November Wrap Up + Stats

I’m sorry this coming to you so late. The last two weeks of my life my kids and I had a terrible bout of the flu. If you are a mom or just a caregiver than you know how hard it can be to take care of people when you aren’t feeling well yourself. I actually lost my voice for three days after Thanksgiving which is interesting when you are a mom. My older kids probably enjoyed it (ha!) but it was definitely a challenge with my two year old. Anyways, now that you know all about my life for the past couple of weeks let’s wrap up November. I read 16 books and some of them are my favorite books of the year. It’s safe to say that November was very good to me and I hope that continues on into this month.

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Rating: 5/5

I loved this! I feel like no one talks about how dark this book is. I would say it’s more of a dark twisted tale of Healthcliff’s life and not so much a romance. Is there a romance? Yes, but I don’t feel like it is the point of the story. I do appreciate how absolutely scandalous it must have been in the late 1800’s. In fact it is still pretty scandalous to a lot of people today which is a big reason this book transcends time. Healthcliff and Catherine have a brutal romance and they are both mean, terrible, incredibly cruel characters. I loved the gothic overtones to the story and the whole way the story is laid out was perfection to me.

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ARC Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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Rating: 3/5

I have a review of this coming tomorrow as part of the HQN Holiday Romance blog Tour.

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Rating: 5/5

I don’t want to say too much about this book because it is better to go into it blind. It is one of the best thrillers I have read this year and I highly recommend everyone read it.

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Rating: 5/5

This is a short classic, only 123 pages, but it is amazing. This is one of my favorite classics of all time and I know I will re read this many times in my life and get something new out of it every time. This book reminds me a lot of a humanities philosophy class that I took in college and I found the ideas and themes in this book fascinating.

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Rating: 5/5

Blog Tour: The Princess Plan by Julia London

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Rating: 5/5

This was such a fascinating little story. I don’t know what say about it since it’s so short and I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say that it is a travesty that this won the Goodreads best Horror a couple of years ago. There is no horror in this book. It is just a simple story of a man facing the end of his life and trying to right a wrong he felt he made in treating his neighbors poorly.

Buzzwordathon Wrap Up

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Rating: 5/5

Blog Tour: All Fired Up by Lori Foster

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Rating: 5/5

Blog Tour: The Last Affair by Margot Hunt

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Rating: 2/5

The author of this book was kind enough to send me a digital copy of this book to review. Unfortunately this book just didn’t work for me. The premise is good but the author got way to caught up in trying to do too many reveals and twists and many of them didn’t feel authentic to the story. I do plan on trying another book by this author because I really did like the idea behind the this story.

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Rating: 3/5

When this book first started I was immediately hooked but the longer the story went on the more disjointed everything felt. The pacing for the whole book was off and I have no idea how much time went by from the beginning of the book to the end. The chemistry between the two characters was spicy but they never resolved any of the issues surrounding why it took them so long to get together. People rave about The Hating Game by this author so I will definitely be reading that in 2020.

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Rating: 3/5

It took me forever to read this book. I started it in October and I finished it on the last day of November. I had a hard time getting into the story but I do understand why so many people rave about this book. This is definitely a it’s me not you kind of situation. If you enjoy historical fiction then I think you would really enjoy this mystery. I feel like part of the reason I couldn’t get into the story was that I found the stories of the girls at the boarding school so incredibly sad and I was so upset that girls were ever treated this way. It would take a lot out of me to read from their perspectives, especially the more we got into the story. I will for sure be reading more from this author in the future.

Stats

Author                                                               Pages

Male: 4                                                               1-299: 2

Female: 12                                                        300-499: 14

Rating                                                               500+: 0

1*: 0                                                                  Total Pages: 5,113

2*: 1                                                                  170/day

3*: 3

4*: 2

5*: 10

Genre

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense: 6

Romance: 4                                                   Year Published

Classic: 2                                                        2019: 4

YA Mystery: 1                                               ARC: 4

Contemporary: 2                                         Older Release: 8

YA Romance: 1

Book Format

Owned ebook: 8

Library ebook: 1

Owned Physical: 6

Library Physical: 1

~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

Insta:@margot_hunt

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.

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

~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.

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin

Amazon

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Google Play

IndieBound

Kobo

 

SOCIAL LINKS:

Facebook – @lorifoster

Twitter – @LoriLFoster

Pinterest

Instagram – @LoriLFoster

GoodReads

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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.  

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin

Amazon

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Google Play

IndieBound

Kobo

~Cassie

 

ARC Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

*Thank you to Netgalley for giving me a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 352

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 5/5

The Family Upstairs is about a woman, Libby, who recently turned 25 and discovers that her birth parents have left her a house in a trust that she is now eligible to receive. Upon seeing the house she decides that she needs to know the history of who she is and what exactly happened at the house 25 years ago that left her an orphan. Libby’s story of trying to figure this mystery out is also interspersed with two other narrators who help to give us the full spectrum of what exactly happened at the house.  One narrator is giving us the full story of what led to the events of Libby’s parent dying starting from the beginning and the other is Lucy, who is a present day narrator, and currently in a bad spot in her life and knows that the baby from the house is now 25.

I loved this book! It was so enthralling and dark that I was hooked from the beginning. I read the majority of this book in one sitting because I couldn’t wait to find out how all the different perspectives connected together. The way Jewell pieced this story together with all three different narratives was perfection. Sometimes the stories would weave together and other times they would build on each other to keep the momentum of the story racing forward. Obviously I loved the pacing of the story and there were enough twists, turns and reveals to keep me captivated the whole way through.

A big aspect of this story (and probably the reason I love it so much) was the cult aspect. I am so fascinated by cults and the story behind them. I have watched countless documentaries and read a fair share of non fiction (and fiction) books about them because I am so intrigued about how people get involved with and stay with cults. This book definitely has a layer of that going throughout it and I couldn’t get enough.

If you are someone who doesn’t find cults as appealing as me then you might not like this book as much as I did. However, this is one of my top books of this year so if you are in the mood for a thriller then I highly suggest this one.

~Cassie

 

ARC Review: The Other Wife by Claire McGowan

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review. 

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Publication Date: October 24, 2019

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Pages: 322

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4/5

This is one of the best thrillers that I have read in awhile. The Other Wife starts off with us being introduced to three narrators: Nora, Elle, and Suzi. Suzi is pregnant and her life with her husband is not healthy or good in any way. Nora is a widow and Elle is married with a seemingly perfect life but there are secrets and lies that will unravel her life.

This story is extremely engaging and fast paced. Very early on I figured out something and I was preparing myself to be disappointed when it got revealed at the end. However, this thing I thought I figured out got revealed pretty early on in the book and the rest of the time I was totally captivated trying to figure out what was going to happen next. McGowan kept building and building the story up to the final reveal and I really liked how it all ended up. None of the characters are that likable but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment an any way.

My only criticism of this book is that there were a few side stories that I didn’t feel were necessary to the main plot. I don’t think it added much of anything to the story and the book would have had more of an impact without these added distractions.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to read a great thriller. This book has a lot of great twists and reveals that built up to an ending I didn’t see coming. Also, this book is currently on Kindle Unlimited which is a great deal! I have previously bought a Claire McGowan book on my kindle and it has definitely moved up on my priority list because I can’t wait to see what else this author can do.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Shape of the Night by Tess Gerritsen

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Pages: 288

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Rating: 2.5/5

The Shape of the Night is a paranormal story following a food writer, Ava, who moves into a New England house for a few months while she works on her latest book. Ava is running from the mistakes of her past and is also trying to figure out what exactly is going on in her house. I really liked Ava’s character for the most part but so much of this story didn’t work for me.

The biggest thing that I didn’t like in this book is the (somewhat) erotica subplot. If you been here for a while you know that I love me a good smut but this was not well done and it also added nothing to the story. There was nothing sexy or interesting about what was happening beyond us learning the way Ava wanted her men to behave in bed. Uh ok but how does any of that move the plot along? It doesn’t and Gerritsen would have been better off building up some of the weaker aspects of the story.

For instance, the mystery element of the book would have been so much stronger if more time had been spent on building up the side characters. There were some interesting people who were either acting shady or had a shady background and yet hardly any time was spent on them. All of that led up to me not being invested in any of them and so when we had the big reveal the payoff wasn’t as great as it could have been.

Also, as much as I liked Ava it became very boring dealing with all her flashbacks to what she did in the past. Especially because it is glaringly obvious from the beginning what she did so why we spent so much time flashing back to that night to just skirt around the issue over and over again was annoying. Present day Ava was a lot better and I really enjoyed the fact that she was a food writer. Everything that she made sounded amazing and I appreciated learning some very interesting food facts.

Overall this story was a mess. Some parts were really enjoyable but the story definitely needed to be streamlined a bit more. If you enjoy paranormal fiction and the food writer aspect sounds intriguing then this might be a book for you to consider.

~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.

Buy Links

Harlequin    Indiebound    Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Target   Walmart    Google    iBooks

 

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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.

 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @susanmallery

Facebook: @SusanMallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

Goodreads

~Cassie

 

 

 

Spookathon 2019 Wrap Up

Last week went by so fast and it was so fun on Youtube to see all the people who don’t normally read thrillers or mysteries giving them a go. It did make me realize that some books are either marketed or talked about as thrillers because that’s the in thing right now but they are really mysteries. Which isn’t really anyone’s fault but if you go in expecting some crazy twists and turns and it’s really a mystery where the clues are laid out the book and especially the ending are going to be disappointing. I am guilty of labeling books as thrillers and mysteries at the same time and I am committing to not falling into that trap anymore. It annoys me when I go into something and it turns out to be something else and I don’t want to contribute to disappointing anyone. Now that is out of the way lets get into all the books I read last week. I changed my Spookathon TBR up a tiny bit but overall I’m really pleased with how well I did. I only read four instead of the five I had wanted to but we also went on a road trip this past weekend so that obviously didn’t leave much time for reading.

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Challenge: Read a book with a spooky setting

You can read my full review of this but don’t be misled by the title. This is a trapped elevator setting and NOT an escape room.

Rating: 3/5

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Challenge: Read a book with a spooky word in the title (13)

This was one of my favorite Agatha Christie’s that I have read. I still have a ton more to read but this one will be a favorite. I was trying to solve this one right along with Hercule Poirot and I thought I had it all figured out but at the end he went through various theories and said how they were all wrong. Then gave the correct one of course. I also liked the humor in this one. This is the first time I have read a Hercule Poirot with his friend Hastings narrating the story. They very much had a Sherlock and Holmes kind of relationship and I enjoyed it.

Rating: 5/5

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Challenge: Read a thriller (I thought this was a thriller but it is definitely more of a crime mystery)

It took me about 60 pages to get into this book and then I read the roughly 300 more pages all in one sitting. There are some reveals that come out of nowhere and some twists so I can see why people say it is a thriller. It is definitely slow paced though and I didn’t really get the hype but about  the half way point things start happening and it got good. As a mom of three boys though this book was difficult to read because of the children aspect of the story. I also thought the main character, Tom, was annoying especially when it came to how he handled things concerning his son, Jake. I really liked this weaving tale that Alex North put together and how everything fit. The ending was ok but the last page had me so disturbed. I don’t think I will ever forget the way this book ends.

Rating: 4/5

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Challenges: Read something you wouldn’t normally read & Read something with red on the cover (this is more of a red orange but I’m still counting it!)

This is my second ever manga and the last one I read was also by Junji Ito. That one was Shiver and it was also a collection of short stories. I liked Shiver more but this one was still really good. I remember with Shiver I thought the title story was the best of the bunch. With this collection I feel like Smashed was the worst story of the bunch. The were also three stories that all kind of connected with each other (and also a couple of stories from Shiver) so that was fun to read. My favorite story of this collection was probably the home library story about a guy who has over 150,000 books. Smashed had some heavy topics like suicide, eating disorders, sexual assault and things of that nature so be mindful of that if you would like to give this book a try.

Rating: 4/5

~Cassie

 

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Publication Date: July 30, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 352

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Rating: 3/5

*Thank you to Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

The Escape Room is a dual storyline book following four colleagues who are trapped in an elevator (“escape room”) and also Sara Hall who used to work with them. For me this is an average thriller that really suffers from the escape room idea this book is titled after and so I’m assuming it is also based on. However, if this book cut out all the “escape room” aspects of this story than it would have worked so much better. Also, I keep putting escape room in quotations because this is NOT an escape room in any way. It is basically a book about four people who are trapped in an elevator by a nefarious someone. That should have been the synopsis and then just give the book a different title and most of my issues with this book would be gone.

All that aside I did really enjoy this book. The story starts out high stakes because these people are trapped and they are in a terrible position and we are going along trying to figure out everything that led up to them being in the elevator. I thoroughly enjoyed Sara Hall’s story so much and the journey her character goes on. I connected so much with Sara that she kept me wanting to read to find out what was going to happen next. This is another book that I flew through in a couple of days purely because I wanted to know where the story was going. I definitely would have rated this book at least one star higher if this had just been a trapped elevator story.

Most of the ending was really good and I loved how the author, Goldin, laid it all out. It was pretty well thought out and I feel like she told a well rounded story. There is a part of the ending that I think is lacking but I don’t want to spoil anything so I will just say that I wish there was one little thing that had been added in.

While this is a fast paced thriller that I think a lot of people would enjoy, I do want to recommend a movie if you are looking for something that is an actual escape room. Escape Room (2019) is a movie that I recently watched and highly enjoyed the first half of. The second half lost a lot of the suspense but it definitely is an escape room setting. Also, like I said in my previous review, locked room mysteries are my favorite thing so when I pick a book because I think it’s going to have that trope and it doesn’t I’m pretty disappointed. So, if you don’t have the same hang ups about this specific trope then you will probably enjoy this book more than me.

~Cassie