Blog Tour: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

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I’m back today with a super cute YA romance that I think so many of you will love. Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for including me in this blog tour!

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Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. 

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. 

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. 

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Early Praise


Tweet Cute delivers in every possible way: a perfect enemies-to-lovers romance, a whip-smart plotline, and endearingly real characters. I devoured it.” – Francesca Zappia, author of Eliza and Her Monsters

“Sweet and fun! An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist.” – Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

“A witty rom-com reinvention for the Twitter age, Tweet Cute pairs delicious online rivalry with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up. This fresh, funny read had us hitting ‘favorite’ from page one.” – Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest 

Buy Link

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/tweet-cute/

Review

This is an adorable YA contemporary romance. It feels so fresh and relevant and I am in awe that this a debut novel. Pepper and Jack are both characters that I immediately connected to and was rooting for. They are both going through a lot with trying to figure out what they are going to do with their lives since they are Seniors and also trying to  navigate some family drama.

The is a classic slow burn romance where I was dying for Pepper and Jack to finally get together. I really love how their relationship started out and how they navigated all the drama surrounding them together. They really became friends first and then we saw their feelings for each other start to grow. I really appreciated that the author, Lord, chose to do this because it made it feel much more realistic. Especially because YA tends to have more insta love and I think this book is a great example of a relationship between teens.

Family dynamics and conflict was very heavily woven throughout this book. As a parent it made it a little difficult to read at times because I was so irritated by the parents and their actions or inactions. Teenage me would have related so much to what Jack and Pepper are dealing with that I know I would have appreciated and related to them so much.

Also, I have to just mention all the amazing baking that happens in this book. Wow, was I so jealous of the characters for getting to eat all the delicious sounding baked goods. I wish there had been a part at the end with recipes for some of the goodies. There are also a few bits dealing with a baking blog which I obviously loved as well.

I do feel though that this book had a lot going on and the ending still had some strings of story still left undone. I wish this book had been more focused on the romance and just one or two other of the side conflicts/dramas that happened. By having so much in the story it made it almost impossible for Lord to wrap it all up in a cohesive way.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves YA and also to any romance fan. Emma Lord has done an incredible job with this story and I can’t wait to read more from her in the future. If you want to check out a small excerpt from the book then don’t forget to keep scrolling and enjoy!

Emma Lord

Social Links

@dilemmalord (Twitter/Instagram)

Excerpt

JACK

“Look.” I glance into the classroom, where Ethan is thoroughly distracted by Stephen and no longer keeping an eye on us. “I may have . . . overreacted.”

Pepper shakes her head. “I told you. I get it. It’s your family.”

“Yeah. But it’s also—well, to be honest, this has been kind of good for business.”

Pepper’s brow furrows, that one little crease returning. “What, the tweets?”

“Yeah.” I scratch the back of my neck, sheepish. “Actually, we had a line out the door yesterday. It was kind of intense.”

“That’s . . . that’s good, right?”

The tone of my voice is clearly not matching up with the words I’m saying, but if I’m being honest, I’m still wary of this whole overnight business boom. And if I’m being honest, I’m even more wary of Pepper. If this really is as much of a family business as she claims it is—to the point where she’s helping run the Twitter handle, when even I know enough about corporate Twitter accounts to know entire teams of experienced people get paid to do that—then she might have had more of a hand in this whole recipe theft thing than she’s letting on.

The fact of the matter is, I can’t trust her. To the point of not knowing whether I can even trust her knowing how our business is doing, or just how badly we need it.

“Yeah, um, I guess.” I try to make it sound noncommittal. My acting skills, much like my breakfast-packing skills, leave much to be desired.

“So . . .”

“So.”

Pepper presses her lips into a thin line, a question in her eyes.

“So, I guess—if your mom really wants you to keep tweeting . . .”

“Wait. Yesterday you were pissed. Two minutes ago you were pissed.”

“I am pissed. You stole from us,” I reiterate. “You stole from an eighty-five-year-old woman.”

“I didn’t—”

“Yeah, yeah, but still. You’re them, and I’m . . . her. It’s like a choose your fighter situation, and we just happen to be the ones up to bat.”

“So you’re saying—you don’t not want me to keep this up?”

“The way I see it, you don’t have to make your mom mad, and we get a few more customers in the door too.”

Pepper takes a breath like she’s going to say something, like she’s going to correct me, but after a moment, she lets it go. Her face can’t quite settle on an expression, toeing the line between dread and relief.

“You’re sure?”

I answer by opening the container she handed me. The smell that immediately wafts out of it should honestly be illegal; it stops kids I’ve never even spoken to in their tracks.

“Are you a witch?” I ask, reaching in and taking a bite of one. It’s like Monster Cake, the Sequel—freaking Christmas in my mouth. I already want more before I’ve even managed to chew. My eyes close as if I’m experiencing an actual drug high—and maybe I am, because I forget myself entirely and say, “This might even be better than our Kitchen Sink Macaroons.”

“Kitchen Sink Macaroons?”

Eyes open again. Yikes. Note to self: dessert is the greatest weapon in Pepper’s arsenal. I swallow my bite so I can answer her.

“It’s kind of well-known, at least in the East Village. It even got in some Hub Seed roundup once. I’d tell you to try some, but you might steal the recipe, so.”

Pepper smiles, then—actually smiles, instead of the little smirk she usually does. It’s not startling, but what it does to me in that moment kind of is.

Before I can examine the unfamiliar lurch in my stomach, the bell rings and knocks the smile right off her face. I follow just behind her, wondering why it suddenly seems too hot in here, like they cranked the air up for December instead of October. I dismiss it by the time I get to my desk—probably just all the Twitter drama and the glory of So Sorry Blondies getting to my head.

“One rule,” she says, as we sit in the last two desks in the back of the room.

I raise my eyebrows at her.

“We don’t take any of it personally.” She leans forward on her desk, leveling with me, her bangs falling into her face. “No more getting mad at each other. Cheese and state.”

“What happens on Twitter stays on Twitter,” I say with a nod of agreement. “Okay, then, second rule: no kid gloves.”

Mrs. Fairchild is giving that stern look over the room that never quite successfully quiets anyone down. Pepper frowns, waiting for me to elaborate.

“I mean—no going easy on each other. If we’re going to play at this, we’re both going to give it our A game, okay? No holding back because we’re . . .”

Friends, I almost say. No, I’m going to say. But then—

“I’d appreciate it if even one of you acknowledged the bell with your silence,” Mrs. Fairchild grumbles.

I turn to Pepper, expecting to find her snapping to attention the way she always does when an adult comes within a hundred feet of disciplining her. But her eyes are still intent on me, like she is sizing something up—like she’s looking forward to something I haven’t anticipated yet.

“All right. No taking it personally. And no holding back.”

She holds her hand out for me to shake again, under the desk so Mrs. Fairchild won’t see it. I smile and shake my head, wondering how someone can be so aggressively seventeen and seventy-five at the same time, and then I take it. Her hand is warm and small in mine, but her grip is surprisingly firm, with a pressure that almost feels like she’s still got her fingers wrapped around mine even after we let go.

I turn back to the whiteboard, a ghost of a smirk on my face. “Let the games begin.”

~Cassie

 

 

December Wrap Up + Stats

It may be the 20th of January but I decided that I wanted to put together my December stats and share my wrap up of the month with you. I don’t think I did this for every month last year but it is definitely one of my goals for this year. The majority of what I read last month was Christmas romances but maybe if you see one you like you can add it to your list to read at the end of this year.

Wrap Up

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This is a Nordic crime novel that won the best Swedish Crime Novel award in 2016. It has also been adapted into a Netflix show that I haven’t yet watched. However, I absolutely loved this story and the way Giolito told the story. It is a book where the timeline ebbs and flows which enhanced the suspense of what was going to come to such a high degree. This is a dark story about a girl who is in jail because she is accused of helping her boyfriend kill their fellow classmates in a school shooting. The book does not shy away from the darkness and is an absolute masterpiece of storytelling. The build up to the shooting and the aftermath with the trial taking place are told in such an impactful way that I know I will think about this book for the rest of my life. I also feel like I learned a substantial amount about about Swedish culture, politics and economics which I thought was incredibly fascinating.

Rating: 5/5

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Holiday Romance: All Wrapped Up for the Holidays

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Holiday Blog Tour: Christmas in Silver Springs by Brenda Novak

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Holiday Blog Tour: Cowboy Christmas Redemption by Maisey Yates

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Holiday Blog Tour: Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow

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Holiday Romance: Santa’s on His Way

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I absolutely LOVE Clue so when I saw that this book had recently come out I immediately bought it and read it. I am so happy that this is the first in a series because I loved this book. It is a modernized version of the classic game/movie/books but still keeps the heart of Clue at the center. The only downside to the story was how long it took for things to actually start happening. I can’t find anything online about when the second book is coming but I hope it is sometime this year!

Rating: 4.5/5

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I only read the first few books in the Shopaholic series (well, the first book I have reread a few times) and I forgot just how amazing Becky Bloomwood is. She will forever be one of my favorite characters to ever grace the pages of a book. This book had me laughing out loud, it had me cringing in embarrassment, it had me crying and basically it just gave me everything you could want in a book. Add all the Christmas hijinks to it and this just might be a book that I reread every holiday time. I love the message the story leaves us with as well and it could not have come at a better time for me. This Christmas was a struggle for me because the symptoms of my disease started roughly two weeks before actual Christmas and this book was definitely cathartic to me. I aim to read more of Becky this year and more of Sophie Kinsella in general.

Rating: 5/5

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I won this ebook from the authors Instagram and I’m so happy because this was a great small town holiday romance novella. Although the hero in this book is no longer a solider so that was a little off putting but the romance between the two main characters was very sweet. While it was sweet it also at times felt juvenile because they are in an intimate relationship and yet they never seemed to talk to each other about anything important regarding their relationship. They just never felt as serious as they kept proclaiming they were.

Rating: 4/5

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Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Kindle Unlimited Readathon Wrap Up

Stats

Author                                                               Pages

Anthology: 2                                                     1-299: 3

Female: 10                                                        300-499: 8

Rating                                                               500+: 1

1*: 0                                                                  Total Pages: 4,240

2*: 0                                                                  137/day

3*: 2

4*: 4

5*: 6

Genre

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense/Crime: 2

Romance: 8                                                               Year Published

YA Thriller/Mystery: 1                                             ARC/Publiser sent: 4

Adult Contemporary: 1                                           Older Release: 4

Book Format                                                            2019: 4

Owned ebook: 8

Library ebook: 1

Owned Physical: 2

Library Physical: 1

~Cassie

Hades Hangmen by Tillie Cole

I mentioned in my last post that I read the entire Hades Hangmen series by Tillie Cole in the span of a week. 7 books and three novellas and I absolutely loved the entire series. I am so excited that book number 8 comes out next month because I am dying to know what is going to happen next.

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Here is the link for the Valentine’s novella that takes place between books 2 and 3. It is no longer canon but it is still a fun read for the first two couples in the series.

Hades Hangmen is a DARK romance series based on a motorcycle club (MC) and a horrific cult that they become entangled with. The world of the MC is so fascinating and I loved how complex and fleshed out it was. There is so much history to the characters and the club which is slowly revealed throughout the entire series. It is one part of what makes these books so compelling. The other big part of that is the men who are so not good people at all but at the same time totally swoon worthy and amazing. Cole is an thrilling author because I fell in love with almost every character in this series and I am rooting for all of them to get their happy endings.

These books are extremely emotional reads and all the characters felt so realistic that my heart bled for them. There were a couple of characters that I didn’t connect to as strongly but almost everyone else had such brutal backstories that I shed many tears over them. I usually don’t do trigger warnings because I think they tend to spoil the story but one I want to mention is rape. Please do not read these books if you are at all sensitive to this topic because it is on page, at times frequent, and difficult to read. There are many other trigger warnings for this series so if you like to know what you are getting into with a book I highly suggest you check out each books Goodreads page.

The women in these stories are so incredible. They are strong and broken. Fragile and loyal. I admire these women so much for what they have gone through and how fierce each one is in their own way. All the women in this series have been sheltered in some way and to see them find their own freedom was beautiful. I am in awe of Tillie Cole and how she was able to write a series that has me so utterly invested in the characters. I cried with them, laughed with them, hurt for them and at the end of the day they are just words on paper. Yet when you read these books you are transported to their world and it feels so real.

As amazing as everything I just gushed about is, hands down the best part of this series is the romance. WOW. I cannot get over how amazing, perfect, and absolutely beautiful these love stories are. The connection between the hero and heroine are some of the best that I have ever read. Each character has gone through some dark stuff and the way they are able to heal together and love each other is remarkable. All of the terrible things that happen and all of the darkest things that are done to them just made the love and devotion they have for each other that much sweeter and more intense.

If you are a fan of romance and think you can handle the darkness I cannot recommend these books enough. They are definitely not for the causal fan of romance. For that I would suggest Cole’s A Thousand Boy Kisses which is a tear jerker YA romance. I recently watched an IGtv that the author did and she said that she is also planning on coming out with the ninth book in this series toward the end of this year. So if you read these and become obsessed with them like  me at least know that the story isn’t ending anytime soon!

~Cassie

Kindle Unlimited Readathon Wrap Up

The past weekend was the Kindle Unlimited Readathon and I had a lot of fun participating. I was only able to read two books which was a bit of a bummer because I was hoping for at least three. I loved the two books that I did read though so overall it was a great readathon. If you are interested in what other books I have on my KU library I will leave that here.

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I freaking LOVED this book. It is a DARK romance though so if that is not your thing then I don’t think you will like this at all. I however really enjoyed all the emotions I felt reading this. It surprised me how much I connected with these characters considering how they are not good people. I especially felt this way about Preppy. He is a guy that I consider so disgusting but wow did my heart bleed for him and his story. I can’t wait to get to the three books later on in the series that are centered around him. This book does a fabulous job of showing so clearly how people can have both good and bad sides. I also really loved King and Doe’s love story. It was dark, twisted, sexy, sweet and heartbreaking at times. This book left off on a crazy cliffhanger so I immediately returned this book and “checked out” the second book in the series. I hope that I am able to get to it in January!

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This is book features a bad guy who has put a wall up due to different circumstances in his life so he treats everyone horribly. I love the character arc that Vicious had during the book and how he still was him but with his darker side tamed just a tiny bit. I also really appreciated how Emilia didn’t make excuses for her feelings for Vicious. She knows better than anyone how cruel he can be but she also knows him better than anyone else and we didn’t have long drawn out explantations of her defending her love for him. Which is not to say that she was meek because she is definitely able to hold her own against him. Their connection and interactions were amazing and I love them together. I hope that we get to see more of them as the series goes on. I gave this one four and half stars but I feel like if I hadn’t read this right after King that I would have given it five stars.

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

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I’m so excited to be sharing my review of Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison with you today. This post is in partnership with Harlequin Trade Publishing for their Mystery/Thriller Winter blog tour. I also reviewed The Last Affair by Margot Hunt for the blog tour and both books are amazing!

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Good Girls Lie

Author: J.T. Ellison

ISBN: 9780778330776

Publication Date: 12/30/19

Publisher: MIRA Books

Book Summary:

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

Review

This book is a dark exhilarating thriller of a ride. This book was almost impossible for me to put down because there was always something that was happening that I couldn’t take myself away from the story. The high speed pacing of this book along with the breadcrumbs of truths that we get kept me enthralled all the way through. The gothic setting of the story along with the social structure of the school added so much depth to the story that I was captivated from the beginning.

The structure of the book was also unique in that each chapter has a headliner that signified what was going to happen. I love that the author, Ellison, chose to do this because it amped up the suspense so much. This is probably the biggest reason that I read this book in practically one sitting.

The characters in this book are all so dark and complex that I never knew who was doing what or who was in on what or who was hurting or helping someone. I love books like this where you are never sure exactly what is happening. Even when you do think you know something it turns out that you didn’t know everything and I really appreciate when an author is able to do that.

The ending of this book was just as spectacular and didn’t let me down. I will admit that I was a little worried that things were getting tied up a little too neat but there was still some stuff thrown in there that kept me just as hooked as I had been all the way through. Good Girls Lie is hands down the best thriller I have read this year and I cannot recommend this book enough to you. If you want to either end or start your reading year off right then I highly suggest this book. It is a masterpiece of a thriller and is definitely one of my top books of the year.

Please scroll down and read the first couple of chapters of this amazing book. It is obviously just setting up the story but it really gives you a feel for how twisted of a book this is. Also, if you live on the east coast J.T. Ellison is doing a book tour for you lucky people and I so wish that I could go and meet her. All the info for that can be found at the very bottom of this post. I am so excited for you all to read this book and hopefully love it just as much as me!

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Author Bio:

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, and the EMMY-award winning co-host of A WORD ON WORDS, Nashville’s premier literary show. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 26 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @thrillerchick

Facebook: @JTEllison14

Instagram: @thrillerchick

Goodreads

BookBub

Excerpt

1

THE HANGING

The girl’s body dangles from the tall iron gates guarding the school’s entrance. A closer examination shows the ends of a red silk tie peeking out like a cardinal on a winter branch, forcing her neck into a brutal angle. She wears her graduation robe and multicolored stole as if knowing she’ll never see the achievement. It rained overnight and the thin robe clings to her body, dew sparkling on the edges. The last tendrils of dawn’s fog laze about her legs, which are five feet from the ground. 

There is no breeze, no birds singing or squirrels industriously gathering for the long winter ahead, no cars passing along the street, only the cool, misty morning air and the gentle metallic creaking of the gates under the weight of the dead girl. She is suspended in midair, her back to the street, her face hidden behind a curtain of dirty, wet hair, dark from the rains. 

Because of the damage to her face, it will take them some time to officially identify her. In the beginning, it isn’t even clear she attends the school, despite wearing The Goode School robes. 

But she does. 

The fingerprints will prove it. Of course, there are a few people who know exactly who is hanging from the school’s gates. Know who, and know why. But they will never tell. As word spreads of the apparent suicide, The Goode School’s all-female student body begin to gather, paying silent, terrified homage to their fallen compatriot. The gates are closed and locked—as they always are overnight—buttressed on either side by an ivy-covered, ten-foot-high, redbrick wall, but it tapers off into a knee-wall near the back entrance to the school parking lot, and so is escapable by foot. The girls of Goode silently filter out from the dorms, around the end of Old West Hall and Old East Hall to Front Street—the main street of Marchburg, the small Virginia town housing the elite prep school—and take up their positions in front of the gate in a wedge of crying, scared, worried young women who glance over shoulders looking for the one who is missing from their ranks. To reassure themselves this isn’t their friend, their sister, their roommate. 

Another girl joins them, but no one notices she comes from the opposite direction, from town. She was not behind the redbrick wall. 

Whispers rise from the small crowd, nothing loud enough to be overheard but forming a single question. 

Who is it? Who? 

A solitary siren pierces the morning air, the sound bleeding upward from the bottom of the hill, a rising crescendo. Someone has called the sheriff. 

Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown, huddles behind its ivy-covered brick wall. The campus is flanked by two blocks of restaurants, bars, and necessary shops. The school’s buildings are tied together with trolleys—enclosed glass-and-wood bridges that make it easy for the girls to move from building to building in climate-controlled comfort. It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things. 

The headmistress, or dean, as she prefers to call herself, Ford Julianne Westhaven, great-granddaughter several times removed from the founder of The Goode School, arrives in a flurry, her driver, Rumi, braking the family Bentley with a screech one hundred feet away from the gates. The crowd in the street blocks the car and, for a moment, the sight of the dangling girl. No one stops to think about why the dean might be off campus this early in the morning. Not yet, anyway. 

Dean Westhaven rushes out of the back of the dove-gray car and runs to the crowd, her face white, lips pressed firmly together, eyes roving. It is a look all the girls at Goode recognize and shrink from. 

The dean’s irritability is legendary, outweighed only by her kindness. It is said she alone approves every application to the school, that she chooses the Goode girls by hand for their intelligence, their character. Her say is final. Absolute. But for all her goodness, her compassion, her kindness, Dean Westhaven has a temper. 

She begins to gather the girls into groups, small knots of natural blondes and brunettes and redheads, no fantastical dye allowed. Some shiver in oversize school sweatshirts and running shorts, some are still in their pajamas. The dean is looking for the chick missing from her flock. She casts occasional glances over her shoulder at the grim scene behind her. She, too, is unsure of the identity of the body, or so it seems. Perhaps she simply doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth. 

The siren grows to an earsplitting shriek and dies midrange, a soprano newly castrated. The deputies from the sheriff’s office have arrived, the sheriff hot on their heels. Within moments, they cordon off the gates, move the students back, away, away. One approaches the body, cataloging; another begins taking discreet photographs, a macabre paparazzi. 

They speak to Dean Westhaven, who quietly, breathlessly, admits she hasn’t approached the body and has no idea who it might be. 

She is lying, though. She knows. Of course, she knows. It was inevitable. 

The sheriff, six sturdy feet of muscle and sinew, approaches the gate and takes a few shots with his iPhone. He reaches for the foot of the dead girl and slowly, slowly turns her around. 

The eerie morning silence is broken by the words, soft and gasping, murmurs moving sinuously through the crowd of girls, their feet shuffling in the morning chill, the fog’s tendrils disappearing from around the posts. 

They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery. 

Ash. 

Ash.

Ash.

 

2

THE LIES

There are truths, and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened, which is where you and I will meet. My truth is your lie, and my lie is your truth, and there is a vast expanse between them. 

Take, for example, Ash Carlisle. 

Six feet tall, glowing skin, a sheaf of blond hair in a ponytail. She wears black jeans with rips in the knees and a loose greenand-white plaid button-down with white Adidas Stan Smiths; casual, efficient travel clothes. A waiter delivers a fresh cup of tea to her nest in the British Airways first-class lounge, and when she smiles her thanks, he nearly drops his tray—so pure and happy is that smile. The smile of an innocent. 

Or not so innocent? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Soon. 

She’s perfected that smile, by the way. Practiced it. Stood in the dingy bathroom of the flat on Broad Street and watched herself in the mirror, lips pulling back from her teeth over and over and over again until it becomes natural, until her eyes sparkle and deep dimples appear in her cheeks. It is a full-toothed smile, her teeth straight and blindingly white, and when combined with the china-blue eyes and naturally streaked blond hair, it is devastating. 

Isn’t this what a sociopath does? Work on their camouflage? What better disguise is there than an open, thankful, gracious smile? It’s an exceptionally dangerous tool, in the right hands. 

And how does a young sociopath end up flying first class, you might ask? You’ll be assuming her family comes from money, naturally, but let me assure you, this isn’t the case. Not at all. Not really. Not anymore. 

No, the dean of the school sent the ticket.

Why? 

Because Ash Carlisle leads a charmed life, and somehow managed to hoodwink the dean into not only paying her way but paying for her studies this first term, as well. A full scholarship, based on her exemplary intellect, prodigy piano playing, and sudden, extraordinary need. Such a shame she lost her parents so unexpectedly. 

Yes, Ash is smart. Smart and beautiful and talented, and capable of murder. Don’t think for a moment she’s not. Don’t let her fool you. 

Sipping the tea, she types and thinks, stops to chew on a nail, then reads it again. The essay she is obsessing over gained her access to the prestigious, elite school she is shipping off to. The challenges ahead—transferring to a new school, especially one as impossible to get into as The Goode School—frighten her, excite her, make her more determined than ever to get away from Oxford, from her past. 

A new life. A new beginning. A new chapter for Ash. 

But can you ever escape your past? 

Ash sets down the tea, and I can tell she is worrying again about fitting in. Marchburg, Virginia—population five hundred on a normal summer day, which expands to seven hundred once the students arrive for term—is a long way from Oxford, England. She worries about fitting in with the daughters of the DC elite—daughters of senators and congressmen and ambassadors and reporters and the just plain filthy rich. She can rely on her looks—she knows how pretty she is, isn’t vain about it, exactly, but knows she’s more than acceptable on the looks scale—and on her intelligence, her exceptional smarts. Some would say cunning, but I think this is a disservice to her. She’s both booksmart and street-smart, the rarest of combinations. Despite her concerns, if she sticks to the story, she will fit in with no issues. 

The only strike against her, of course, is me, but no one knows about me. 

No one can ever know about me.

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~Cassie

Holiday Romance: Santa’s on His Way

Today is the last book for my themed holiday romance week. I hope I was able to put some books or authors that you didn’t know about on your radar. Thanks so much for being a part of this week of fun with me!

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Publisher: Zebra

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Pages: 

Open your heart to the holidays with these stories of unexpected love . . .
 
A BABY FOR CHRISTMAS * Lisa Jackson
The uneventful Christmas Annie McFarlane expected is suddenly anything but. First, there’s the adorable baby left on the snowy doorstep of her Oregon cabin. Second, there’s the extremely attractive, yet extremely angry man claiming to be the father. Liam O’Shaughnessy may be intimidating, but this is one precious gift Annie isn’t giving up so easily . . .
 
WHAT THE COWBOY WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS * Maisey Yates
When Meg O’Neill’s longtime boyfriend lets her down, again, on Christmas no less, she braves an Oregon blizzard to get to her best friend Noah’s comforting arms. But this time Noah’s not telling her what she wants to hear—he’s telling her the truth, from his heart. And his words just might be the gift Meg’s been wishing for all along.
 
SNOWED IN * Stacy Finz
Rachel Johnson has found the perfect spot for her second Tart Me Up bakery in Glory Junction, California. Except she’s in fierce competition with hunky bar owner Boden Farmer. Worse, while the icy rivals await the city’s decision, they end up catering the same Christmas Eve mountaintop wedding—and getting snowed in. But sometimes a loss of electricity generates a different kind of heat . . .
 
A COWBOY WEDDING FOR CHRISTMAS * Nicole Helm
Big city art teacher Lindsay Tyler isn’t just back home in Colorado for her brother’s wedding at the Barton Christmas Tree Farm and Ranch. She’s back for good. She just hasn’t told anyone yet—including Cal Barton, the ex-boyfriend she left behind. Will it take a Christmas miracle for him to welcome her back with open arms? . . .

Review

A BABY FOR CHRISTMAS

This story really disappointed me because I liked the premise of it but it didn’t work on any level for me. The book is set in the 90’s and it very much reads like a 90’s book so I did some research and it was first published in 1997. Which explains a lot including why there was such a disconnect for me when reading the “sexy” scenes. There was a questionable consent scene that I really didn’t like and unprotected sex which I don’t appreciate in any book no matter when it was written. The whole idea of the story was great though so I definitely want to read some of Jackson’s recent work.

WHAT THE COWBOY WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS

This is a friends to lover romance between two foster siblings. I really liked the element that the foster home brought to the story even if it was difficult at times to read about their terrible childhoods. Meg and Noah have such a sweet romance and I really enjoyed the way their story ended.

SNOWED IN

One of my favorite tropes is a book centered around a bakery and this book did not disappoint. So much of the story was based on Rachel’s bakery and Boden’s bar and it served as the perfect backdrop to their romance. This book is based on a fictional town near where I actually live so it was really easy to picture everything. The snowed in aspect was great and I love how it forced them to get to know each other better. The ending was predictable but still very cute. Stacey Finz has a few books set in this same small town and they are definitely on my radar.

A COWBOY WEDDING FOR CHRISTMAS

This is a second chance romance with a group of characters that I really enjoyed. Cal and Lindsay have a great connection that I was rooting for but unfortunately this story didn’t quite work for me. The introduction to all the characters was good but then things started to unravel. Everything felt rushed to me and not quite authentic. Which is an obvious risk of reading a short story so I do understand that she had some constraints on telling the story. I wish Helm had saved this idea for a full length novel though so things could have have better pacing.

~Cassie

Holiday Romance: All Wrapped Up for the Holidays

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Get your free copy here: Book Funnel

Six standalone holiday short stories!

The Merry Mistake by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

Note to self: Ask Santa for glasses this year. When I accidentally mistook a gorgeous man resting outside my building for a homeless person in need of lunch, we got into it. I’d only been trying to do a good deed around the holidays, but he called me righteous. I called him something far worse. If only I didn’t have to see him again. But fate had other plans.

Finding Perfect by Colleen Hoover

A short story that brings back several of Colleen’s most beloved characters. Told from the point of view of Daniel from Finding Cinderella, readers will finally get the story they’ve been begging for more of. For the best reading experience, make sure you’ve read all three books that come together to make up this heartwarming and fun holiday short story; Finding Cinderella, Hopeless and All Your Perfects.

A Rock Chick Christmas by Kristen Ashley

What’s Christmas with the Starks like? Get a peek into the Rock Chick world and how Luke copes with Ava going Christmas gaga and just what he will, and won’t, do for his girls during the holidays.

Just Say When by Jill Shalvis

When the one you want …

Is the one you can’t seem to have…

Can love conquer all?

The Pact by Elle Kennedy

Thanks to my hectic schedule as a pro hockey player, my girl and I are spending more time apart than together. Luckily, I have a solution—a romantic New Year’s Eve getaway in the mountains, just me and Grace and plenty of sexytimes. Except this blizzard has other ideas…

The Package by K. Bromberg

Christmas week can’t get any worse for Jules Jilliland. Dumped by her boyfriend, rear-ended on the freeway, and fired from her job, she finds herself stuck in an elevator with a handsome stranger. When their packages are accidentally swapped, will it end up being a misfortunate accident that suddenly brightens her holidays?

Review

I saw Colleen Hoover talking about this book on Instagram (you can follow me here) and I instantly went to download it. This is also the first book that I started reading when I was coming out of the terrible flu that hit my house and it really helped get me out of my funk and back in the holiday spirit. I will be doing mini reviews for all the stories because my feelings were all over the place when it came to this collection of stories.

The Merry Mistake

This was a really cute heartwarming romance. I love the way Piper and Mason met. It was such a fun introduction to the two of them and the rest of the story was just as cute.

Finding Perfect

I was the most excited to read this story because Colleen Hoover took two of her stories and wove them together in this short story. Graham and Quinn are my favorite of her couples and their book, All Your Perfects put me into a month long book hangover earlier this year. I was so excited to read about what they are doing now and this book did not disappoint. I have never read any of Hoover’s YA books and I don’t think I will in the future. I felt for Daniel and Six and the heartbreak they were going through but I don’t think I would connect to either of them if there wasn’t this huge trauma they were dealing with.

Rock Chick Christmas

I didn’t really like this story at all. Of course I have never read any of her previous books in this series so I’m sure that is why. If I was already familiar with these characters going in then I would have had a stronger connection to them. Without that background this story just fell flat and I felt nothing for anyone. I am the kind of romance reader that needs to be invested in the romance to enjoy he payoff of the spicer scenes and I ended up just flipping though that part. Maybe in the future I will have a chance to read some Kristen Ashley and have a better appreciation for her work.

Just Say When

This story didn’t work for me purely because it has the miscommunication trope in it which is my least favorite thing to read. Well, it’s mostly not clarifying statements they made when they were first dating, but still with only two chapters it ended up just being an ok romance to me. The ending was very cute though and I’m happy I’m read it for that.

The Pact

This was a sweet and sexy hockey holiday romance (say that five times fast!). Grace and Logan are in two different places in life since Grace is still in school and Logan is a rookie pro hockey player. The story centers around them trying to figure out how to make time for their relationship and making sure that they stay a priority to each other. This was seriously so cute and I love Grace and Logan a lot which speaks to how great of an author Elle Kennedy is. I will for sure be making Elle Kennedy’s books a priority in 2020. I can’t believe I have been sleeping on this author for so long!

The Package

I love the premise of this story. It was such a fun idea that worked really well. Archer and Jules were both great characters and I liked seeing them get to know each other better. The story was a little predictable but for a holiday feel good romance this hit all the boxes.

~Cassie

 

 

Holiday Blog Tour: Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow

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I’m back today with my last post for the HQN Trade Publishing holiday blog tour. Which makes me sad because I had such a good time reading all these books and finding some new authors that I love. You can check out Day OneDay Two and Day Three by clicking the links. Don’t forget that the fun doesn’t stop here because this weekend I will be reviewing a couple of holiday romance short story collections. I’m also planning on reading more holiday romances during the lead up to Christmas because why stop the fun here when there are so many amazing books out there. All pictures and promotional material in this post is courtesy of HQN Trade Publishing but my review is 100% my own.

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AN ALASKAN CHRISTMAS

Author: Jennifer Snow

ISBN: 9781335041500

Publication Date: 9/24/2019

Publisher: HQN Books

Book Summary

In Alaska, it’s always a white Christmas—but the sparks flying between two reunited friends could turn it red-hot…

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds.

Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts…

Review

This was such a fun sexy romance. Erika and Reed have a sort of friends, kind of enemies vibe going on and I loved that instant connection they had with one another. As Erika and Reed are falling in love with each other they have some fun (and harrowing at times) adventures together and I think that just added up to me rooting for them even more.

They seem to live such different lives but the more they got to know each other the more they realized how much they had in common. Figuring this out about each other led them to falling love with each even faster and it was the sweetest thing to see. I love how strong their feelings were for each and how much the other person meant to the other. This story went in lots of different directions and I loved how they navigated all the twists and turns that came there way.

This is also the first book in a new series and I could definitely see some future stories being developed which makes me excited to see where the author goes from here. Of course the bonus to that is that we will hopefully get to see glimpses of Reed and Erika through other people’s stories. If you want to get a small taste of who Erika is then keep scrolling to read a first chapter excerpt of this awesome holiday romance.

 

Jennifer Snow

Author Bio

Jennifer Snow lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and four year old son. She is a member of the RWA, the Alberta Writers Guild, Canadian Authors Association and SheWrites.org. Her first Brookhollow book was a finalist in the Heart of Denver Aspen Gold contest and the Golden Quill Award. More information can be found at http://www.jennifersnowauthor.com.

Social Links

Author Website

Twitter: @JenniferSnow18

Facebook: @jennifersnowbooks

Instagram: @jensnowauthor

Goodreads

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Her arms full of patient files, Dr. Erika Sheraton tipped her head back as Darren, her premed intern, poured a double shot of espresso down her throat. The hot liquid delivered the instant adrenaline boost she needed to get through the rest of her fourteen-hour shift.

Dinner? A quick glance at the clock on the wall above the nurses’ triage station revealed it was almost nine. A late dinner.

“How are you not vibrating? That’s your third in two hours.” Darren crumpled the paper cup and tossed it into a recycle bin as they walked.

“Caffeine stopped affecting me a long time ago. Now’s it’s about the taste,” she said, only half kidding. Double course loads and all-nighters in college and then med school had prepared her for the long hours she put in now as a general surgeon and caffeine had been her best friend.

The twentysomething looked like he could use a cup himself, as he stifled a yawn. His sandy blond hair poked up in the back as though he’d crawled out of bed at the last possible minute and his hazel eyes were bloodshot. If he was tired now after only eight hours on shift, he’d be reconsidering this particular profession by midnight. The staff at Alaska General Hospital never rested. The revolving doors at emergency constantly rotated with broken bones, heart attacks and bleeding patients filing in. No day was ever the same. Unpredictability kept Erika alert and on her toes.

“After these rounds, I’m going to need you to check in on Mr. Franklin—he’s in recovery. His family is wondering when they can see him.” The man’s entire extended family was camped out in the surgical ward waiting room—fifteen or sixteen of them at least. They couldn’t see the man, but they all refused to leave. Each one took turns driving the nurses on duty crazy. “Make sure they know only immediate family can go in. He needs his rest.”

Darren nodded, but a look of hesitation appeared behind his dark-rimmed glasses.

“What?” She checked her watch.

“I just… Well, shouldn’t you talk to them? I know his wife wanted to thank you…”

Erika shook her head. “Keeping him on the low-cholesterol, low-sodium diet I’ve prescribed—and off my operating table—will be thanks enough,” she said, scanning the top folder on her stack.

“Okay, but…”

She shot him a look.

“No problem. I’ll check in on him.”

“Thank you.” She continued down the hall toward the next high-priority patient.

“Don’t forget, your dad still wants to see you,” Darren said, struggling to keep up to her half sprint.

“I know.” And she could do without the hourly reminders. Her father rarely requested her presence during her rounds, so whatever it was wouldn’t be good. If she put him off long enough, maybe he’d forget. 

 “Top chart—Mr. Grayson. He’s scheduled for an appendectomy in a few hours,” she said, approaching the man’s hospital room.

Darren nodded as he smiled. “This old guy is hilarious. Did you know he was a stunt motorcycle driver in the circus in the ’80s?”

“No.” She knew he had an inflamed appendix and had waited far too long to come in. She knew his vitals and that in an hour, they’d be prepping him for surgery. Knowing personal details of a patient’s life didn’t make her job any easier or guarantee a better outcome. She juggled the files on one arm as she reached into her pocket for a new set of sterile gloves.

“Hey, before we go in there, can I talk to you?” Darren asked, stopping her outside the room. He stared at the checked patterned floor tiles.

Damn. “You’re requesting a transfer to a different physician.” He wasn’t the first medical student who’d gotten reassigned. She’d made it a month with Darren—a new record.

Another intern bites the dust.

He nodded, obviously relieved that he hadn’t had to vocalize it himself. “You’re amazing, Dr. Sheraton, and I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to work with you, but you’re also very busy and unavailable…”

The sharp sting of the words was familiar. She’d heard the same speech from interns and boyfriends alike. She’d successfully eliminated the problem in one group right after her first year of residency…interns were hospital assigned and therefore out of her control.

“I mean I just need all the training I can get and between patients and your research work…”

She didn’t need an explanation. She was busy. Too busy to have someone following her around in fact. This was totally fine with her. “I understand.”

“You’re not upset?”

“Only about having to get my own coffee from now on,” she said.

The joke missed its mark and the intern’s eyes widened. “I can still do that…”

Wow, was she really that scary? She was demanding and expected the students to put in the hours she did. She may not be the friendliest doctor on staff, socializing after work and remembering birthdays and such, but she gave these interns a real picture of their future in medicine. Wasn’t that what they were there for? “I was kidding, Darren.”

“Oh…right.”

“Dr. Sheraton, please report to emergency. Stat.”

The call over the hospital intercom had her handing Darren the stack of folders. “Please take his heart rate and blood pressure,” she said, practically running to the elevators. “And don’t forget Mr. Franklin.”

“Got it,” he called after her.

The quiet twenty-six-second elevator ride to the first floor was the closest thing she got to a spa day. It was the only time she was forced to slow to a pace other than her own usual breakneck speed. But even that half a minute was too long. It gave her time to think. Think about her previous surgeries and replay the details—what went right, what went wrong, what she could do better next time. Constantly reevaluating herself made her a better surgeon, but too often it left her feeling like she was coming up slightly short of her potential. Her type A personality left little room for failure or complacency. 

Checking her phone in her lab coat pocket, she scanned her schedule for the rest of the evening, evaluating what she could push back if this emergency demanded her immediate attention. The number of things marked urgent made her will the elevator to move quicker. She’d be lucky to get out of there by 2:00 a.m.

A text popped up from Darren.

If you change your mind about Mrs. Franklin…

She wouldn’t. She ignored the text from her intern—former intern—and put the phone away.

As the elevator stopped, she took a deep breath, expecting to see a flurry of organized chaos as the doors opened. Stretchers, ambulance lights flashing and sirens wailing outside, paramedics and nurses… Instead, she ran square into her father.

No emergency, just his six-foot-three frame and his usual neutral expression. It was impossible to read her father, as his face gave nothing away. His emotions were never too high or too low, just infuriatingly balanced no matter the circumstance. His calm presence and rational thinking made him fantastic at his profession, but sometimes he was irritating as shit as a father.

“Hi. I was just coming to see you.” Eventually.

“Walk with me,” he said, turning on his heel and nodding.

Her jaw clenched so tight her teeth might snap. This was so like him—assuming she could drop everything at his command. He may run the hospital, but he often had no idea how hectic her schedule was. “Can we talk as I do my rounds, Darren is…” 

 

“More than capable,” he said, leading the way to his first-floor corner office. “And requesting to be transferred, I see.”

His tone made her palms sweat. He should be happy that she was pushing these interns to their limits. What awaited them once they graduated wasn’t for the faint of heart. Better to get used to grueling days and nights now, performing on little to no sleep, living on caffeine and leftover Halloween chocolate bars, than to realize they couldn’t cut it when lives were in their hands.

Unfortunately, he didn’t always agree with her beliefs . He wanted the interns to feel at home at Alaska General so they’d apply here once they graduated. The hospital was short staffed and more doctors would benefit everyone, but Erika preferred to work alongside the best.

Her father had an open-door policy—literally—so when he closed the office door behind her, she knew the head of General Surgery hadn’t called her in to discuss Thanksgiving dinner plans.

She glanced at his wall calendar as she sat. Especially since Thanksgiving was a week ago.

“Dad, this intern thing is just ridiculous…”

He held up a hand. “This isn’t about your inability to effectively manage others.”

Kick to the gut delivered and received. She clamped her lips together.

He opened his desk drawer and handed her a letter as he sat in the plush, leather chair behind his oversize mahogany desk.

Her eyes widened, seeing the Hospital Foundation logo on the top of the page. “Is this the final approval from the board for the clinical trials?” They’d submitted the application six months ago to start trials on a new antirejection drug after years of research, and they were waiting on the formal go-ahead to start with a test group.

Would Darren reconsider staying with her if he knew he could be part of a medical breakthrough? He’d been a lot of help in the past month.

“Just read it,” her father said.

She scanned the letter from the board of directors, feeling her excitement fade and anxiety rise with each word. “Recommended vacation? What is this?”

“I don’t like it either, but the board is reviewing policies and making sure we are following them,” he said, the edge indicating he’d been outvoted in this decision. He certainly didn’t believe in time off and had never encouraged her to take any. Her life was her career, just like him.

“But any day now we will be starting clinical trials on the new drug.” It had taken her father and his team almost three years to get the experimental antirejection product approved for testing on organ transplant patients and they’d finally gotten it. They’d worked around the clock for a year to make sure they did. Subjects were undergoing assessment right now to be ready for the trials.

Now was not the time to take a break.

Her father looked as though he’d made the same argument to the hospital board. “The team will have to handle it.”

So recommended actually meant forced. “Why now? I’m fine. I don’t need a break.” At twenty-nine, she was eager to prove herself as one of the top general surgeons in the state. Between her surgical success record and the research time she’d invested in this new drug, she was close. Helping her father get one step closer to winning the Lister Medal was high on her priority list. “Come on, Dad, you know I’m good. My last two operations were impossible surgeries…”

Improbable surgeries.”

Erika clamped her lips together again, forcing her argument to stay put. It wouldn’t do any good. Three years working alongside her father and she’d yet to prove herself. Despite two back-to-back improbable surgeries that she’d performed successfully, he still doubted her abilities. His micromanagement over her research team had driven her insane, but he’d reluctantly agreed to let her run her own set of clinical trials on the antirejection drug, and she’d foolishly believed she was making progress with him.

Now she was being forced into taking a break.

What the hell was a break? She hadn’t had one since starting university. She’d graduated with her bachelor’s in three years instead of four by doubling up on courses and then had applied directly to med school. She’d interned at Alaska General and secured a position there shortly after graduation. She couldn’t remember the last day she had off, let alone…she glanced at the letter. Two weeks?

What the hell would she do with all that free time?

Excerpted from An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow, Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Snow. Published by HQN Books.

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~Cassie

 

 

 

 

Holiday Blog Tour: Cowboy Christmas Redemption by Maisey Yates

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The book that I’m sharing with you today gave me all the feels and had me in tears by the end. Being a part of this blog tour has opened my eyes to new author’s that I will be actively be keeping my eye out for when I’m book shopping and I hope you have maybe found some gems too! I’m so grateful for Harlequin Trade Publishing for including me in their blog tours and click the links if you want to see what I thought of the books on Day One and Day Two. As always my review is 100% my own although all pictures and promotional information is courtesy of HQN Trade Publishing.

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COWBOY CHRISTMAS REDEMPTION

Author: Maisey Yates

ISBN: 9781335009906

Publication Date: 9/24/2019

Publisher: HQN Books

Book Summary


As snowflakes fall in Gold Valley, Oregon, will this rugged cowboy finally win the woman of his dreams?

Cowboy Caleb Dalton has loved single mom Ellie Bell, and her little daughter, Amelia, for years. But since Ellie is his best friend’s widow, Caleb’s head knows Ellie will always be strictly off-limits. If only his heart got the memo. So when Caleb discovers that Ellie has a Christmas wish list—and hopes for a kiss under the mistletoe—he’s throwing his cowboy hat into the ring. If anyone’s going to be kissing Ellie and sharing this magical time with her and her daughter, it’s him.

Ellie has dreaded the holidays since losing her husband. But this year, she’s finally ready to make some changes. She never expects the biggest change to be the heart-stopping kiss she shares with Caleb. For almost five years, Caleb has been her best friend, her rock, her salvation. This Christmas, can Caleb prove he’s also the missing puzzle piece of Ellie’s and Amelia’s hearts?

Review

The romance in this book is a beautiful, heartwarming, sexy, seriously hot tear jerker. When I started this book I had no idea of the roller coaster of emotions I was about to go on. The heartbreak that both Ellie and Caleb have gone through losing Ellie’s husband Clint five years ago is still something that they are both actively dealing with. Ellie is trying to figure out how to move forward in life since she has spent the last five years frozen in her grief. Caleb is grappling with the guilt he has been carrying since the first moment Caleb met Ellie and fell in instant love with her when Clint brought her to a family party.

Reading about Ellie confronting her grief and also her guilt about moving on and loving someone else gave me all the feels. She is also dealing with a lot of trauma from her crappy childhood with a mom that made her feel like she wasn’t worthy of love. My heart was so broken for Ellie and all of the pain and confusion that she was feeling. She really had a journey to go through to find her way to completely opening up her heart and Caleb was right there helping her along. They are hot and spicy together in the bedroom and I loved seeing them find their way to each other.

Caleb is also dealing with his own trauma with some family baggage and a not great relationship with his dad. There was an aspect of his story that centered around Ellie showing him that he had a learning disability his whole life that no one ever diagnosed or cared to find out why he was struggling so much in school. This part really resonated with me because my oldest has a language based delay and it was a nightmare getting the school to help. (Thankfully he has gotten help and is doing really well now!) But this book really touched me when it was talking about how not getting the help can affect your whole life. I also really felt for Caleb when he was trying to come to terms with his complicated relationship with Clint. He unconditionally loved Clint but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have any negative feelings toward Clint and his place in Caleb’s family. The best part of Caleb is his absolute devotion to and for Ellie and her daughter Amelia. I don’t think I have ever read a book with a man more dedicated to the woman he loves than Caleb.

I’m sure by now you know that I gave this book five stars and I cannot recommend this book more to you. This book is a part of series set in the same small town (I know you know that this in an automatic yes please from me) and I now need to read them all. I am a huge fan of this author after reading this book and you can check her out for yourself by scrolling down to read the Chapter Two excerpt below.

Maisey Yates

Author Bio

New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. 

Social Links

Author Website

Twitter: @maiseyyates

Facebook:@MaiseyYates.Author 

Instagram: @maiseyyates

Goodreads

Excerpt 

From Chapter Two

Caleb Dalton hadn’t had much to smile about for a long time. It had been a bear of a few years, since his best friend’s death, and while time might ease a wound, it wouldn’t ever bring Clint back.

But that permanence made space for movement, around the grief, around the pain. And finally toward a future he’d been planning for a long time.

Clint had been, honest to God, one of the best men on earth. The hole he’d left behind had been huge, and Caleb had dedicated himself to caring for his friend’s widow and child in his absence.

That had been his life, his whole life, for nearly five years. And it was fair, because it had been Ellie’s life, too.

He cared for Ellie. A hell of a lot. He’d met her because of Clint, but she’d been in his life now for more than ten years.

His feelings for Ellie were complicated. Had been from the beginning. But she’d been with Clint. And there was no doubt Clint was the better man. More than that, Clint was his brother. Maybe not in blood, but in every way that counted.

Caleb had never claimed to be a perfect friend. Clint was one of those people who’d drawn everyone right to him. He was easy to like. Caleb’s own parents had been bowled over by Clint from the time they were kids. 

And Caleb’s jealousy had gotten the better of him once when they’d been younger. Something that made him burn with shame even now.

He hadn’t let it happen when they’d been adults. No matter how tempting it had been. No matter how much he’d…

A muscle in his jaw ticked.

He gave thanks that there was a space in front of the Gold Valley Saloon, and he whipped his truck there up against the curb, ignoring the honk that came from behind him.

He turned around and saw Trevor Sanderson in his Chevy, giving Caleb the death glare.

“Hold your damn horses, Trevor,” he muttered as he put his truck in Park.

He should have been quicker.

Hell, that was life in a nutshell. Sometimes, you were just too late. For parking spots, and for women.

He’d tried to get that image out of his head. More times than he could count over the past decade. Had tried to erase that first time he’d seen Ellie.

It was at his parents’ barbecue. Late one summer afternoon.

He’d been talking and laughing with his brothers, and he’d lifted a beer to his lips and looked out away from the party. Then he’d frozen.

It was like the world had slowed down, all of it centering on the beautiful blonde walking toward him. The golden light from the sun illuminated her hair like a halo, and her smile seemed to light him up from the inside out.

As she’d gotten closer, he’d taken in every last detail. The way the left side of her cheek dimpled with that grin; her eyes, a mix of green and blue and a punch in the gut. Her lips were glossy pink, and he wondered if it was that stuff that women wore that smelled and tasted like cherries. He couldn’t decide if he hoped that it was or not.

Twenty years old, more experienced with women than he probably should be, and ready right then and there to drop down to his knees and propose marriage to the one walking in his direction.

It took him a full minute to realize that the beautiful blonde was holding hands with someone.

And that that someone was Caleb’s best friend on earth.

It was a surreal moment. It had been a sea change in his soul. When his feelings for Ellie had tipped over from nothing to everything.

A revelation he hadn’t been looking for, and one he sure as hell hadn’t enjoyed.

It was like the whole world had turned, then bucked, like a particularly nasty-ass bull, and left him sprawled out on the ground.

It had been the beginning of a thorny, painful set of years. As he’d gotten to know Ellie, as his feelings for her had become knit deep into his heart, into his soul. She’d become more than his friend’s woman, and more than a woman he’d desired. She’d become a friend to him.

In many ways he was thankful for the depth of the feeling, because it was the reason he’d been able to put aside the lust. The idea that he’d fallen in love with her at first sight.

When Clint had first started dating her, she’d been in school, so she hadn’t been around all the time. But during the summers, and on breaks, she came around with Clint. 

Went to the lake with them. Went fishing. Came to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The summers at the lake, though, that had been a particular kind of torture. All of them swimming out in the water, her and her swimsuit. A tiny bikini that had left little to the imagination.

And he had been so very interested in imagining all the things that it did conceal.

And he’d felt like the biggest, most perverse asshole.

Then there had been the time that Clint had asked him to take her out riding.

Just the two of them.

Because Clint trusted him. Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he trust his best friend? So he’d done it.

Had taken her out on the trails that wound behind the Dalton family property, up to the top of a mountain. And he looked over at the view with her, watched the sunset. And everything in him had wanted to lean over and kiss her on the mouth. To act on the feelings that were rioting through his chest.

For just a breath she’d looked back at him, met his eyes. And he’d thought maybe she’d wanted it, too.

Yeah, it would have exploded his relationship with Clint, but for a minute it seemed like it might be worth it.

Then she’d looked away. And then he’d come back to himself.

Clint was his brother. In every way but blood.

And he couldn’t betray his friend like that.

Anyway, Ellie loved Clint.

She didn’t love Caleb.

And no matter how much he might not want to, he had to respect that.

So he hadn’t kissed her. They had ridden back down that mountain, and nothing happened between them. But late at night, Caleb had taken himself in hand and fantasized that it had.

Two days later Clint and Ellie had been engaged.

Caleb had agreed to be the best man.

She’d married Clint. And while his feelings for her had remained, they’d shifted. As they’d had to.

He wasn’t perfect. He’d never touched Ellie. Not like a man touched a woman, though that hadn’t stopped him from going over the accidental brush of fingertips, of their elbows touching, over and over in his mind if it had happened on accident.

It hadn’t stopped him from keeping and cherishing secrets with her, even when he knew he shouldn’t. Hadn’t stopped him from pushing some boundaries that not even Ellie had realized he’d been pushing at.

Ellie was the one who’d realized, for the first time, that he was dyslexic. And he’d sworn her to secrecy. And in that secrecy had come secret reading lessons.

And he’d…well, he’d lost control of his own feelings again. And once he’d recognized that, he’d cut them off. Cut her off.

But then Clint had died, just a month later. And everything changed again.

Since then, his relationship with Ellie was about their coming together to try and fill the gap Clint had left behind. His helping where she needed it.

Helping with the house, with her grief, with Amelia.

That was all.
Excerpted from Christmas Cowboy Redemption by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2019 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

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~Cassie

Holiday Blog Tour: Christmas in Silver Springs by Brenda Novak

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I’m back today with a book that I absolutely loved! I am really enjoying putting together this themed week of posts and I will for sure be doing more of these in 2020. If you want to check out day one then click here. As always I want to thank Harlequin Trade Publishing for including me in this tour and all pictures and promotional information is courtesy of them. My review is 100% my own.

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CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS

Author: Brenda Novak

ISBN: 9780778308256

Publication Date: October 29, 2019

Publisher: MIRA BOOKS

BOOK SUMMARY

Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together. 

So much for forever. When Elle Devlin’s rockstar husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected packages when she crosses paths with Tobias Richardson.

The moment Tobias spots Elle, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Elle is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction, and a desire neither saw coming.

Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t divulge his ex-con status, let alone the shameful details. So when Elle’s ex shows up in Silver Springs and reveals the truth in a bid to win her back, Tobias is sure he’s lost her for good. But, just maybe, this Christmas he’ll receive the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.

Review

This book was an easy five star read for me because of how easily I fell in love with Tobias and Elle. They were both characters that I was rooting for and wanted them to realize that their past doesn’t have to define their whole lives. I obviously loved both of them individually but I also really enjoyed their romance. They were so honest with their feelings for each other and making sure that Elle was truly ready to move on.

Christmas in Silver Springs is the sixth book in a series set in Silver Springs and is a companion novel to the fifth book because they both contain the same set of characters (except for Elle and her family). I really enjoyed how well connected everyone is and all the drama that serves as the backdrop to Tobias’s backstory. My heart broke for Tobias and all the things he has gone through because of a terrible mistake he made as a teenager. He struggles so much with forgiving himself and also trying to heal from a broken childhood. He was a character that you can’t help but root for, especially since the way he treats Elle is what every man should strive to.

Elle also a great support system since she and her daughters are staying with her sister and her family. Elle’s sister is the voice of reason and most of the time she was saying what I was thinking. Elle is stuck trying to reconcile losing her husband and the family that she had built and having an unexpected connection with Tobias. The author does a really great job making the reader feel the pain Elle and Tobias are in. I just wanted to shake them and tell them that they deserve to be happy so just move on. But of course that’s not how real life works and the book was very authentic to that.

Make sure you scroll down and read the first chapter of this book to give you an idea of how wonderful Tobias and Elle are. I flew through this book and there is a reason that Brenda Novak is such a queen. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more books by her because I love the way she writes.

Novak_Brenda

BIO

Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, has penned over sixty novels. She is a six-time nominee for the RITA Award and has won the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Bookbuyer’s Best, and many other awards. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.5 million. For more about Brenda, please visit http://www.brendanovak.com.

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TWITTER: @Brenda_Novak

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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Friday, December 6

Tobias Richardson couldn’t help noticing the petite blonde sitting at the old-fashioned counter of the diner—and not just because she was pretty. He was sure he’d never seen her before. With a population of seven thousand, Silver Springs wasn’t small enough that he’d recognize everybody, especially because he’d only been living here for five months. The town seemed to have gotten a lot smaller since the weather turned, though. It didn’t snow in this part of California, but it was the rainy season and the region was experiencing colder than normal temperatures. Tourists weren’t interested in visiting when it was chill and damp, and the same went for the many residents of LA, ninety minutes to the southeast, who had vacation homes here. This month, and probably for the next two or three, he guessed Silver Springs would be limited to the locals.

He blew on his hands, trying to warm them while waiting for the coffee he’d ordered when he first sat down. He’d managed to squeeze in a hike after work. He didn’t care that it was dark and wet by the time he was on his way back. He had a 

headlight to guide him to the trailhead and was willing to put up with the rain. But he was chilled to the bone. After such an arduous hike, he was starving, too, and craving a hot shower.

Again, he glanced toward the counter. He didn’t want the woman to catch him staring, but something about her—besides her looks—drew his attention.

She didn’t seem happy…

“Here you go.” Willow Sanhurst, the barely eighteen-year-old girl who worked evenings at the Eatery, stepped between him and the woman who intrigued him, smiled broadly and put his cup on the table with a flourish. “Warming up yet?”

“Starting to.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been out hiking. It’s December!”

“Little bit of rain never hurt anybody.”

He’d traded out his muddy hiking books for a pair of clean shoes before coming into the restaurant. Other than that, he was only a little damp, so he wasn’t sure why she was making such a big deal of it.

“You must really like the outdoors.”

“I do,” he said.

“So do I.”

He got the impression he was supposed to follow that up with an invitation to go hiking with him sometime, but he didn’t.

Even though they’d already discussed his hike when he’d sat down and she’d brought him water, and the diner was full of people waiting for a chance to order, she didn’t move away as most waitresses would.

Before bringing the coffee to his lips, he looked up to see if there was something she needed.

As soon as their eyes met, she blushed a deep red, wiped her hands on her ruffled white apron and mumbled some remark about being careful not to burn himself—that the coffee was hot—before hurrying away.

Damn it. She had a crush on him. She’d clearly wanted to say something but hadn’t been able to gather the nerve, and that made him distinctly uncomfortable. After being released from prison in July he was committed to making better choices, to building a productive life. He couldn’t have some high school girl staring at him with the longing he saw shining in her eyes. If she started seriously pursuing him, he was afraid he’d end up in a bad situation just because he was so damn lonely.

With a sigh, he took a tentative sip of his coffee. This was his favorite place to eat—the comfort food and Norman Rockwell vibe reminded him of the wholesome existence he’d always secretly admired. But he’d have to quit coming here. He wouldn’t allow himself to be tempted. His brother, Maddox, said over and over that his first year out of prison would be the hardest, and although Tobias acted as though he was doing fine, that he had his life under control, his journey was not as sure-footed as he let on. Sometimes, especially late at night, he felt as though he’d been cast adrift on a vast ocean and might never find safe harbor. And that sense of being so small and insignificant made him crave the substances that had gotten him into trouble in the first place.

Willow kept looking over at him, obviously hoping to catch his eye. While he poured a dash of cream into his coffee, he considered canceling his meal. He could eat somewhere else—grab something to go and head home to shower. But just as he was about to slide out of the booth, his phone dinged with a text from Maddox, asking if he’d like to come over for dinner.

Already ate. Enjoy your night. See you at work tomorrow, he wrote back.

He knew his brother worried about him, was trying to help him adjust to life outside prison and didn’t want him to backslide and become like their mother. But Maddox had recently married the girl he’d loved since high school. He deserved to be alone with Jada, his new wife, who was now pregnant, and Maya, their daughter. The last thing Tobias wanted to do was get in the way of their relationship—again. It was because of him they hadn’t gotten together the first time around, and that had cost Maddox the first twelve years of Maya’s life.

As he slid his phone in his coat pocket, he saw that it was too late to cancel his food. Willow was once again coming toward him, this time carrying a plate.

“You texting your girlfriend?” she asked, flirting with him as she put down his meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

He allowed himself another glance at the blonde sitting at the counter. Her meal had come, too, and yet she held her fork, turning it over and over in one hand, staring at her food without taking a bite.

“Did you hear me?” Willow asked.

Putting his napkin in his lap, he picked up his fork. “I’m sorry. What’d you say?”

She looked over her shoulder in the direction he’d been looking and lowered her voice. “I see you’ve noticed Harper.”

“Harper?” he repeated.

“Yeah, Harper Devlin—Axel Devlin’s wife. She’s been in here before.”

“Who’s Axel Devlin?”

“Are you kidding me? He’s the lead singer of Pulse. They’re, like…the biggest band on the planet!”

He’d heard of Pulse, was familiar with their music and liked it. He’d also heard the name of the band’s lead singer many times. He’d just never dreamed Willow could be referring to that Axel Devlin—although there was no good reason why she couldn’t be. A lot of celebrities came to artsy, spiritually focused Silver Springs. Quite a few, especially movie people, retired here. And he often interacted with Hudson King, a professional football player, at New Horizons Boys Ranch, where he worked doing grounds and building maintenance. Hudson did a lot to help the troubled teens who attended the boarding school—both the boys’ side and the recently built girls’ school on the same property. He’d donated the money to buy an ice-skating rink both sides could use. “Do they live in the area?”

“No. She and her two kids are staying with her sister for the holidays. I overheard her talking to the owner.”

“She looks a little…” When he let his words trail off, Willow jumped in to finish the sentence.

“Depressed?”

“I was going to say ‘lost.’”

“Probably is. I watched an interview with Axel a few months ago. He said they were splitting up. Maybe that’s why.”

It was none of his business, but Tobias couldn’t help asking, “Did he give a reason?”

She seemed to like that they’d found something to talk about that wasn’t so strained and awkward for her. “Blamed it on the travel. He has to be gone too much. Yada, yada. What else is he going to say? That he’s cheating with a different girl every night?” she added with a laugh.

Tobias felt bad for Harper. It couldn’t be easy to be married to a rock star. She wasn’t that old, likely hadn’t been prepared for that kind of life. If Tobias remembered correctly, Axel was from a small town in Idaho, and he and his band had become famous almost overnight. Now he was sitting on top of the world.

But where did that leave her?

“You said they have kids?” he asked.

“Yeah. Two little girls. I don’t remember their ages—maybe eight and six? Something like that.”

So Harper had married Axel before he’d become a big success, and they’d started a family. That indicated she’d married for love. “Where are the kids?”

“With her sister, I guess.” Willow lowered her voice. “It would suck to be her, right? I mean, she has to see his name and his face everywhere, can’t escape the constant reminder.”

Now that he wasn’t paying as much attention to Willow’s hopeful smiles and nervousness when she was around him, Tobias could see others in the restaurant nudging their companions and pointing to Harper. Apparently a lot of people knew who she was—or word was spreading fast.

Poor thing. He understood what it was like to be the talk of the town. He’d been only seventeen when he’d been prosecuted as an adult and jailed for thirteen years. Returning to Silver Springs after his release this past summer had been like being put under a microscope. Suffering privately was one thing. Suffering publicly was something else entirely. That took what she was going through to a whole new level.

“Shouldn’t be too hard for her to find someone else.” He said it as though he wasn’t particularly invested, but Harper had caught his eye, hadn’t she?

“Are you kidding me?” Willow responded again. “How will anyone else ever compare?”

She had a point. It would be tough for a regular guy to match Axel, financially and otherwise. “True.”

You’re not interested in her, are you?” Willow looked slightly crestfallen.

Apparently he hadn’t been as careful to hide his feelings as he’d thought. But he was an ex-con, making a modest wage working for a correctional school. He’d never known his father, and his mother was a meth addict, constantly in and out of rehab. He knew when he was out of his league. “No.”

“Good.” A relieved smile curved her lips. “Because I’ve been watching you for a while and…well… I hope there’s someone else in this restaurant you might be interested in.” She finished in a rush, couldn’t quite look at him and then hurried away—only to return with a slip of paper that had her number on it when she brought the check.

Harper shoved her garlic mashed potatoes from one side of her plate to the other as she listened to the hum of voices in the diner. Although surrounded by people, she’d never felt so alone.

“I’ve got a number five,” the cook barked out for the waitresses.

Harper checked the menu, which she’d left open at her elbow so she’d have something to look at. It was difficult to go out in public right now. After the documentary she did with Axel last year, trying to remove the stigma of depression and using a therapist when necessary, people often recognized her, so she had little privacy.

A number five was a chicken breast with lemon-dill sauce, steamed vegetables and a gluten-free corn muffin. She’d ordered a number seven—peppercorn steak, garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, which had sounded good at first, but the only thing she’d been able to make herself eat was part of the dinner roll. She doubted it was gluten-free. Axel had made a big deal about staying away from gluten, but he was allergic to it, not her. And although she thought it was probably wise to avoid it, she didn’t care about her diet right now. She didn’t care about much of anything since her marriage had unraveled. It’d been all she could do just to hold herself together for the sake of her kids, and now Christmas would be here in only three weeks. It would be her and the girls’ first Christmas without Axel. He was touring Europe and wouldn’t be back until after the first of the year, since his last big concert was scheduled for New Year’s Eve.

Now that everything had changed between them, they wouldn’t have spent the holidays as they had in the past, anyway.

He might’ve asked to take the girls, however.

She could only imagine how lonely she would have felt with them gone, and yet…she sort of wished he had taken them. She didn’t feel capable of holding up her end, of putting on a brave face and telling their children that everything was going to be okay when it felt as though the ground had given way beneath her feet. She had no interest in decorating, putting up a tree or buying presents, which was why her sister had insisted she come

for an extended visit, even if it meant having the girls transfer schools for a couple of months. Piper and Everly were at a church Christmas party tonight with their cousins—twin girls who were older than Everly by four years. But Harper needed to be ready to face them with a smile when they came home.

Her phone vibrated in her pocket, but she didn’t bother to get it out. No doubt it was her sister. They’d had an argument before Harper stormed out of the house. Karoline had grown angry when Harper told her how little she was getting for child support. According to her sister, she was letting Axel off far too easy.

He was making a fortune, but Harper didn’t want to fight. She was still in love with him. As soon as he’d made it clear that he didn’t want to be married to her anymore, that he was no longer willing to try to work through their differences, she’d settled for the first figure his lawyer had thrown out. Otherwise, she was afraid the media would start to claim they were going through a “bitter” divorce. As she’d told Karoline, she’d make it on her own somehow, even though she hadn’t worked in an official capacity since the first three years of her marriage, when Axel was trying so hard to get a start in show business and he’d needed her to cover their basic living expenses.

Maybe she was a fool to be so accommodating. But she couldn’t imagine Axel would consider keeping the family together if she turned into a bitch. Besides, she didn’t even know who he was anymore, he’d changed so much. She couldn’t decide what she had a right to demand. Had she let Axel down? Or had he let her down? He’d always suffered from anxiety and depression. Maybe she hadn’t done enough to help him—

“Is everything okay?”

She forced herself to look up. The waitress working the counter had paused in front of her, obviously wondering if there was something wrong with the food.

“Fine,” Harper mumbled. She hadn’t really come to eat. She just needed some time alone, couldn’t face going back to her

sister’s quite yet. As nice as it was of Karoline to provide a refuge during this difficult month, being with her only sibling wasn’t much easier than being alone, because now she had to constantly explain and justify her actions. And with her emotions zinging all over the place, she wasn’t being consistent, couldn’t be consistent. Most of the time, she wasn’t even making a whole lot of sense.

Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” came on the sound system as the waitress moved on to her other customers.

Harper took a sip of her coffee and braved a quick glance around. Although she liked this restaurant, she didn’t feel she belonged in Silver Springs. Why wasn’t she in Denver, where she and Axel had lived after their college days at Boise State?

Because as much as she and Axel had once believed that they’d be the exception to the rule, that nothing could come between them, they’d been wrong. Slowly but surely, Axel had lost all perspective and started caring more about his work than he did his family. Fame had destroyed their relationship like so many celebrities before them.

With a sigh, she took the bill the waitress had put near her plate and paid at the register. She owed her sister more respect than to make her worry. She had to go back and face Karoline whether she wanted to or not.

Harper hadn’t put on makeup for weeks, hadn’t done anything with her hair, either, other than to pile it in a messy bun on her head, so it didn’t bother her that it was raining. She was cold, though; couldn’t seem to get warm. Tightening her oversize coat—a castoff of Axel’s from the good old days when they were first married—she pushed out of the warm café into the bad weather.

Putting her head down, she stared at her feet, bracing against the gusts of wind that whipped at her hair and clothes while stepping over two or three puddles to reach the Range Rover 

Axel had let her keep when they split. If she got desperate, she supposed she could sell it. It had cost a pretty penny.

She was opening the driver’s door when she noticed a tall, lanky man with longish dark hair crossing the lot toward her.

“Don’t be frightened,” he said, lifting one hand in a gesture intended to show he wasn’t being aggressive. “I just… I saw you inside and…”

Prepared to rebuff him, she set her jaw. She was not in the mood to be hit on. But when she met his eyes, something about his expression told her that wasn’t what this was about. Taking a long-stemmed white rose from inside his coat, he stepped forward to give it to her.

“Hang in there. It’ll get easier,” he said. Then he walked off before she could even ask for his name. 

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~Cassie