe it was a pocket dial and she hadn’t meant to call anyone—let alone a stranger.

“Tell me where you are!” he yelled into the phone, but his voice was drowned out by another scream, this one filled with pure terror—and pain. He knew both too well.

The sound of something hard hitting soft flesh was followed by a choking sound. Choking on blood? The woman was being attacked. By an intruder? Or someone she knew? He’d never felt more helpless as he listened to more breaking glass and the woman’s screams.

“No! Please, Humphrey, you’re going to kill me! Please. Stay back. Don’t make me…” The gunshot sounded deafening—even on the phone. Then there was no sound at all coming from his cell.

Ford stared down at the phone in his hand, shock shuddering through him. The woman on the other end of the line had called the man Humphrey. His already pounding heart thumped against his ribs, making his chest ache. It couldn’t be. He stared at the name that had come up on his phone. No. He tried to call the number back. It went straight to voice mail. Someone must have found the phone and shut it off. Or declined the call.

His heart was pounding. For a moment, he was too stunned to move, almost to breathe, at what he’d just heard, what he’d been unable to stop. Rachel. The call was from his former college roommate’s wife, Rachel Westlake—now Mrs. Humphrey Collinwood.

He’d only recently added her number to his contact list after she’d sent him a friend request on social media and they’d exchanged cell phone numbers.

His pulse pounded so loud that he couldn’t hear himself think. Fumbling in his fear and panic, he hit 911. 

It couldn’t be true. He knew Humphrey. They’d been roommates most of their time in college. His former friend wouldn’t hurt anyone. Humphrey idolized Rachel. But from what he’d heard on the call…

Outside the pickup, the wind howled in the pines. A gust blew dirt over the cliff and into the abyss, reminding him how close he’d come to making that same descent. The only thing that had stopped him was the phone call. Or would he have hit the brakes on his own? He would never know.

The 911 operator came on the line. “What is the nature of your emergency?”

“I think I just heard someone being attacked and possibly killed on what I suspect was a pocket dial.” His voice broke. “Her name is Rachel Westlake. Sorry, it’s Collinwood now.” He listened as the dispatcher asked him a question. “No, I don’t know where she lives exactly. A ranch north of Big Timber. That’s all I know. We only recently reconnected. That’s how she had my number. Please, you have to find her. She might still be…alive.”

Buy Trouble in Big Timber by B.J. Daniels!

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335401762_trouble-in-big-timber.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Big-Timber-Cardwell-Ranch-ebook/dp/B08P3MDF33

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trouble-in-big-timber-b-j-daniels/1138369418lishers%20LLC

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/ca/book/trouble-in-big-timber/id1541839185

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/B_J_Daniels_Trouble_in_Big_Timber?id=ciILEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/trouble-in-big-timber

~Cassie