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.

Buy Links

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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. 

Buy Links:

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~Cassie

 

 

December TBR

The most magical time of the year is upon us! Most of this month I plan on catching up on books from my past TBR’s because I want to start off the new year fresh. However, I do have some holiday related books that I want to get to this month. I also recently bought a couple of books that I really want to read so I’m putting them on the list just in case I am able to get around to them this month.

Holiday Reads

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Open your heart to the holidays with these stories of unexpected love . . .
 
A BABY FOR CHRISTMAS * Lisa Jackson
The uneventful Christmas Annie McFarlane expected is suddenly anything but. First, there’s the adorable baby left on the snowy doorstep of her Oregon cabin. Second, there’s the extremely attractive, yet extremely angry man claiming to be the father. Liam O’Shaughnessy may be intimidating, but this is one precious gift Annie isn’t giving up so easily . . .

WHAT THE COWBOY WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS * Maisey Yates
When Meg O’Neill’s longtime boyfriend lets her down, again, on Christmas no less, she braves an Oregon blizzard to get to her best friend Noah’s comforting arms. But this time Noah’s not telling her what she wants to hear—he’s telling her the truth, from his heart. And his words just might be the gift Meg’s been wishing for all along.

SNOWED IN * Stacy Finz
Rachel Johnson has found the perfect spot for her second Tart Me Up bakery in Glory Junction, California. Except she’s in fierce competition with hunky bar owner Boden Farmer. Worse, while the icy rivals await the city’s decision, they end up catering the same Christmas Eve mountaintop wedding—and getting snowed in. But sometimes a loss of electricity generates a different kind of heat . . .

A COWBOY WEDDING FOR CHRISTMAS * Nicole Helm
Big city art teacher Lindsay Tyler isn’t just back home in Colorado for her brother’s wedding at the Barton Christmas Tree Farm and Ranch. She’s back for good. She just hasn’t told anyone yet—including Cal Barton, the ex-boyfriend she left behind. Will it take a Christmas miracle for him to welcome her back with open arms? . . .

Santa’s on His Way by Lisa Jackson

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It’s Christmas many years ago, and topping young Hannah Swensen’s wish list is becoming the go-to baker in Lake Eden, Minnesota. But as Hannah finds out, revisiting holiday memories can be
murder . . .
 
With her dream of opening The Cookie Jar taking shape, Hannah’s life matches the hectic December hustle and bustle in Lake Eden—especially when she agrees to help recreate a spectacular Christmas Ball from the past in honor of Essie Granger, an elderly local in hospice care. But instead of poring over decadent dessert recipes for the merry festivities, she instantly becomes enthralled by Essie’s old notebooks and the tale of a woman escaping danger on the streets of New York. Hannah’s surprised by Essie’s secret talent for penning crime fiction. She’s even more surprised when the story turns real. As Hannah prepares to run a bakery and move out of her mother’s house, it’ll be a true miracle if she can prevent another Yuletide disaster by solving a mystery as dense as a Christmas fruitcake .

Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

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A doubly delightful volume with two Christmas-themed mysteries from the USA Today bestselling series!

Together for the first time, these two festive mysteries featuring legendary author and sleuth Jessica Fletcher deliver twice the Christmas cheer.

In Manhattans & Murder, Jessica?s new book tour brings her to New York for Christmas, where she sees notorious Cabot Cove crook Waldo Morse dressed as a sidewalk Santa?and ends up witnessing a murder. With the police slow on their feet, and the victim?s wife on the run, Jessica decides to do whatever it takes to stop a killer from spoiling the season.

And in A Little Yuletide Murder, Cabot Cove local Rory Brent is found shot to death on his farm, and everyone assumes the culprit is Brent?s longtime enemy, Jake Walther, the meanest man in town. But Jessica thinks otherwise, and she?s determined to deliver the real killer before Christmas. The trouble is, the next sound she hears this silent night may be a scream?her own.

Murder Never Takes a Holiday by Jessica Fletcher

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Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Let it Snow by John Green

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Indulge yourself with this collection of delectable cozy mystery novellas!

Lee Strauss – MURDER BY PLUM PUDDING

There’s nothing more fun than a festive holiday dinner party and Ginger Reed, the former Lady Gold, has Hartigan House decorated and the gramophone playing. Dressed in her finest Parisian low-waisted gown, feather-topped tiara, and T-strapped Italian leather shoes, Ginger is ready to host the delectable event.

It’s a jolly good time, until someone chokes on the pudding.

Is it an accident or is it murder? And can Ginger unravel the mystery before the church bells ring and New Year’s Day dawns?

Karen MacInerney – SLAY BELLS RING

It’s Christmastime on Dewberry Farm, and homesteader Lucy Resnick is busy bundling mistletoe bunches and cedar swags for the Buttercup Christmas Market when a neighbor’s houseguest keels over right next to her peach orchard. Was it a stray bullet from a hunter that took him out? Or did a guest at the fancy ranch next door decide to scratch somebody off his or her Christmas list? It’s up to Lucy to unwrap the mystery… before the holiday killer strikes again.

CeeCee James – CHRISTMAS AT BAKER STREET

In this Baker Street spin-off, Oscar and Cecelia find themselves and the guests snowed in this Christmas holiday. What should be all sugar cookies and hot cocoa takes a drastic turn when one of the guests turns up cold—as in stone cold dead. With no help in sight, the two hope to find the killer before anyone else gets iced out, including them.

Nancy Warren – CAT’S PAWS AND CURSES

In this classic closed room mystery, someone is murdered during a knitting class. But how was it possible? Lucy Swift and her band of undead knitters must catch the culprit before there’s a second Christmas catastrophe!

Molly Fitz – MEOWY CHRISTMAS MAYHEM

It’s Angie’s first Christmas as a pet owner, and she can’t wait to celebrate with Octo-Cat, Paisley, and Nan. All it takes is a little finely-crafted trickery to get her crabby tabby into the local pet supply store for a special photo opportunity with Santa. Unfortunately, the jolly old soul is found dead in the stock room before he ever gets the chance to say “cheese.” Angie and her motley crew of sidekicks need to work fast to find the culprit and prevent any further suspicious holiday slaying… Otherwise, the most wonderful time of the year could end up becoming the most murderous season Blueberry Bay has ever seen.

Addison Moore – CHRISTMAS FUDGE FATALITY

My name is Lottie Lemon, and I see dead people. Okay, so I rarely see dead people, mostly I see furry creatures of the dearly departed variety, aka dead pets, who have come back from the other side to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom.

The holidays have arrived and the Jolly Holly Tree Lot is hosting a special event that has the entire town bustling to get a picture with the jolly old elf himself. And I’m just as anxious as anyone to get to the front of the line, but that body I stumble upon threatens to take the joy right out of the season.

Six Merry Little Murders by Lee Strauss & Others

Other Books

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NOT ALL ANGELS ARE HEAVEN SENT.
I AM ONE SUCH ANGEL, AND I HAVE COME
TO PASS JUDGEMENT ON THE LIVING,
AND THE DEAD…


A report of a rare and unusual gun – a type favoured by assassins – being smuggled into the country sparks Detective Harry Hole’s interest. Then a former WW2 Nazi sympathiser is found with his throat cut. Next, Harry’s former partner is murdered. Why had she been trying to reach Harry on the night she was killed?

As Harry’s investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that the killer is hell-bent on serving his own justice. And while the link between the cases remains a mystery, one thing is certain: he must be stopped.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

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As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

~Cassie

Buzzwordathon Wrap Up

Round five of the buzzwordathon is over and I had an amazing week of reading. I managed to read four books and was part way through my fifth book when it ended. All the books are amazing and I recommend all of them. I even discovered one of my favorite books of all time!!  Buzzwordathon is my favorite readathon to participate in and I can’t wait to see what the word(s) for next round are going to be. But before we start anticipating round 6 too much lets wrap up round 5.

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Rating: 5/5

This is one of my favorite books I have read this year! Actually it might be in my list of top ten favorite books. I have never read a book where the characters felt so real. I wish they were real so I could obsessively listen to their music! This book is perfection and I can’t wait to read it again. The writing in this book was so amazing because it really feels like you are reading an interview. After awhile each character started to have a specific voice in my head which only helped to make this book even more real to me. I also appreciated the fact that Reid would have multiple people talking about the same event and all of them had a different view of what happened.

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Rating: 4/5

I enjoyed this book just as much as I did the first one. I read the first one all the way back in August of 2017 and you can my review of it here. This book is told in a podcast format which just make this book feel so real. Reading feels like listening to a podcast which is a testament to the author. I love true crime podcasts so this is the perfect book to me. I had an idea of what a cool twist for the story would be but of course the book didn’t go that way so I was left feeling a little disappointed. There are at least two more books in this series that I know of and I will hopefully get to those early in the new year.

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Rating: 4/5

To me this is the perfect YA mystery. The clues are all there and the ending is so sinister. I saw a large majority of the ending coming and I still wasn’t disappointed. If you have heard about this book before then you know that it is compared to The Breakfast Club and I think the author did a fabulous job of taking that iconic movie and making it her own. I am also not always a fan of romance in YA but I think the one here is well done. I feel like sometime it can take away from the story but in this case it definitely added to it.

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Rating: 4/5

This is a really beautiful YA romance that also is the one of the saddest books that I have ever read. I was getting a lot of A Walk to Remember vibes which is why I only rated it four stars. If you have ever lost a loved one to cancer I would encourage you to make sure you are in the right headspace to read this book. I lost my Grandma to cancer almost three years ago and I have only just started the past few months to feel strong enough to confront my grief head on. There is also a part of the book that deals with the famous Footprints in the Sand poem and that was difficult for me because that is what I read during my Grandma’s funeral. There is nowhere in the synopsis that says anything about this book being a cancer book which I think is wrong because this topic can be incredibly triggering for people.

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I only made it about a third of the way through this before the readathon ended. I am loving it so far though. I didn’t realize going into this how funny it would be and I am enjoying the utter mess that is Darcy’s life. I’m kicking myself for not picking up one of Wall Thorne’s books sooner. The Hating Game is for sure going to be one that I pick up in 2020!

~Cassie

On My Radar: December 2019

The last month of the year is here! I am so excited for all the amazing books that come out this month. I need to catch up on all the books that I have put on previous months TBR’s but I’m sure that some of these will still be read this month. I have ARC’s for a couple of them and the other’s I will be *maybe* be getting for Christmas. Or at least buying for myself with some gift cards ;).

*All information for this post was pulled from Goodreads

December 3

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In this fast-paced new novel from Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, a tight-knit college town scrambles for answers when an e-mail hack reveals life-changing secrets and scandals.

Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people’s e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning’s handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit’s sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn’t right about the night Greg was killed, and she’s determined to find the truth. What she doesn’t expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.

Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It’s a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel.

Reputation by Sara Shepard

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Maxwell has finally met an opponent that he can’t best in this new football romance from the author of Fumbled.

According to Brynn Larson, Maxwell Lewis is more trouble than he’s worth. She doesn’t care if he’s a football god with a rock-hard body that brings most women to their knees. After an encounter that ends poorly, she’s not interested in giving him a second chance. The last thing Brynn expects is for him to turn up at her bar months later, hat in hand. It doesn’t matter if he brings more customers to her business–she’s still not going on a date with him.

Maxwell knows he made a mistake. He’d been waiting to make his move on Brynn since the day he laid eyes on her and he was finally ready to go for it until he screwed up. He wishes he could tell her the truth about what happened that night, but he just can’t. He can’t tell anyone, so he’ll make amends and hope she’ll forgive him.

Brynn’s not like other women, though. Playing for the Mustangs doesn’t impress her and gifts make her scoff. Max will have to bring his A game if he hopes to win her over.

Blitzed by Alexa Martin

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In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must reenact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

December 10

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Uscomes a poignant novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters.

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

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A supernatural thriller in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic–and terrifying–consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

December 30

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Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket—an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: you track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

December 31

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Goode girls don’t lie…

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

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

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

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

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

~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.

See the source image

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

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~Cassie

Cover Reveal: My Maddie by Tillie Cole

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*Thank you so much to Ardent Rose PR for providing me with all the info found in this post.

I am so excited to share the cover for Tillie Cole’s latest release! If you are a lover of romance then I’m sure you know who Tillie Cole is. If you are a lover of dark romance then I’m sure you are familiar with her Hades Hangmen series. If have never heard of her or her books then I hope this amazing cover and synopsis that I am about to reveal to you entices you to pick up My Maddie (or any of her books) when it comes out December 10th. My Maddie is the eighth book in the Hades Hangmen series and her cover is absolutely stunning!!

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So gorgeous right!!?? I’m blown away by how amazing this cover is!!

Goodreads – My Maddie by Tillie Cole

Publication Date: December 10, 2019

Synopsis

Not even love can conquer the demons of our pasts…

 Flame and Maddie have found solace and safety in one another’s arms, two fractured souls beginning to heal. But no matter how strong their love grows, it can never completely vanquish the demons of their pasts. These demons are dormant, not defeated.

 Now a new enemy threatens the Hangmen, and a new revelation threatens the peace Maddie and Flame hold so dear. Flame is fighting a multitude of wars – against the club’s new foe, against the horrors of his past, and against his fears – but the fire in his blood may be the only victor.

 As Flame begins to spiral into his own personal hell, it is up to Maddie to bring her husband back into her heart. To remind him that, together, they can face any obstacle standing in their way. To show him that no one and nothing can tear them apart again. 

 His Maddie.

Her Flame.

The fight for their forever.

 Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains sexual situations, violence, sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language and mature topics. Recommended for age 18 years and up.

About the author 

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

Author Links 

Web  http://tilliecole.com

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

Twitter   https://twitter.com/tillie_cole

Instagram  https://instagram.com/authortilliecole

Amazon  https://amzn.to/2ZbIEUP

Goodreads http://bit.ly/2Ui2wlk

~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

 

Buzzword Round 5 TBR

I am so hyped for this latest round of the Buzzwordathon. This is my favorite readathon to take part in and I love the words for this round. All you have to do is read anything with a number in the title. At first I was like huh because I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head. I then finished watching Lala’s video and got more into the idea. I then looked around my shelves and my Kindle and found tons of books that I have been dying to read that have a number in the title. I never realized how many titles have a number in them but I guess that’s the fun of this readathon. I managed to narrow my list down to five books that I want to read the most.

Ebooks

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One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe.

When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation? Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

A stand-alone young adult tearjerker romance, recommended for ages fourteen and up.

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*This one is stretching it a bit but it is the second in the SIX stories series and I have been wanting to read this for like a year so I’m going to allow it 😉

A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six stories. Which one is true?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.
King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out.
As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…
Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

Physical 

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Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

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Crush: a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

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The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

~Cassie