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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Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

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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.

Buy Links 

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Target 

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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.

SOCIAL

TWITTER: @Brenda_Novak

FB: @BrendaNovakAuthor

Insta: @authorbrendanovak 

Goodreads

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

 

Holiday Blog Tour: Christmas from the Heart

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I’m so excited to be a part of the Harlequin Trade Publishing holiday blog tour. For the rest of this week I will be sharing my review of all the romance books that I have read so far this year. The next four days will be for this blog tour and this weekend will be a couple of short story holiday romances that I have recently finished. I hope that you come back daily for all the holiday romance goodness!

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Title: Christmas from the Heart

Author: Sheila Roberts

On Sale Date: September 24, 2019

$16.99 USD, $21.99 CAD

Fiction / Romance / Contemporary

304 pages

Summary

USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts takes readers to a small, snowbound town, where a young woman fights to save her family’s charity that brings Christmas to families in need, and a stranded millionaire loses his heart and finds the true meaning of Christmas.

Sometimes you need to look beyond the big picture to see what really matters

Olivia Berg’s charity, Christmas from the Heart, has helped generations of families in need in Pine River, Washington, but this year might be the end of the road. Hightower Enterprises, one of their biggest donors since way back when Olivia’s grandmother ran the charity, has been taken over by Ebenezer Scrooge the Second, aka CFO Guy Hightower, and he’s declared there will be no more money coming to Christmas from the Heart.

Guy is simply being practical. Hightower Enterprises needs to tighten its belt, and when you don’t have money to spare, you don’t have money to share. You’d think even the pushy Olivia Berg could understand that.

With charitable donations dwindling, Olivia’s Christmas budget depends on Hightower’s contribution. She’s focused her whole life on helping this small town, even putting her love life on hold to support her mission.

When Guy’s Maserati breaks down at the edge of the Cascade foothills, he’s relieved to be rescued by a pretty young woman who drives him to the nearby town of Pine River. Until he realizes his rescuer is none other than Olivia Berg. What’s a Scrooge to do? Plug his nose and eat fruitcake and hope she doesn’t learn his true identity before he can get out of town. What could go wrong?

Review

This is such a great feel good holiday romance. This book has a small town setting that you all know that I love and the romance is so sweet. I love that Livi and Guy have such different lifestyles yet when they start to get to know each other they have such a great connection. The author’s choice to have Livi run a Christmas charity was such a great one because it really showcases just how difficult this time of year can be for so many people. This book’s message about how important it is to give to others who don’t have as much was done in a really great way that it doesn’t come across as preachy at all.

A real highlight of this story for me was Guy Hightower. He is a Scrooge character who prioritizes the needs of his company over giving to charity because he has a plan to help his company expand. Once he starts building a friendship with Livi and starts to see things from her perspective his heart and mind start to change. I just really enjoyed his character so much and I loved his integrity even if he was keeping his identity a secret.

The low point of this story was Livi’s “friendship” with her ex boyfriend, Morris. She is basically stringing this poor man along because she knows how he feels about her and she still hangs out with him one on one. Then something else happens with Morris later on in the book and it REALLY rubbed me the wrong way. I understand the conflict the author was creating but for me it just didn’t work. I can appreciate though that other people might enjoy it a lot more than me.

If you are in the market for a small town, feel good romance with a swoon worthy man then I definitely recommend this book. This book also had me craving all the Christmas cookies and there are a few recipes at the end of the book that I want to try. Especially the eggnog coffee cake! Also keep scrolling to read a fun excerpt from the first chapter.

Sheila Roberts

Author Bio:

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have been published in several languages. Her book, Angel Lane, was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her novel, The Nine Lives of Christmas, was made into a movie for Hallmark . You can visit Sheila on Twitter and Facebook or at her website (http://www.sheilasplace.com).

Social Links:

Author website

Facebook: @funwithsheila

Twitter: @_Sheila_Roberts

Instagram: @funwithsheila

Excerpt

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart 

Date: 2-14-19 

To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises 

Subject: Holiday Joy

 Dear Ms. Thompson, 

Happy Valentine’s Day to you! I’m following up our January newsletter with a special greeting as this is, of course, the month for love. Love for our sweethearts, our family and friends, and for those in need. As you could see from the newsletter, we put the money our loyal supporters donated to us to good use. So many families benefited from your generous donation to Christmas from the Heart last year and I just wanted to remind you that, even though the holidays seem far away they will be here before we know it. I hope we can count on Hightower Enterprises again this year. We have such a history together. Let’s keep up the good work! 

Warmly, 

Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart 

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises 

Date: 2-14-19 

To: Ms. Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart 

Subject: Holiday Joy

Dear Ms. Berg, 

Thanks for reaching out. Our fiscal year is just ending and I haven’t yet received word as to how our charitable donations will be dispersed this year. I will keep you apprised. 

Best, Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 2-14-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Subject: Holiday Joy

Thank you so much. Looking forward to hearing from you! 

Olivia Berg 

Christmas from the Heart 

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-1-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Subject: Happy May Day!

Dear Ms. Thompson, just wanted to wish you a happy May Day. The flowers here in Pine River are now in full bloom, and our organization has been busy helping people make their dreams bloom, as well. As you know, while our focus is primarily the holidays, Christmas from the Heart tries to help people all year round when needs arise. Of course, Christmas is our big thrust, and as there is no other organization working in this area, we are much needed. As are your kind contributions. I still haven’t heard and I do hope we can count on you.

Warmly, 

Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson

Subject: Just checking

Reaching out again in case my last email went astray. I’m wondering if you have any news for me regarding Hightower’s involvement with our cause for this coming year.

Thanks!

Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Olivia Berg

Subject: Just checking

Ms. Berg, sorry I haven’t been able to get back to you sooner. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. It appears that the company is going to be scaling back on their charitable giving this year and funds have already been budgeted for other causes. I’m aware of the fact that in the past we’ve donated to your organization and I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you. I do wish you all the best in your search for other funding.

Best, 

Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson

Subject: Just checking

There must be some sort of misunderstanding! Hightower has always donated to Christmas from the Heart. The company’s founder, Elias Hightower, was my great-grandmother’s first contributor, and he promised her that Hightower would always be there for this organization. This is a company tradition! Please speak to your director.

Hopefully, 

Olivia Berg 

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Olivia Berg

Subject: Just checking

I’m sorry. The decision is out of my hands.

Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson

Subject: Just checking

Then please tell me who I need to talk to. Who’s your CFO?

Olivia Berg 

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Olivia Berg

Subject: Just checking

Our CFO is Guy Hightower, and his email is ghightower@hightowerenterprises.com

Good luck!

Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Guy Hightower, CFO, Hightower Enterprises 

Subject: Please reconsider

Dear Mr. Hightower, I understand from your corporate social resources director that Hightower isn’t planning on making any donation to Christmas from the Heart this year. There must be some mistake! Surely you’re aware of the long-standing relationship between your company and our organization. I’m sure I can count on you for some small amount. 

Best, Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

Guy Hightower frowned when he saw the email from Olivia Berg in his in-box. Marla Thompson had been forwarding her emails to him, keeping him abreast of Olivia Berg’s varied begging tactics, and had finally even come into his office, trying to dump the load of guilt the woman had laid on her from her shoulders to his.

“Don’t open it,” he told himself. He opened it anyway. Then he read it and swore.

Actually, he’d been swearing ever since meeting with his brothers to discuss the budget back in December. If either of them had listened to him three years ago, they wouldn’t be having to pull the company belt so tight now. This was the problem with being the youngest. It didn’t matter how many degrees you had, how smart you were or what your job title was. Big brothers never listened.

Hard to listen when you were going through your third divorce.

That was Mike’s excuse. What was Bryan’s? Oh yeah. He was a wuss. He always agreed with Mike, no matter what. And Mike hadn’t wanted to change directions. Never mind that the company was struggling, keep on doing the same thing. The definition of insanity.

Sorry, Little Miss Christmas. Times were tough all over. Hightower had kept its commitment to the more visible causes and turned the little fish loose. And that was how it worked in the corporate world.

He typed his reply.

Dear Ms. Berg, I regret that Hightower can’t help you this year. We’ve had to reassess our commitments to various causes. I’m sure you’ll understand.

Then he signed off with the time-honored adios: Respectfully, Guy Hightower.

And if she didn’t understand, well, not his problem. He had his hands full trying to keep the family company afloat. Maybe now Mike would be ready to take his advice and diversify.

 

Olivia Berg—Livi to her family and friends—read the email from Guy Hightower a second time. Yes, the message was the same. Really? Really? Who was this man, Ebenezer Scrooge the Second?

She plowed her fingers through her hair, the birthstone ring Morris had given her for her birthday catching in the curls. She was so angry she barely noticed.

With a snarl, she began to type.

You should be ashamed. Your great-grandfather is probably turning in his grave right now. What’s the matter with you, anyway, you selfish bastard?

She pulled her fingers off the keyboard with a gasp. What was she thinking? Was this any way to get someone to contribute to her cause? And what kind of language was this? Her great-grandmother would be turning in her grave right now, along with Elias. Adelaide Brimwell had been a lady through and through. So had Livi’s grandmother, Olivia, as well as Livi’s mom. 

The thought of her mother made her tear up. How she wished Mom was still around to advise her. They’d always planned that Livi would take over running the organization one day, but neither had dreamed that day would come so soon. Her mother’s heart attack had struck like lightning. Livi’s brother had left town, moving to Seattle, which was just far enough south to keep the memories at bay. Livi had stayed put, holding on to every single one, weaving them together into a lifeline to cling to as she kept Christmas from the Heart afloat.

Oh, Mom. What should I do?

Try again came the answer.

Yes, her mother never gave up. She’d chased one potential donor for two years before he finally came through. Livi still remembered the day her mom left the house, clad in a Mrs. Santa costume she’d created—requisite white wig along with a frilly white blouse and a red skirt topped with a red-striped apron. She’d taken with her a batch of home-baked cookies nestled in a red basket and returned home with a check for five hundred dollars. The man had been a loyal contributor ever since. Livi still took him cookies every year.

“Persistence pays,” she told herself as she deleted what she’d typed.

She started over.

I’m asking you to reconsider. Your company is our major donor, and without you so many people will have little joy this Christmas. Any amount you can give will be greatly appreciated.

There. He’d have to be a heartless monster not to respond to that.

Guy trashed the guilt-inflicting email. What was he, Santa Claus? He had his hands full keeping his company solvent.

But then, people like Olivia Berg never considered the fact that a company might have needs of its own. What made them feel so entitled to sit at the edge of the salt mine while a man slaved away and then greet him with their hands out when he emerged broken and bruised? Maybe some of those people always begging for money should get out there and actually earn a living. Let them work their tails off, putting in seventy-hour weeks. Sheesh.

Anyway, the company had already met their good deed quota for the year. The only cause Guy was interested in now was Hightower Enterprises.

By the end of the workday, Guy Hightower still hadn’t responded to Livi’s last email. “You are a heartless monster,” she grumbled, glaring at her empty email in-box.

“No word yet?” her part-time assistant, Bettina Thomas, asked as she shut down her computer.

Livi sighed and shook her head.

“That is so wrong,” Bettina said in disgust.

It sure was. “They’ve been our major donor ever since my great-grandmother founded Christmas from the Heart. Without their contribution how will we put on the Christmas dinner at the community center? How many families won’t have presents under the tree or Christmas stockings or a Christmas turkey?” There was no Salvation Army in Pine River, no Toys for Tots— none of the usual organizations serviced this area. There had been no need. Christmas from the Heart had it under control.

Until now.

“We’ve had to reassess our commitments,” Livi quoted. The words left a bad taste in her mouth and she frowned. “It sounds like something your boyfriend says when he’s dumping you.”

“They are dumping us,” Bettina pointed out. “But don’t worry. We have time. We’ll find someone else to come through.”

“Not like Hightower. There must be something I can do,” Livi mused.

“There is. Go home and eat chocolate.”

And try not to think bad thoughts about Guy Hightower.

In all fairness, he probably didn’t grasp the situation. She’d call him the next day and invite him to come to Pine River for a visit so she could let him see the need, show him a little of what Christmas from the Heart did for the community. She could take him to lunch, introduce him to some of the people in town, put a face—or better yet, several—to Christmas from the Heart. She’d top it all off by following in her mother’s footsteps and baking him cookies. Then how could he help but catch the vision his great-grandfather and her great-grandmother had shared?

Yes, that would do it. Sometimes you had to be a little patient, give people a second chance.

Excerpted from Christmas From the Heart by Sheila Roberts. Copyright © 2019 by Roberts Ink LLC. Published by MIRA Books. 

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~Cassie

 

 

Blog Tour: The Last Affair by Margot Hunt

Thank you to Harlequinn Trade Publishing for including me in this blog tour. I was gifted a copy of The Last Affair to read in exchange for my honest review. 

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Author: Margot Hunt

ISBN: 9780778309222

Publication Date: November 26, 2019

Publisher: MIRA BOOKS

Pages: 336

Rating: 5/5

BOOK SUMMARY: 

Gwen Landon—poster woman for perfect wife, mother, and suburban bliss—is found brutally bludgeoned to death behind her Floridian McMansion. Beautiful and beloved by her community, Gwen makes an unlikely victim. But just a scratch below the surface of her perfectly curated world reveals one far more sinister. When looking back over the six months leading up to her death, the question of, “who would do this?” quickly shifts to, “who wouldn’t?” 

Commercially successful food blogger and mother of three, Nora Holliday never imagined she would have the nerve, let alone time, to get involved an affair. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she does whatever it takes to keep it all together. But when Nora runs into Gwen Landon’s husband at a hotel in Orlando, his easy kindness and warmth proves too tempting to resist. As their affair spirals dangerously out of control, it seems things can’t get more complicated—until Gwen turns up dead.

Review:

This is a really well crafted suspense novel. We start out the first chapter with the police investigating Gwen’s murder and then we go back six months and start building up to that point. There are so many threads to this story that make this book so compulsively readable because you just want to know who kills Gwen and why. There are a few obvious suspects but there are also side characters who seem nefarious so I honestly had no clue who is was going to be.

This book is told in three different perspectives: Nora, Gwen and Gwen’s daughter, Abby. All three are dealing with terrible relationships that are fractured and they each deal with them in different ways. Gwen was the most interesting character to me especially since we know from the beginning how her story ends. Gwen is not a likable character but I found the way Hunt wrote her refreshing and I always looked forward to her chapters. Abby is more of a plot device, which I’m not saying is a negative thing, I just didn’t really connect to her character. Nora was a great character. Obviously as a blogger I really appreciated that part of her life and it definitely was a big reason why I connected to her so early on. The way the three of their stories interconnected and wove together are why this book is so successful. Their points of view are running parallel to each other and then the closer we got to the end the more they started weaving into each other and it was just exceptionally well done.

The part that really made me fall in love with this book is that it is so much more than just your average domestic story where someone is killed and we are trying to figure it out. Instead this book is more like a contemporary with the suspense building along with the story. Hunt really delves into motherhood, marriage, adulthood, the everyday stress we all deal with and does it in such a perfect way that it doesn’t take away from the bigger story. Some domestic mystery/suspense/thriller’s can feel really flat or one dimensional but this one is like a perfectly well told story that I think so many people will love.  If you are the fence or just want to know more then please scroll down to read the prologue of this book. Just know that the book builds deliciously from that point on.

BIO: Margot Hunt is a critically acclaimed author of psychological suspense. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews.

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SOCIAL:

TWITTER: @HuntAuthor

FB: @AuthorMargotHunt

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Goodreads

Excerpt 

Prologue

Other than the woman’s blood-covered body splayed facedown in the grass, it could have been any typical upscale Floridian backyard.

There was the ubiquitous pool with a water fountain feature, a patio furnished with both a dining set and outdoor sectional couch, and an enormous gas grill capable of cooking hamburgers by the dozen. A large pergola with a tropical vine trained over it covered part of the patio. The dining area was shaded by a black-and-white-striped awning. It was the very picture of suburban domestic bliss. It could have been the set for a commercial advertising anything from laundry detergent to allergy medicine.

Again, except for the dead body.

The area had already been taped off. The first officers on the scene appeared with an ambulance in response to a frantic 911 call placed by the woman’s daughter. The paramedics had assessed the situation, and quickly determined that the woman was dead. The fact that the back of her head had been bashed in with what looked like a paving stone, conveniently dropped next to her prone body, made it immediately clear that it had not been a natural death. The responding officers called the sheriff, who responded by sending in a full investigative team. The medical examiner was now doing a preliminary examination of the body, while police officers combed the area for additional evidence. Two detectives, Mike Monroe and Gavin Reddick—separated by twenty years and sixty pounds—were overseeing the operation, standing at the edge of the patio under the shade of the pergola. It was the third week in April, but this was South Florida and the temperature had already climbed into the low nineties.

“The paving stone came from the stack out in the front yard. They were delivered last week by the company who’s installing the driveway,” Detective Reddick said. He was the younger of the two men and had a wiry frame and angular face.

“Weapon of convenience. Suggests it wasn’t premeditated,” Detective Monroe said. He had a ruddy complexion and a full head of thick dark hair, swept back off his face. A strand never moved out of place, even in a strong wind.

“Plus he dropped the weapon, rather than taking it with him. Probably panicked.”

“Could be a she,” Monroe said mildly.

Reddick shrugged. “Blunt force trauma to the back of the head? You know the stats. Overwhelming likelihood that it’s a man, and probably someone the victim was intimately involved with. Husband, maybe a boyfriend.”

“The husband was with the daughter when she called it in.”

“Doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, and then had her place the call.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

The family had been sequestered indoors, both to keep them out of the way, and so that the officers waiting in the house with them could observe anything they did or said. Other than the husband, there was a daughter in her early twenties and a teenage son. The daughter was reportedly distraught, while the husband and son had both been eerily quiet. It was possible they were in shock.

“Do we have an ID on the victim?” Reddick asked.

“It’s her house,” Monroe grunted.

“Yeah, but I like doing things the official way, you know? I’s dotted, t’s crossed, all of that. Building a case, basic detective work.”

Despite the chilling scene in front of them—the woman’s body still sprawled on the grass, the back of her head a pulpy, bloody mess—the corner of Monroe’s mouth quirked up in a half smile. “Sure, kid, tell me all about basic detective work. I’ve only been doing this for, what…thirty-two years now? The husband ID’d her. Victim is Gwen Landon, age forty-nine. Married, mother of two. Husband said she hasn’t had any recent conflict with anyone.”

“Other than the person who caved in the back of her head with a paving stone,” Reddick pointed out.

“Wouldn’t be the first time a husband didn’t know his wife as well as he thought he did.”

“Possible. But there’s another possibility, too.”

“What’s that?”

Reddick turned to look at his partner. His eyes were small and dark, and he had a habit of squinting when he concentrated intently on something.

“The husband is a liar,” Reddick said.

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~Cassie

Blog Tour: All Fired Up by Lori Foster

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I’m back today with my third book for the Harlequin Romance tour and this one is another five star read! My previous posts for this tour can be found here and here. I was sent a copy of All Fired Up for free in exchange for my honest review. All information in this post, other than my review which, as always, is 100% mine :), was sent to me for this post. Now that the “bookkeeping” is over with lets get on with the good stuff!

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On Sale: Nov 19, 2019

All Fired Up (Paperback)

by Lori Foster

ISBN: 9781335505071

Imprint: HQN Books

Categories: Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Series: Road to Love

SUMMARY:

He’s tantalizing trouble she can’t resist…

Charlotte Parrish has always wanted a certain kind of man: someone responsible, settled, boring. Bad boys need not apply. But when her car leaves her stranded and a mysterious stranger with brooding eyes and a protective streak comes to her rescue, she can’t deny how drawn she is to him. In town searching for family he’s never met, Mitch is everything she never thought she wanted—and suddenly everything she craves.

Finding his half brothers after all these years is more than Mitch Crews has allowed himself to wish for. Finding love never even crossed his mind…until he meets Charlotte. She’s sweet, warmhearted, sexier than she knows—and too damn good for an ex-con like him. But when his past comes back to haunt him, putting Charlotte—and the family he’s come to care for—in danger, Mitch isn’t playing by the rules. He’s already surrendered his heart, but now he’ll risk his life.

Review

This book was so good! Mitch is a good guy with a dark complex background which makes him such a real person. He isn’t one dimensional and I appreciated that. Charlotte is such a sweet, feisty, and compassionate woman. She is someone you can’t help but admire and root for. The connection between Mitch and Charlotte was immediate but they took their time and the heat between them just continues to build. Their romance is sexy, sweet, hot, beautiful and intense.

Mitch’s relationship with his newfound family was amazingly well written. Mitch has been desperately needing family or just anyone to care about him and when he finds this group of people who immediately accept him he doesn’t know how to deal with it. It was fascinating watching Mitch come to terms with the open door that his brother’s and their mom have left open for him.

All Fired Up is a third book in a series and the other two books follow Mitch’s brothers, Brodie and Jack. So the cast of characters in this book are already well fleshed out and I loved all of them. I definitely want to go back and read the previous two books because I want to read more from this amazing family. The way the family loves each other, supports each other, and teases each other makes them one of the most heart warming families I have ever read. I also need to mention how cute the dogs in this book are. Mitch has a dog, Brute, with his own dark background and like Mitch he is slow to warm up. And just like Mitch’s brothers, their dogs are there to thaw out Brute and give him companionship.

I highly recommend this book to all my fellow romance lovers. Especially to those who enjoy small town romances. This book does take place in a small town but I’m saying it more because of how close this family is. If you don’t particularly enjoy romance but like contemporaries and are wanting to branch out a little I think this book is perfect for that. If I still haven’t convinced you how good this book is then scroll down below and check out the first chapter of this book!

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AUTHOR BIO:

Lori Foster is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author with books from a variety of publishers, including Berkley/Jove, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin and Silhouette. Lori has been a recipient of the prestigious RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy, and for Contemporary Romance. For more about Lori, visit her Web site at www.lorifoster.com.

Excerpt

From CHAPTER ONE

The warm, muggy night closed around him, leaving his shirt damp in places. Sweat prickled the back of his neck. Inside Freddie’s he’d find air-conditioning, but he’d never again take fresh air for granted. He valued every single breath of humid air that filled his lungs.

The moon climbed the black sky as time slipped by. How much time, he didn’t know: he’d stopped keeping track the second he saw her.

Headlights from the occasional passing car came near him but didn’t intrude on the shadows where he stood.

Transfixed by her.

Damn, he wanted that mouth.

In the short time he’d locked eyes on her, a dozen fantasies had formed—most of them based on her naked lips, the way she occasionally pursed them, how she twisted her lips to the side in frustration, even how she blew out a breath. The whole package was nice…but it was her mouth that kept him unmoving, staring. Imagining.

Slight of build, she served as a bright spot in the dark gloom. Understated and yet something struck him as undeniably sexy.

Once he’d noticed her, he couldn’t look away.

After speaking softly into a phone, she bit her plump bottom lip, and her expression showed frustrated defeat.

The lady had made several consecutive calls. Was she in need of assistance? Given the way she’d circled a car, occasionally glaring at it, he thought she did. Judging by her frown, there wouldn’t be any help on the way.

Since getting out of prison a year ago, Mitch had spent an excess of time with women. Hell, next to fresh air, freedom and steak, sex topped his list. He’d immersed himself in human contact, the gentleness, the carnality.

He’d taken satisfaction in pleasing someone else while abating a base need. Hell, watching a woman come gave him as much pleasure as his own release.

So he’d gotten his fill and then some—all while making plans to change the course of his life. To make it better. To carve out a meaningful future.

Here he was, where he needed to be, determined, resolute… and sidetracked by a gorgeous woman.

That in itself left him edgy with curiosity. No other woman had snagged his attention this way. He knew zip about her, and yet seeing her had heat building beneath his skin.

He tried to look away, but his attention kept zeroing back.

Freaking bizarre.

It was like seeing something you hadn’t known you wanted, but immediately recognizing it as necessary.

Even dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and flip-flops, he knew the lady had nothing in common with him. Innocence all but screamed from her slender body and reserved manner. To someone with his jaded background, that put her in the “do not touch” category.

His fingers curled and his palms burned. Yeah, he wanted to touch her despite that.

And he didn’t look away.

From the shadowed corner just outside the bar, he watched her thumb dial another number into her phone. While holding the phone to her ear, she paced. The overhead glow of the security light touched her in select places, alternately highlighting and then shadowing her understated curves.

High cheekbones framed a slender, straight nose. She tucked a few drifting curls behind a small ear. Though rounded, he saw the mulish determination in her stubborn little chin.

And that mouth…thoughts of it under his mouth—and on his body—tightened his jaw until his molars ached.

For the first time in years, he wondered if he could put off his agenda for a bit, say something to her, see if there was something between them despite the seemingly obvious roadblocks.

Opposites attract, and all that.

He’d made this trip a center point for a new future.

In this Podunk town he’d subtly uncovered what he could about Brodie and Jack Crews. That was the priority after all. Moving forward, leaving the past behind. It started with the Crews brothers. Hitting the bar tonight might have gained him more insight into them.

But would a slight detour—the type with long curly brown hair and a sweet little body—matter so much?

If he listened to his dick, the answer was no. His balls were giving a resounding “go for it” as well.

His head though… Hell, his head claimed he could afford a delay. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t matter.

Since arriving in town, he’d discovered that the men were well liked, each of them married, and they had an odd but interesting business called Mustang Transport. Locals claimed they dealt with mundane shit as well as serial killers and psychopaths. Somewhere in the middle, the truth lurked.

He’d also heard about their mother. He’d been hearing about her for as long as he could remember. For very different reasons she interested him almost as much as Brodie and Jack.

He had no connection to Rosalyn Crews, but meeting the men felt important in a way nothing else ever had. He couldn’t explain it, even to himself. He’d gone through life making damn sure he needed no one, and that he wanted only for things he could get for himself.

Now, much as it chapped his ass, he wanted something else— and it depended on Brodie and Jack Crews.

It didn’t have to happen right away, though. He wouldn’t mind burning off some energy before making that initial contact—especially if he could convince this woman to give him a few hours of her time.

He noted every small movement as she spoke into her phone. He couldn’t catch every word, but the low murmur of her voice stroked over him. He was pretty sure she left a message.

Suddenly she held the phone back and stared at it. Hot annoyance tightened her mouth and brought down her brows.

“Perfect. Just freaking perfect.”

He heard that loud and clear.

Jamming the phone into a back pocket—a tight fit over that sweetly rounded backside—she dropped her head with a throaty groan that traveled along his spine like a sensual stroke. Her eyes closed, her mouth flattened, and the damp night drew her long, light brown hair into coiling curls.

He’d love to tangle his fingers in her unruly hair.

As if spurred by her innate energy, the curls moved, bouncing a little, drifting with the breeze. Judging people had kept him alive. With this woman, he sensed she didn’t indulge in downtime very often. Even standing still, she seemed to…spark with energy.

Curiosity cut into him, mingling with the carnal interest.

Had she been stood up? Walked out on a date?

Just then she growled, “Dead. Stupid phone.” The thump of her hand to a metal lamppost sent a dull clang ringing over the area. “Now what?”

Ah, well that answered his question.

White teeth nibbled her bottom lip in consideration. Considering, she glanced at the bar, shook her head once, and returned to pacing.

Clouds covered the moon, amplifying the darkness. She was far too petite to be stranded alone.

Doesn’t mean she wants a quick fuck, he argued with himself.

The young woman stewing in front of him might be more likely to sell brownies at a local bake sale, but engage in a hot one-night stand? Probably not.

Sure, she was standing outside a rowdy bar all alone on a late night—but then, so was he.

So what should he do? Be smart and turn away, or see if she needed help? He remained undecided when two men exited the bar with a lot of noisy fanfare.

Drunken asses.

The woman glanced up, then quickly away with a roll of her eyes—but not quickly enough to avoid notice.

“Charlotte, hey! Whatssup?” With a leer, a mop-headed man added, “You waitin’ for me, sugar?”

Mitch caught the way his unshaven bud snickered, proving the irony in the question.

“Definitely not,” she replied, her tone crisp and clear.

Mitch liked the sound of her voice. Not all girly or too sweet, but firm and no-nonsense.

He did not like how the two dunces eyeballed her anyway, stumbling in her direction despite her preferences.

“Ah, c’mon now, don’t be like that,” the talkative one said.

His idiot friend guffawed, stumbled and heckled some more.

Charlotte—nice name—propped her hands on slim hips and issued a dire warning. “You’d be smart to keep walking, Bernie.”

“How come you’re here alone?” He tried a teasing voice that Mitch suspected did the opposite of entice. “You know where to find me this time of night.”

“Drunk, as usual. Yes, I know.” Annoyance squared her narrow shoulders. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I finished a late delivery and was heading home, then had car trouble.”

She added with menace, “Help is on the way.”

“I’ll keep ya company until then.”

“No, you will not.”

“But I’m already here.” Intent brought Bernie closer.

She didn’t exactly look afraid, but more like fed up. Before Mitch gave it enough thought, his feet carried him out of the shadows and immediately drew her attention.

Soft blue. Now that he saw her eyes more clearly, he found them every bit as compelling as her mouth.

Alert, maybe a little wary, she zeroed in on him. Her lips parted and she blinked twice.

You’re sealing your fate, sugar. He tried a smile of part interest, part reassurance.

Her gaze went beyond him, searching the darkness, and then snapped back again. “Where did you come from?”

With his attention only on her, Mitch held up his hands and avoided a direct answer. “Just seeing if you need any help.”

Emboldened by liquid courage, the two men blustered at him. “G’lost, asshole. She don’t need nothin’ from you.”

As if Bernie and his bad grammar didn’t hover there beside her, Charlotte asked, “You’re new around here?”

Mitch gave her a long look. What, did she know everyone in Red Oak, Ohio? Probably. He could jog the main street, one end to the other, without breaking a sweat. “I’ve been here a few days.” Whether he was passing through, or sticking around, wasn’t her business. Besides, for now, he wasn’t sure.

Brazen stupidity urged Bernie to step up in front of him. “You ain’t listening. I told you to—”

Disgust curved Mitch’s mouth into a mean smile meant to intimidate. “You’re right. I’m not listening to you.” Insulting disregard took his gaze over the smaller man before he dismissed him. “I’m talking only to her.”

By size difference alone, it was beyond ludicrous for Bernie to issue a challenge.

And yet, he did. “Are you fuckin’ stupid?”

Charlotte’s voice, now edged with anger, interrupted anything Mitch might have replied or done. “You’ve been warned, Bernie. If you don’t knock it off right now, you are not going to like the consequences.”

Still, the fool didn’t listen. “I said,” Bernie blasted, his breath putrid, “for you to get lost.” A scrawny fist, aiming for Mitch’s face, swatted through the air.

Bad move, asshole.

Instincts could be a son of a bitch. Mitch leaned away from the weak hit…and at the same time automatically jabbed with his right.

His fist landed right on Bernie’s chin.

Eyes rolling back, the smaller man started to drop.

Infuriated that he’d lost his grip in front of Charlotte, Mitch caught the front of Bernie’s shirt and held him on his tiptoes. “You,” he whispered between barely moving lips, “need to learn when to quit.” Familiar anger surfaced despite his efforts to tamp it down…

And a small, cool hand touched him.

Struck clean down to his toes, Mitch peered first at those pale, tapered fingers with short, neat nails resting lightly against the roped muscles of his sun-darkened forearm.

Fucking sexy, that’s what it was, highlighting all their differences, especially those of strength and capability.

Her face drew him next, the delicate lines, smooth skin…that mouth and those eyes.

That wild hair.

“I think,” she said softly, a smile teasing her mouth, “if you let Bernie go now, he’ll make a hasty retreat.” Slanting those mesmerizing eyes toward old Bernie, she added with silky menace, “At least, he better.”

Keen awareness nudged out anger.

Everything about her appealed to him.

She stood to his left, and the heady scent of her skin and hair—like baby powder and flowers—teased his nose.

He drew a deeper, fuller breath, filling his lungs with her and knew he could happily drown on that scent.

Slowly, wanting to keep her close, Mitch unclenched his fingers and allowed Bernie to stumble back to where his buddy helped to prop him up.

Unconcerned with that, Charlotte’s fingers shifted in the lightest of explorations before she snatched her hand away.

Interesting—especially that splash of color on her cheeks.

She looked up at him, gave a wan smile, and whispered, “Thank you.”

“For popping him?”

Curls bounced as she gave a quick shake of her head. “For not doing him more damage.” She wrinkled her nose, leaning closer to confide, “You could have, I know.”

Huh. No recriminations?

She actually thanked him?

Not what he was used to, but he’d take it. 

Excerpted from All Fired Up by Lori Foster. Copyright © 2019 by Lori Foster Published by HQN Books.

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~Cassie

Blog Tour: The Princess Plan by Julia London

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I’m back today with another review and excerpt for the  Harlequin romance blog tour. I was kindly gifted a copy of The Princess Plan by Julia London in exchange for this post and my honest review. I am so honored to be a part of this tour and today’s post is a great one for all my historical romance lovers. Don’t forget to check out the excerpt below my review!

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Title: The Princess Plan 

Author: London, Julia 

Genre: FICTION/Romance/Historical/Victorian / Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding 

On Sale: 11/19/2019  

Price: $7.99 / $10.99 CAN

SUMMARY:

Princes have pomp and glory—not murdered secretaries and crushes on commoners

Nothing gets London’s high society’s tongues wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefitted from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater one in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.

Eliza was such a great character and I really enjoyed her. She is fierce, funny and honest. I enjoyed her interactions with everyone, especially with her best friend, Caroline and her sister, Hollis. The way her and Sebastian meet is so cute and I really fell for them as a couple as their story progressed. Sebastian is so swoon worthy and he is total book boyfriend material. The romance is sweet, sexy and a lot of fun.

The side characters are all fantastic and I really hope to see more of them as the series goes on. They really helped the story come to life which just helped makes this story feel more real to me. Julia London left a bunch of dangling threads for where this series could pick up next and I am constantly changing my mind on whose story I want next. The second book comes out next year and it is has already been added to most anticipated list.

Beyond just being a romance this book also has a murder mystery element to it. Someone close to Sebastian is murdered and being a prince he can’t exactly run around trying to figure out who did it. Eliza stumbles into some information and also connects a lot of clues to help solve the crime. It is pretty obvious who did it but I still loved the mystery aspect and what it brought to the story.

One thing that really pushed this book to being a five star read for me is when the chapters would start with an excerpt from the gossip newspaper that Eliza’s sister Hollis owns. There would be blind gossip items that related to the story but there was also little nuggets of advice for women that made me laugh. It was so fun to see some of the wild ideas women used to believe.

I think that anyone who enjoys romance will love this book. However, considering that this is a historical romance, Eliza is scandalously independent so I don’t know how much hard core lovers of historical are going to like this one. Also, for that same reason, I think that people who don’t read a lot of historical will enjoy this one. If you aren’t sure you can always check out the first chapter excerpt below and see how intrigued you are!

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AUTHOR BIO:

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

SOCIAL LINKS:

 www.julialondon.com/newsletter

 www.facebook.com/julialondon

 www.twitter.com/juliaflondon

 www.instagram.com/julia_f_london

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

London 1845

All of London has been on tenterhooks, desperate for a glimpse of Crown Prince Sebastian of Alucia during his highly anticipated visit. Windsor Castle was the scene of Her Majesty’s banquet to welcome him. Sixty-and-one-hundred guests were on hand, feted in St. George’s Hall beneath the various crests of the Order of the Garter. Two thousand pieces of silver cutlery were used, one thousand crystal glasses and goblets. The first course and main dish of lamb and potatoes were served on silver-gilded plates, followed by delicate fruits on French porcelain.

Prince Sebastian presented a large urn fashioned of green Alucian malachite to our Queen Victoria as a gift from his father the King of Alucia. The urn was festooned with delicate ropes of gold around the mouth and the neck.

The Alucian women were attired in dresses of heavy silk worn close to the body, the trains quite long and brought up and fastened with buttons to facilitate walking. Their hair was fashioned into elaborate knots worn at the nape. The Alucian gentlemen wore formal frock coats of black superfine wool that came to midcalf, as well as heavily embroidered waistcoats worn to the hip. It was reported that Crown Prince Sebastian is “rather tall and broad, with a square face and neatly trimmed beard, a full head of hair the color of tea, and eyes the color of moss,” which the discerning reader might think of as a softer shade of green. It is said he possesses a regal air owing chiefly to the many medallions and ribbons he wore befitting his rank.

Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies

 

The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, a widower and justice of the Queen’s Bench in Her Majesty’s service, was very nearly blind, his eyesight having steadily eroded into varying and fuzzy shades of gray with age. He could no longer see so much as his hand, which was why his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Tricklebank, read his papers to him.

Eliza had enlisted the help of Poppy, their housemaid, who was more family than servant, having come to them as an orphaned girl more than twenty years ago. Together, the two of them had anchored strings and ribbons halfway up the walls of his London townhome, and all the judge had to do was follow them with his hand to move from room to room. Among the hazards he faced was a pair of dogs that were far too enthusiastic in their wish to be of some use to him, and a cat who apparently wished him dead, judging by the number of times he put himself in the judge’s path, or leapt into his lap as he sat, or walked across the knitting the judge liked to do while his daughter read to him, or unravelled his ball of yarn without the judge’s notice.

The only other potential impediments to his health were his daughters—Eliza, a spinster, and her younger sister, Hollis, otherwise known as the Widow Honeycutt. They were often together in his home, and when they were, it seemed to him there was quite a lot of laughing at this and shrieking at that. His daughters disputed that they shrieked, and accused him of being old and easily startled. But the judge’s hearing, unlike his eyesight, was quite acute, and those two shrieked with laughter. Often.

At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge. There had been an unfortunate and rather infamous misunderstanding with one Mr. Asher Daughton-Cress, who the judge believed was despicable, but that had been ten years ago. Eliza had once been demure and a politely deferential young lady, but she’d shed any pretense of deference when her heart was broken. In the last few years she had emerged vibrant and carefree. He would think such demeanour would recommend her to gentlemen far and wide, but apparently it did not. She’d had only one suitor since her very public scandal, a gentleman some fifteen years older than Eliza. Mr. Norris had faithfully called every day until one day he did not. When the judge had inquired, Eliza had said, “It was not love that compelled him, Pappa. I prefer my life here with you—the work is more agreeable, and I suspect not as many hours as marriage to him would require.”

His youngest, Hollis, had been tragically widowed after only two years of a marriage without issue. While she maintained her own home, she and her delightful wit were a faithful caller to his house at least once a day without fail, and sometimes as much as two or three times per day. He should like to see her remarried, but Hollis insisted she was in no rush to do so. The judge thought she rather preferred her sister’s company to that of a man.

His daughters were thick as thieves, as the saying went, and were coconspirators in something that the judge did not altogether approve of. But he was blind, and they were determined to do what they pleased no matter what he said, so he’d given up trying to talk any practical sense into them.

That questionable activity was the publication of a ladies’ gazette. Tricklebank didn’t think ladies needed a gazette, much less one having to do with frivolous subjects such as fashion, gossip and beauty. But say what he might, his daughters turned a deaf ear to him. They were unfettered in their enthusiasm for this endeavour, and if the two of them could be believed, so was all of London.

The gazette had been established by Hollis’s husband, Sir Percival Honeycutt. Except that Sir Percival had published an entirely different sort of gazette, obviously— one devoted to the latest political and financial news. Now that was a useful publication to the judge’s way of thinking.

Sir Percival’s death was the most tragic of accidents, the result of his carriage sliding off the road into a swollen river during a rain, which also saw the loss of a fine pair of grays. It was a great shock to them all, and the judge had worried about Hollis and her ability to cope with such a loss. But Hollis proved herself an indomitable spirit, and she had turned her grief into efforts to preserve her husband’s name. But as she was a young woman without a man’s education, and could not possibly comprehend the intricacies of politics or financial matters, she had turned the gazette on its head and dedicated it solely to topics that interested women, which naturally would be limited to the latest fashions and the most tantalizing on dits swirling about London’s high society. It was the judge’s impression that women had very little interest in the important matters of the world.

And yet, interestingly, the judge could not deny that Hollis’s version of the gazette was more actively sought than her husband’s had ever been. So much so that Eliza had been pressed into the service of helping her sister prepare her gazette each week. It was curious to Tricklebank that so many members of the Quality were rather desperate to be mentioned among the gazette’s pages.

Today, his daughters were in an unusually high state of excitement, for they had secured the highly sought-after invitations to the Duke of Marlborough’s masquerade ball in honor of the crown prince of Alucia. One would think the world had stopped spinning on its axis and that the heavens had parted and the seas had receded and this veritable God of All Royal Princes had shined his countenance upon London and blessed them all with his presence.

Hogwash.

Everyone knew the prince was here to strike an important trade deal with the English government in the name of King Karl. Alucia was a small European nation with impressive wealth for her size. It was perhaps best known for an ongoing dispute with the neighboring country of Wesloria—the two had a history of war and distrust as fraught as that between England and France.

The judge had read that it was the crown prince who was pushing for modernization in Alucia, and who was the impetus behind the proposed trade agreement. Prince Sebastian envisioned increasing the prosperity of Alucia by trading cotton and iron ore for manufactured goods. But according to the judge’s daughters, that was not the most important part of the trade negotiations. The important part was that the prince was also in search of a marriage bargain.

“It’s what everyone says,” Hollis had insisted to her father over supper recently “And how is it, my dear, that everyone knows what the prince intends?” the judge asked as he stroked the cat, Pris, on his lap. The cat had been named Princess when the family believed it a female. When the houseman Ben discovered that Princess was, in fact, a male, Eliza said it was too late to change the name. So they’d shortened it to Pris. “Did the prince send a letter? Announce it in the Times?”

Caro says,” Hollis countered, as if that were quite obvious to anyone with half a brain where she got her information. “She knows everything about everyone, Pappa.”

“Aha. If Caro says it, then by all means, it must be true.”

“You must yourself admit she is rarely wrong,” Hollis had said with an indignant sniff.

Caro, or Lady Caroline Hawke, had been a lifelong friend to his daughters, and had been so often underfoot in the Tricklebank house that for many years, it seemed to the judge that he had three daughters.

Caroline was the only sibling of Lord Beckett Hawke and was also his ward. Long ago, a cholera outbreak had swept through London, and both Caro’s mother and his children’s mother had succumbed. Amelia, his wife, and Lady Hawke had been dear friends. They’d sent their children to the Hawke summer estate when Amelia had taken ill. Lady Hawke had insisted on caring for her friend and, well, in the end, they were both lost.

Lord Hawke was an up-and-coming young lord and politician, known for his progressive ideas in the House of Lords. He was rather handsome, Hollis said, a popular figure, and socially in high demand. Which meant that, by association, so was his sister. She, too, was quite comely, which made her presence all the easier to her brother’s many friends, the judge suspected.

But Caroline did seem to know everyone in London, and was constantly calling on the Tricklebank household to spout the gossip she’d gleaned in homes across Mayfair. Here was an industrious young lady—she called on three salons a day if she called on one. The judge supposed her brother scarcely need worry about putting food in their cupboards, for the two of them were dining with this four-and-twenty or that ten-and-six almost every night. It was a wonder Caroline wasn’t a plump little peach.

Perhaps she was. In truth, she was merely another shadow to the judge these days.

“And she was at Windsor and dined with the queen,” Hollis added with superiority.

“You mean Caro was in the same room but one hundred persons away from the queen,” the judge suggested. He knew how these fancy suppers went.

“Well, she was there, Pappa, and she met the Alucians, and she knows a great deal about them now. I am quite determined to discover who the prince intends to offer for and announce it in the gazette before anyone else. Can you imagine? I shall be the talk of London!”

This was precisely what Mr. Tricklebank didn’t like about the gazette. He did not want his daughters to be the talk of London.

But it was not the day for him to make this point, for his daughters were restless, moving about the house with an urgency he was not accustomed to. Today was the day of the Royal Masquerade Ball, and the sound of crisp petticoats and silk rustled around him, and the scent of perfume wafted into his nose when they passed. His daughters were waiting impatiently for Lord Hawke’s brougham to come round and fetch them. Their masks, he was given to understand, had already arrived at the Hawke House, commissioned, Eliza had breathlessly reported, from “Mrs. Cubison herself.”

He did not know who Mrs. Cubison was.

And frankly, he didn’t know how Caro had managed to finagle the invitations to a ball at Kensington Palace for his two daughters—for the good Lord knew the Tricklebanks did not have the necessary connections to achieve such a feat.

He could feel their eagerness, their anxiety in the nervous pitch of their giggling when they spoke to each other. Even Poppy seemed nervous. He supposed this was to be the ball by which all other balls in the history of mankind would forever be judged, but he was quite thankful he was too blind to attend.

When the knock at the door came, he was startled by such squealing and furious activity rushing by him that he could only surmise that the brougham had arrived and the time had come to go to the ball.

Excerpted from The Princess Plan by Julia London, Copyright © 2019 by Dinah Dinwiddle. Published by HQN Books.  

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~Cassie

 

Blog Tour Review: Meant to Be Yours (Happily Inc #5) by Susan Mallery

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I am so excited to share with you my first blog tour post today!! I feel so honored to be working with Harlequin Trade Publishing and getting to share my reviews of some of their new releases. Harlequin is an iconic name in publishing and I am in awe that they even know of me to ask me to be a part of this tour. I will be reviewing four of the five books pictured above and today I’m will be sharing my review (and an excerpt!) of Meant to Be Yours by Susan Mallery. Also, all images shared in this post were kindly sent to me by Harlequin Trade Publishing.

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Publication Date: October 22, 2019

Pages: 464

Rating: 3.5/5

As you all know small town romances are one of my favorite romance tropes and this book is the fifth in a series that centers around a small town in California. The town of Happily Inc. is known as a wedding destination and our main character Renee is a wedding coordinator at a themed wedding business. The backdrop of all these themed weddings was fun and I liked the element that they added to the story. The love interest, Jasper, is a writer of crime fiction who is dealing with PTSD from his time in the military. Jasper was a fun character especially when it came to him writing his book. I liked the behind the scenes look of him trying to write and blocking out scenes.

I liked Renee and Jasper as a couple but I also wasn’t that invested in them being together so it made the romance aspect of the book kind of lackluster for me. I was also annoyed by how many times Jasper and Renee both thought about why they couldn’t be more serious with each other. It happened several times and it felt like overkill.

Another part of the story that I’m still not sure how much I liked was the drama that Renee has with her mom. It was pretty out there and while I didn’t mind how it affected Renee I was frustrated with how many times it was used in the book to add some drama. I would have liked there to be more between Jasper and Renee so I could get more invested in them and less on other things that happened that didn’t really push their story forward.

Which is not to say that I didn’t like the book because I very much enjoyed getting to know the people of Happily Inc. and I want to go back and read the rest of the series to be a part of this world again. All the side characters had so much history with each other and you can see where the author alluded to things that happened in past books. I really appreciate books with so much of the world built out and I hope that the next book in the series is Wynn’s love story!

Also, if you want more of this world like me, then you will love the bonus story at the end of the book. It is a novella of two of the characters from Happily Inc.’s love story. I’m guessing the series starts with them already together so it was really nice of the author to include this extra story. I also adored Bethany and Cade’s story and I was fully invested in their romance. I obviously knew how things ended up for them but I still got caught up in the drama of their story.

Excerpt

“It might just be okay,” wedding coordinator Renee Grothen murmured softly to herself as she surveyed the wedding reception. She wouldn’t risk admitting everything had turned out as planned until the last guest had left, but four and a half hours in, things were going really well.

Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.

Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.

Renee walked around the perimeter of the indoor reception space, looking for problems. So far, so good, she thought with cautious optimism. The cake had been cut, the bar service was about to end and the tone of the party had faded from raucous to comfortably tired—exactly as it should. With a little luck, things would wrap up on time and without a crisis. This was Monica and Jim’s day—Renee wanted it to be as perfect as possible. While she always took care of her clients, she tended to unleash her mother bear instincts for her special couples and Monica and Jim certainly qualified.

She spotted Pallas Mitchell, her boss, walking toward her. It was nearly ten on a Saturday night and Pallas, a pretty brunette only recently returned from maternity leave, yawned widely. When she spotted Renee she held up her hands, palms up.

“What can I say? I’ve been home with an infant. These wild latenight hours are going to take some getting used to.”

“No one’s judging,” Renee told her. “As I said at seven, at eight and again at nine, go home. I can handle this. You’re barely back and you need to give yourself time to adjust to the schedule.”

“You’ve been running things for nearly six months. You need a break.”

In truth, Renee was a little ragged around the edges, but she’d loved handling Weddings Out of the Box while Pallas had been gone. She’d enjoyed the challenges each unique wedding presented and watching all the details fall into place on the big day.

“I had lots of help,” Renee pointed out. “Hiring college students on summer break was a good idea.” And what they’d lacked in experience, they’d made up for in energy and enthusiasm.

“Now that I’m back, things can return to normal,” Pallas said, covering another yawn.

“Go home,” Renee urged. “Please. I can handle things here. I promise.”

“Okay. I will. Thanks. Don’t you dare come in tomorrow.” Pallas’s voice was firm. “For once, we don’t have a Sunday wedding. Enjoy the break.”

“I will.” Renee would probably pop in to do a little paperwork, but she wouldn’t stay long. “Are you coming to The Boardroom on Monday night?”

In a wedding destination town, the rhythms of the residents were determined by weekend weddings. Happily Inc’s workweek started on Wednesdays as the businesses geared up for the dozens of nuptials that occurred in multiple venues. Which meant the town’s Friday night was actually on Monday.

The Boardroom, a local bar, hosted game nights on Mondays. Board games ruled and tournaments were heated and fun as friends crushed each other at everything from Candy Land to Risk.

Pallas shook her head. “I’ll admit to being a bit of a worrier. When we went a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan. He’s only five months old. It’s too soon to leave him at night.”

Renee held in a smile. “Sure. I get that.”

“I know you don’t, but thank you for pretending. Have fun for me, too. Oh, Jasper’s back, so tell him hi, if you think of it.”

Jasper was back? Renee hadn’t heard. She liked knowing he’d returned from his big book tour. Not for any reason in particular, she amended hastily. Sure, he was nice, but there were a lot of nice guys in the world. There was just something about Jasper. Maybe it was because in addition to being good-looking and just a little dangerous, he wasn’t a forever kind of guy.

“I saw that!” Pallas grinned. “I totally saw that. You did the predatory smile thing I was never good at. You want to use him for sex! Did I know this?” She stomped her foot. “Did this happen while I was on maternity leave? What else went on while I was off having a baby?”

Renee laughed. “You’re reading way too much into my smile. I’m happy he’s home from his book tour. That’s all.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Jasper and I are not involved. I doubt we’ve had more than a three-sentence conversation.”

Not that it took many sentences to ask Your place or mine? And while the description of predatory was nice, it gave her too much credit. Would she stalk him and pounce? Not even on her best day. Would she say yes if the man asked? She smiled again. Oh, yeah, she would. Definitely. Okay, probably. If she was feeling brave. Because while she worked her butt off to give her couples their perfect happily-ever-after day, she knew it was never going to happen for her. Those who could—did. Those who couldn’t became wedding planners.

Avoiding relationships might be the smart choice, but it was also a lonely one. She knew Jasper was into the long-term, monogamous, not-serious kind of thing and she was pretty sure she could handle that. Assuming she was his type and he was interested. They could have some laughs, lots of sex and walk away completely unscathed in the heart department. Where was the bad?

“There’s something going on and you can’t convince me otherwise,” Pallas said. “You have depths. I’m very impressed. Okay, use Jasper and then tell me the details because hey, he’s got to be great.” She yawned again. “I’m such a lightweight. I’m leaving now.”

“Good night. Hug Ryan for me.”

“You know I will.”

Pallas walked out of the reception hall. Renee continued to circle the space, looking for any forgotten handbags or phones, and noting how long it would take the cleaning service to return the huge room to order. Doing her job and not thinking about the fact that Jasper was back—that was her.

A loud whoop got her attention. She turned and saw three teenaged guys running through the fountain at the far end of the big, open room. Each of them jumped, trying to touch the arc of water dancing overhead.

The younger brother, she thought as she made her way toward them. And his friends. No doubt they were bored after so many hours with not very much to do. Regardless, she was not going to have them disrupt the reception when it was so close to being over.

As she approached the running, jumping teens, she saw both sets of parents, along with the bride and groom, still dancing. They swayed in time with the music, oblivious to the fountain and the idiots messing with it. Then several things happened at once.

The younger brother started an extra long run toward the fountain. Jim let go of Monica and spun her out the length of their arms. Monica bumped her mom, who stumbled a little. Dad grabbed Mom, moving all of them closer to the fountain and the younger brother running, who had to swerve suddenly to avoid them. As he swerved, he lost his balance and slipped, tumbling into the fountain mechanism. One of the hoses broke free, wiggling and spraying water everywhere.

Renee saw it all happening and knew there was no way she was going to allow her beautiful bride to get soaked. She lunged for the hose, caught it and held it tightly against her chest as the bride’s father rushed to turn off the water to the hose. It took only seconds, but by then the entire fountain had spilled over and Renee was drenched, shivering and had water up her nose even as she wondered if she looked half as ridiculous as she felt.

The new Mrs. Martinez hurried over. “Renee, are you all right?” She turned on her brother. “How could you? This is a wedding, not a water park.”

Aware that end-of-wedding exhaustion could easily lead to emotions spiraling out of control, Renee quickly faked a smile.

“Monica, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Keeping you and the rest of the wedding party dry was my only concern.” She glanced at the water draining onto the floor and realized part of the fountain was still pumping out water. That couldn’t be good. If she couldn’t get everything turned off, she was going to have to call in one of those companies that took care of disasters like flooding. “Really. It’s no problem.”

“You’re dripping and the water’s rising. My dad went to find the main shutoff.”

Renee wrung out her hair and hoped her makeup wasn’t too badly smudged. Then she realized the water level in the reception hall was indeed climbing and hoped Monica’s father found the shutoff soon.

She was just about to go help him when he returned.

“All turned off.” He glanced at the mini flood. “Sorry about this.”

“It’s fine,” Renee lied, her tone soothing, because that was part of her job. To pretend all was well even when they needed to be figuring out how to build an ark.

The rest of the guests were heading out. Nothing like the threat of an unexpected flood to get people moving, she thought, trying to find the humor in the situation.

“I’m so sorry,” Monica told her as she held her dress out of the water and slipped out of her shoes.

“Don’t be. You had a wonderful wedding and reception. Why don’t you and Jim start gathering your things? I have a spare set of clothes in my office. I’ll get changed, then help you make sure you have everything.”

As she spoke, she noticed the water seemed to have settled at about the six- or seven-inch level. Yup, she was going to have to call someone. No doubt she would be here all night. Oh, joy.

“I’m really sorry,” Jim said. “We thought we’d planned for every contingency.” He glared at his new brother-in-law. “Except for stupid.” He turned back to her. “Let us know the cost of cleanup. We’ll pay for it.”

“Thank you. I think the deposit should take care of it but I’ll let you know if there’s a problem. Now if you’ll let me go get changed, I’ll be back with you in ten minutes.”

Monica nodded.

Renee slipped out of her shoes and walked through the ankle-deep water. When she reached her office upstairs, she carefully closed the door behind her before undressing, then slipped on jeans and a T-shirt. Not exactly professional, but she wasn’t going to worry about that right now. Before she returned to her bride and groom, she looked up the local disaster cleaning service. The number was in her files, but wasn’t one she had had to use before.

They picked up on the first ring.

“Happily Inc CleanUp. This is Hilde. How can I help you?”

“Hi. I’m Renee Grothen at Weddings Out of the Box. We had a firefighter wedding tonight with a big fountain. There was an accident with one of the hoses and now our main reception hall is flooded.”

There was a pause. “Um, did you say firefighter wedding? Never mind. How much water?”

“About six inches.”

“That’s a lot.”

“It was a big fountain.”

“Give us thirty minutes and we’ll be there.”

“Thank you.”

Renee hung up, gave herself a second to catch her breath, then headed back to deal with the bride, the groom, the flood and anything else that might happen tonight. Because with a wedding, it was always something.

Excerpted from Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2019 by Susan Mallery, Inc.. Published by HQN Books.

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Author Bio: SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

 

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~Cassie