Thursday, September 20, 2018

Love runs wild at the Sagebrush Flats Zoo,
where a motley crew of big-hearted animals
helps the most unlikely couples find love.
When Katie Underwood discovers a litter of newborn cougar cubs, the last person she expects to come to the rescue is her former crush—and high school nemesis—Bowie Wilson. The worst part? He doesn’t seem to remember the trouble he caused her.
As a single father and owner of a cash-strapped zoo, Bowie struggles to balance budgets while raising his preteen daughter and a host of rascally animals. He considers himself lucky when Katie agrees to lend her talents to a publicity campaign in support of the zoo’s animal rescue programs—until he learns just what she’s planning…
This time, Katie is determined to resist Bowie’s charm. But a lovelorn camel, a matchmaking honey badger, and a nursemaid capybara have different plans. Can they and the rest of the zoo’s menagerie help Bowie break through the barriers surrounding Katie’s heart?
Love can’t be tamed…

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“What other kinds of animals do you have?” Katie asked, steering the conversation away from him. 
“Well, there’s Frida here,” he said, jerking his thumb in the direction of the grumpy grizzly. “She’s about nineteen years old. You might remember her from when you were a kid. She was brought to Lou as a juvenile with a damaged foot. Poachers had set up a bear trap in Rocky Ridge National Park, and Frida had been caught in it for days before a ranger found her. She’s walked with a pronounced limp ever since, so she couldn’t be reintroduced into the wild.” 
“Poor girl.” Katie leaned against the fence to get a better look at Frida. The bear lifted her head to emit a long-suffering sound halfway between a grunt and a roar. 
Katie laughed. Bowie joined her by the rail, his T-shirt brushing against her bare arm. Unwanted desire flared within her. She almost succeeded in suppressing a tremble, but then he chuckled—the sound low, deep, and most of all warm. The husky timbre of it washed over her. Despite the wave of heat, she shivered. 
Bowie’s gray eyes darkened at her reaction. With the summer sun beating down on her back, Katie couldn’t claim a chill to explain away her body’s instinctual reaction to him. Instead, she changed the subject. 
“I guess Frida doesn’t like to be called ‘poor,’” she said.
“Frida has her dignity,” Bowie said. And then he grinned. Devastatingly. 
Katie’s heart squeezed. A rush of sweet fire swept through her again, threatening to burn through her shields of self-preservation. She straightened before she did something very foolish, like trying to capture Bowie’s smile with a kiss. 
“So, what’s the name of your camel?” she asked as she pushed back from Frida’s fence. “She always trots right over to me for a pet when I pass by on my way to watch the cougars.” 
“That would be Lulubelle,” Bowie said as he led Katie around the corner. “She’s always been a little needy, and she’s been having a particularly hard time lately.” 
Katie knitted her brow in concern as they approached Lulubelle and the llamas. “How so?” 
“She’s lonely,” he said. “Ever since one of the llamas had a baby, Lulubelle has seemed to be longing for one of her own. Lou thinks she wants a mate too.” 
“Awww,” Katie said as they approached the llama pen. Lulubelle instantly raised her large head and raced toward them. She thrust her neck at Bowie in clear demand. Katie swore that the animal sighed as he scratched the thick patch of fluff on top of her head. After thoroughly nuzzling him, Lulubelle turned her attention on Katie. Finding her line of vision full of insistent camel, Katie laughed and petted the old girl. When she dropped her hand and both she and Bowie began to turn, Lulubelle emitted a plaintive rumble. 
“My goodness,” Katie said as she whirled back around. “It’s okay, Lulubelle. I’ll be back tomorrow.” 
The camel made a raspberry sound in response. Bowie shook his head. “She’ll keep you here all evening if you’ll let her.” 
“But that cry was awful!” 
“I know,” he said as he ignored his own advice and rubbed the camel’s neck. “I wish we had the funds to purchase and take care of another camel or two. I’m hoping another zoo will at least lend me a stud.” 
A thought struck Katie. She spun toward him, unable to stop her exuberance. “Bowie, I think I have a brilliant idea!” 
He seemed to freeze. Too excited to pay much attention to his reaction, Katie spoke in a rush. “You can use Lulubelle as part of a fund drive.” 
It took Bowie a second to respond. He stared at her for a long moment, then blinked hard. “Lulubelle?” 
“Who can resist a lovelorn camel?” Katie asked. “I mean, look at her liquid-brown eyes and those ridiculous lashes. We could really sell her story of wanting a partner and a baby. There are so many sites on the internet where anyone can set up a fund-raiser. We could get people involved in the process of finding her a companion. Maybe you could pick a few candidates to be her mate, and the public could vote. We could even set jars outside the llama pen with pictures of potential boy camels, and visitors could cast their ballot by putting in cash!” 
Bowie rubbed the back of his head, clearly considering her idea. “It could work, and it might bring in more foot traffic too.” 
Katie nodded enthusiastically. She hadn’t been this excited in years about work. Her old boss had slowly killed her enthusiasm as he’d rejected idea after idea. It felt good to unleash her creativity on a receptive audience. 
“Come on,” she said. “I want to see more of the zoo while I’m on a roll.” 
Then, without thinking, she grabbed Bowie’s hand, tugging him forward. He chuckled—the sound once again low and this time even edged with surprising fondness. His fingers curled around the back of Katie’s hand, his body heat searing her. Instantly, she released her hold and kept her focus forward. 
“Hurry up,” she said instead. “I don’t want to lose momentum. What’s next?”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ashlyn Chase's MORE THAN A PHOENIX excerpt & giveaway

Noah scanned the busy club. The lights were low, but it didn’t matter. Having paranormal eyesight was a plus in these situations. “Let’s walk the perimeter clockwise and check out the girls facing us, then get something at the bar and go back the other way.”
Dante chuckled. “Yeah. If we swiveled to check out the chicks on the other side of the tables, it would be a little obvious what we’re doing.”
Noah led the way, making a note of the women Dante might like. Their taste in women differed greatly. That had been a plus, and would continue to be as long as he could find a gorgeous blonde with an athletic build for Dante sitting with a petite brunette for himself.
The guys had passed only four booths when some big lug coming toward them barreled into Noah, knocking him sideways. To his shock and embarrassment, he fell and landed hard in the lap of some poor, unsuspecting woman. She squeaked a sound of surprise, but didn’t say “owww.”
“I’m sorry. Are you okay?” He scrambled to slide off her lap. As he gazed at her face, her beautiful brown eyes widened.
She looked familiar, and suddenly, it struck him. He had met her only that morning. “Dr. Samuels?” He struggled to leave the booth when she placed a warm hand on his arm.
“I’m fine. Are you okay?”
He paused at the end of the bench without getting up. Her voice was soft and kind. This was not the Dr. Samuels he’d spoken to sharply that morning.
She scooted over to make room for him. “I’m sorry about our disagreement earlier. How’s your friend?”
The woman on the other side of the table, who looked similar to the good doctor, slid over and patted the bench next to her. “Join us,” she said to Dante.
He grinned. “Sure.”
There was some kind of twinkle in his brother’s eye. Noah didn’t know whether that was a good thing or not. Hopefully, he was willing to consider a pretty brunette.
“She’s not exactly my friend. Just an acquaintance. Someone we knew in high school.”
“I don’t even know your name,” Dr. Samuels said.
“Jesus. I’m an idiot.”
“That’s an unusual name and job description…”
Noah laughed and extended his hand. “Noah Fierro, and this is my brother Dante. We’re firefighters.”
She smiled and shook his hand. “And I’m Kizzy. This is my sister Ruth. She’s a labor and delivery nurse.”
“Kizzy? That’s an unusual name.”
“It’s a form of the name Keziah. I used to hate it, but now that the mean kids have grown up, I kind of like being different.”
“Mean kids? Did you get teased about your name when you were younger?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard them all. Dizzy Kizzy. Crazy Kizzy. And on humid days, even Frizzy Kizzy.”
Noah chuckled, then quickly schooled his expression. “I like it.”
“Does that mean you like her now?” Dante asked.
Noah wanted to kick his brother under the table, but that wouldn’t look immature at all, he thought sarcastically. “If she likes me… At least it seems like she’s not mad at me anymore.”
Kizzy laughed. “I was never really angry. I was just frustrated, and I guess I took it out on you. I’m sorry for my part in that argument. It was a crazy morning. Now that I’m off duty and I’ve had one of these lovely things”—she lifted her empty wineglass—“I’m feeling more relaxed.”
“Let’s get you another,” Dante said. “What are you drinking?” He pointed to both Kizzy’s and Ruth’s wineglasses.
The women glanced at each other, as if they could communicate without words as easily as he and Dante could.
Ruth answered. “We both just finished a glass of Shiraz.”
Dante rose. “Two more glasses of Shiraz it is. Ruth, would you like to come with me? I’ll need someone to carry Noah’s and my Coronas.”
“I’m getting a Corona, I guess,” Noah said to Kizzy.
“It’s Cinco de Mayo. Would you rather have a margarita?”
“Nah. You had it right the first time.”

Dante shook his head. “He’s not usually this much of a smart-ass,” he said to Kizzy. “You must bring out the worst in him.”

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What do you get when you take
Two phoenix shifter brothers
Throw in one powerful witch
And one…monkey shifter?

Mallory Summers is losing it. She’s discovered she can talk to dead people—and she might be able to shift to monkey form. Firefighter Dante Fierro knows the quirky beauty isn’t crazy—just supernatural. But what would she think if she knew his secret?
Hothead Noah Fierro has his own sparks flying with gorgeous ER doctor Kizzy Samuels. While the attraction is mutual, so are the supernatural secrets. With this much sizzle going on, how do you not get burned?

Fighting fires is easy... Finding love is the hard part.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Excerpt & Giveaway Cheryl Holt's new JILTED BRIDES Series

My series this year is called my “Jilted Brides” trilogy.  In the three books, the heroines have been jilted at the altar.  After staggering through such a humiliating experience, they’re wary of men and their motives.

I’m known for creating some of the most uber-macho heroes that readers can find in a romance.  So if you like a  hero who’s macho-on-steroids, you’ll love my three new heroes:  Peyton, John, and James.  They’re all extremely tormented too, and what woman doesn’t want to save a forlorn, wounded soul?  In Book 1, Peyton is in the Royal Navy, and in Books 2 and 3, John and James are in the British army.  As the stories progress, they’ve all been wounded and have had to retire and settle down as civilians.  Their changing life circumstances gave me plenty of fodder to draft deep, emotional characters that my heroines can’t resist.

I’m releasing the three books together on the same day, so readers can scoop them up and read the whole story without having to wait for the next installment.  The books will be available as print books and e-books.  Mark your calendars!  Coming September 20th!  I’m counting down the days!    

Two years later… 

5 June, 1815

From: Mr. Richard Slater
Estate Agent to the Earl of Benton
Benton Manor
To:  Miss Maud Bates

Miss Bates,
As I’m sure you remember, a decade ago, you were intimately acquainted with his lordship, Neville Prescott, Earl of Benton.  You ultimately presented him with a daughter, Daisy Prescott.  These past nine years, she has resided at the Benton estate where she has been generously supported and educated by the Prescott family. 

Due to changing circumstances, it will no longer be possible for the Earl to support or house your daughter.  New arrangements must be made for her care and upkeep, and I’m afraid the burden must now fall on your shoulders.  I ask that you contact me at your earliest convenience so we may discuss the appropriate situation for her.  I’m certain you understand that time is of the essence.  You must have made preparations for her removal from Benton by 15 July at the very latest.

I await your reply.

Most sincerely,

Richard Slater,
for the Earl of Benton  

Jo walked down the pretty lane, enjoying the summer day.  The sky was so blue, the woods so green.  It was a perfect morning to have snuck away from home, to be out on her own.  She was glad she’d seized the chance to have an adventure.
She spent too much time on her own and—with Maud’s wedding approaching—her sister was in London, shopping for her trousseau, so the house was even quieter than usual.  
Jo was bored and lonely, so her current task had arisen just when she needed it the most.  It gave her an excuse to fritter away several hours that otherwise would have been wasted by watching the minutes tick by on the clock.
Maud had received the strangest letter from the Earl of Benton’s estate agent, a Mr. Richard Slater.  Since Maud was busy in town, Jo opened all the mail, even the correspondence addressed to Maud.  Mr. Slater’s message had made no sense, and she’d had to read it over and over before the import became clear.  
He seemed to believe—when Maud had been a decade younger—she’d engaged in salacious conduct with the Earl that had resulted in the birth of a child named Daisy.  The notion was so preposterous that Jo chuckled whenever she considered it.
Maud was the fussiest, grumpiest, vainest female in the kingdom.  She would never have succumbed to passion.
She and Jo had the same father, but different mothers.  Their father, Harold, had been a gentleman, and Maud’s mother—his first wife—had been a baron’s daughter.  Jo’s mother had been their father’s second wife.  She’d been the fetching, sweet nanny hired to tend Maud after her own mother had died.
  Because of it, Maud viewed herself as being grand, interesting, and very much above Jo in class and station.  She lorded herself over Jo, constantly referring to the disparity in their antecedents and reminding Jo of their separate places in the world.  
After his horrid marriage to Maud’s mother, their widowed father hadn’t been able to resist Jo’s mother.  His fixation had been disturbing and scandalous, and it still shocked the conscience of many of their neighbors. 
Maud definitely never forgot about it, and Jo should have been offended by Maud’s condescension, but she was twenty now, and she was used to Maud’s irksome ways.  
Her sister would never change, and Jo thought Maud was quite ridiculous.  When—precisely—would straitlaced, finicky Maud have found the opportunity to participate in a wicked fling with Lord Benton?  How and where would she have perpetrated it?  
Maud was twenty-five, five years older than Jo, and they had always lived at Bates Manor, the lovely mansion on the large estate that had belonged to the Bates family for generations.  Then, after their father had perished and they’d had to sell to pay his debts, they’d moved to the small house outside Telford that Maud had inherited from her grandmother.
There was nothing odd about their childhood or adolescence.  They’d been raised as typical British girls by their very typical British father.  Maud was pious, prim, and moralistic, and Jo was positive Mr. Slater had contacted the wrong Maud Bates by mistake.  Yet there was that year when Maud had been sixteen, and she’d gone abroad to France on a school trip.
With Mr. Slater’s troubling missive to Maud, Jo couldn’t deny being curious about that trip.  Maud hadn’t written Jo a single letter while she was away, and when she’d returned, she hadn’t brought any souvenirs.  Jo had barely been eleven, and she’d been hideously disappointed.  
Should Jo be questioning that entire event?  Could it be?  Could Maud have birthed a bastard child fathered by Lord Benton when she was sixteen?
No!  It simply wasn’t possible…
As far as Jo was aware, they’d never met the Earl of Benton and weren’t acquainted with the Prescott family.  And Maud wasn’t an attractive female.  She was blond and blue-eyed, but chubby and fleshy, and there was a hardness in her expression that made her appear cruel.  It put people on edge.  
If an earl had been bent on seduction, Maud was the very last woman such an exalted nobleman would have selected.
Jo intended to speak with Mr. Slater, apprise him of his error, and urge him to locate the correct Maud Bates so the poor girl, Daisy, could have a beneficial conclusion.  Then she’d hurry back to Benton village and take the public coach to Telford.  It was only ten miles, and the summer sun was setting very late.  She’d be home in plenty of time to have a quiet supper with just the servants for company.
Finally, she arrived at the gate to the estate, and a man was approaching from the other direction.  He was older than she was, probably thirty or so.  He waved a greeting, and she waved too.  
She dawdled as he neared, but she should have kept on.  After all, she was on a deserted stretch of road.  Since she’d left Benton village, she hadn’t stumbled on another soul.  But he seemed friendly, and she perceived no menace.
He was incredibly handsome—tall, broad in the shoulder, thin at the waist—with black hair and striking blue eyes.  He had a firm stride and erect bearing that had her wondering if he’d ever been a soldier.  He looked the sort who would be proficient at barking orders and having them obeyed.
While she wasn’t concerned for her safety, she caught herself bracing nonetheless.  Ever since the pathetic afternoon when Holden Cartwright had jilted her at the altar, she’d been wary of handsome men.
Mr. Cartwright had proved she had no aptitude for judging a person’s character.  She was as naïve as the flightiest debutante and effortlessly swayed by outlandish comments that couldn’t be true.
She’d gotten past that terrible episode, had forgiven herself for her stupidity.  She’d forgiven Maud too, even though it had been difficult to absolve her sister.  Maud was Jo’s guardian, and a few days before the wedding, she’d signed over Jo’s dowry to Mr. Cartwright.  He’d absconded with it and had vanished without a trace.
They’d been gullible fools who’d seen no reason to be suspicious, so they’d been easy prey for such a dodgy fiend.  Who could have imagined such duplicitous cads existed?  Not Jo and Maud, that was for certain.
Jo had accepted her fate as a penniless spinster, that she’d have to live with her unlikable sister forever.  The situation would be even more untenable when Maud married her betrothed, Thompson Townsend, in September. 
Jo couldn’t abide Mr. Townsend.  He teased Jo and whispered risqué remarks—as if he and Jo shared a secret.  Her circumstances had always been trying, but with Mr. Townsend about to move in, they would become quite horrid.  But with her dowry squandered, there would be no escape.  
She’d adjusted her thinking and lowered her expectations, but she hadn’t shed her distrust of handsome men—and she never would.  
“Are you headed to the manor?” the man asked.
“How did you know?”
“It could be that I’m possessed of uncanny mental abilities, or it might also be that you’re standing under the Benton sign.”
She laughed.  “You’re very clever.”
“It’s what everyone says about me.”  He gestured up the lane.  “May I walk with you?  Allow me to brighten your stroll.”
“Yes, of course.  I’m sure you’ll brighten it.”
“People say that about me too.”
“What?  That you brighten strolls?”
“Strolls and other…things.”
There was a profusion of innuendo in the boast that she didn’t like.  “Are you flirting with me?”
He grinned.  “Maybe.”
“We haven’t even been introduced, which makes you appear very fast.”
“Or very friendly.”
She scoffed.  “I’ll stick with very fast.”
“May I hope friendly will soon follow?”
“It depends on whether you mind your manners.”
“I shall be the epitome of decorum.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”  Her prim tone was evidence that she spent entirely too much time around her sister.
Like a trained gallant, he offered his arm.  She hesitated, then took it.  
What could it hurt?  It was hardly a crime to walk with a manly man on a sunny day.  It wouldn’t kill her.  Anymore though, she was just so accursedly cautious.
Gradually, she realized she was enjoying herself.  Since her debacle with Mr. Cartwright, she rarely socialized.  In Telford, it wasn’t as if there had been a line of swains waiting to grab his spot.  Because of her mother—who was viewed as a voracious hussy who’d snagged the king of the castle for her own—Jo was suspected of inheriting the same base tendencies.
Men kept their distance—except for Mr. Cartwright who’d been from London and hadn’t been apprised of her dubious antecedents.
She’d forgotten how pleasant a gentleman’s company could be.  Though it sounded odd, there was a peculiar charge in the air, as if the universe had engineered the encounter and approved of their meeting.
“Are you employed at the estate?” she asked.
He paused forever before answering.  “Yes, you could say I’m employed there.”
“It was awfully difficult for you to admit it.”
“I was debating my response.  I’m not positive what I do should be called work.”
“Your comment has ignited my curiosity.  What is your position?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“I might.”
“I doubt it.”
He gazed down at her, his expression warm and full of mischief.  For a quick instant, they seemed frozen in place, as if they were locked together in an arresting way.  She didn’t care for the sensation at all, and she yanked away and focused on the lane where the manor was visible through the trees.
“Why are you at Benton?” he asked.  “Will you tell me straight out or shall I guess?”
“I’d force you to guess, but I’m afraid I’d be alarmed by your replies.  I peg you as the type who likes to make a girl blush.”
“You’d peg correctly, but I’ll guess your purpose anyway.”
“I wish you wouldn’t.”
His keen attention was unnerving.  He was acting as if he found her pretty and fascinating, and no one had ever stared at her like that but for her dastardly ex-fiancé.
She knew she was very pretty.  She had two eyes in her head and could see herself in a mirror.  Her mother had been a great beauty, and Jo resembled her exactly:  auburn hair, big blue eyes, rosy cheeks, pert nose.
Standing just five-feet-five inches in her shoes, she was thin but curvaceous, and her shapely figure caused men to steal second glances when she passed by.  Yet she didn’t want a man to think she was fetching.  She didn’t want him to behave in a flirtatious fashion.  She was too much of a dunce to assess male regard with a clear lens.
He was studying her outfit, and his appreciation was so blatant that she had to tamp down a spurt of vanity.  
She never had any money, but Maud did, and she spent it on clothes.  When she tired of an item, she let Jo have her castoffs.  Over the years, Jo had become adept at tailoring.  She could take anything Maud gave her and turn it into a delightful piece.  She had a knack for style and color, and she liked simple designs, but the simplicity left her looking extremely glamorous.
“You must be here to have tea with Lady Benton,” he said.
She sputtered with amusement.  “Do I appear to be the sort of female who would pop in to have tea with a countess?”
“Yes, you absolutely do.”
“My goodness.  You’re practically spouting poetry.”
“I guarantee it’s very unusual for me, but you have that effect.”
“I’m flattered.”
“The lavender fabric of your gown matches your eyes perfectly.  Is it from Paris?”
“You’re sure?”
“Yes, I’m very sure.”  She scowled.  “If I was here to see the Countess, wouldn’t I have ridden up in a grand coach-and-four with outriders hanging from every corner?”
“Perhaps you like to flout convention.”
“I can categorically state, sir, that I have never once flouted a convention.”
“How dreary your life must be.”
“It can be terribly dreary,” she facetiously said, “but I try to muddle through.”
“You poor thing.”
“You still haven’t told me your position at Benton.”
“Nor have you told me the purpose for your visit.”
“I’m not certain of my purpose.”
“Ah…a woman of mystery.”
“Yes, mystery is my middle name.”
She wasn’t about to confide her intent.  She had to speak with the estate agent, Mr. Slater, had to inform him that he’d contacted the wrong Maud Bates, but she would inquire about the girl, Daisy, too.
Mr. Slater had warned that the Earl was ending his financial support.  What would happen to her?  Would she be sent away?  To what future?
“Are you acquainted with the Earl of Benton?” she asked him.
“Oh, yes, I know him exceedingly well.”
“What’s he like?”
“He’s quite an ogre.”
She missed her step, and he leapt to steady her.
 “How is he an ogre?”
“He’s bossy and dictatorial, and he thinks he’s very special.  He never listens, and he demands to have his own way at all costs.”
“Wouldn’t that describe all aristocrats?”
“He’s worse than most of them.”
“You don’t seem to like him very much.”
“Sometimes, I like him just fine, but more often than not, I can’t abide him.”
“So the two of you are close?”
“We are.”
“Would you say he can be cruel?”
“When cruelty is required?  Yes—much as I hate to admit it.”
He was grinning, his eyes alight with mischief again, and she scoffed with aggravation.
“You probably don’t even know Lord Benton.  You’re probably the gardener—or not even that.  You’ve likely never even been inside the manor.”
“I’ll never confess the truth.”
She couldn’t decide what to believe.  He was definitely full of himself, but he wasn’t a common laborer.  His speech and mannerisms proved him to be from the upper classes.  His clothes gave him away too.  He was wearing casual attire—blue jacket, tan trousers, black boots—but they were sewn from expensive fabric, and they fit him like a glove.  He had the money for a skilled tailor.
“What is your connection to the Prescotts?” he asked. 
“Is that the Earl’s family?”
“I’ve only heard of one of them.  Neville Prescott?  Isn’t he the Earl?”
After another lengthy hesitation, he said, “Yes, that’s him.”   
“As I have entrusted the remainder of my stroll to you, might I have the honor of knowing your name?”
“How about if you call me Peyton?”
She was startled by the request.  “Is that your Christian name?”
“That’s dreadfully bold of you, and I can’t imagine why we should be on familiar terms.  You must have an ulterior motive.  What is it?”
“Considering the kind of life I live, I don’t have many reasons to stand on form.”
“The kind of life you live?  What does that mean?  Do you travel with a pack of wolves?  Are you a performer in the circus?  What?”
“No, I simply can’t predict what might transpire from one day to the next.”
“Why are you in such constant peril?”
“I’m a sailor—in the Royal Navy.”
“I suspected you were in the military—or that you had been in the past.”
He raised a brow.  “I can’t determine if your keen appraisal should make me happy or wary.  I like to assume I’m an enigma.  Am I actually very transparent?”
“Yes, but then, it wasn’t hard to deduce your vocation.  You have the demeanor of a fellow who likes to shout commands and have them obeyed.”
“You are a shrewd judge of character.”
Not really…  “Are you home on furlough?”
“Yes, and now that you’re aware of my dangerous profession, you understand why I refuse to miss out on a friendship.  I asked that you call me Peyton, and I’m afraid I have to insist.”
“That’s quite a mouthful.”
“I don’t like to beat around the bush, especially when I meet a pretty girl.”
The compliment was like a warning bell, and her pulse fluttered with alarm.
“It’s occurred to me,” she said, “that you are very brash.”
“Yes, I am incredibly brash.”
“So you’d be much too forward for me.  It’s not in the cards for us to be friends.” 
“You can’t be sure of that.”  He switched subjects.  “What is your name?”
“It’s Miss Bates to you.”
“Won’t you give me more information than that?”
He smirked and crushed a fist over his heart.  “You wound me, Miss Bates.”
“I couldn’t possibly have.”
“What is your Christian name?”
Why not tell him?  What could it hurt?  “If you must know—”
“I must.”
“It’s Josephine.  Josephine Bates.”
He studied her so meticulously that she might have fidgeted if she was the type of female to fidget.
“You’re so small and slight,” he said.  “I feel compelled to point out that Josephine is too much name for you.”
“It’s the only one I have.”
“If it were up to me, I’d shorten it and call you Jo.  Jo would suit you much better.”
“I won’t fan the flames of your vanity and state that everyone calls me Jo.”
“Then on the day when I’m allowed more liberties, I shall call you Jo too.”
“I doubt that day will ever arrive, so you will have a very long wait.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t count on it.”  He sounded cocky and confident.  “Who can guess what might happen in the future?”
“Who indeed?”
They walked out of the trees, and they halted for a moment so she could absorb the breathtaking vista.  The property was glorious, and her initial thought was that the Prescotts were much richer and grander than she’d realized.  
The manor looked like a modern castle.  It was several stories high, constructed from a russet brick.  There were hundreds of windows, spires, and turrets on the corners.  An impressive driveway meandered to the imposing front doors.  It was surrounded by park land, with acres of manicured gardens and a placid lake behind.  
Sheep grazed in a meadow, and horses frolicked in a pasture.  It was bucolic, like a painting that depicted rural England on a perfect summer afternoon.
“Well, isn’t that just lovely,” she murmured.
He wrinkled up his nose.  “It’s a bit ostentatious for my tastes.”
“Don’t be churlish.  It’s lovely.  Admit it.”
“I suppose some people might think it’s lovely”—he flashed a dour glare at Jo—“but the rooms are cold in winter, and the chimneys don’t draw smoke as they should.  It takes too many servants to run it, and it drains money like a sieve.”
She tsked with irritation.  “I’m convinced you’ve never even been inside.”
He chuckled.  “I’ll never tell.”
“You’re such a dreary complainer.  Does any topic make you happy?”
“I’m always happy when I’m chatting with a pretty girl.  Other than that, no, there’s not much that makes me happy.”
“Stop flirting.  I don’t like it.”
“You don’t like flirting?”
“No, and stop complaining.  I don’t like that either.”
“Your wish is my command, my lady.”  He gave a mocking bow.  
“It is not.  I’m positive you’ve never obeyed a woman in your life.”
“Probably not.”
He winked at her.  He winked!  And she yanked away and started toward the manor.  He accompanied her to the front doors.  
“It was delightful to meet you, Miss Bates,” he told her.
“I’d say the same, but I haven’t decided if it was delightful or not.”
“You’re charmed by me.  Don’t deny it.”
“I’m something all right, but it’s not charmed.”
“You never did tell me why you’ve come.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You’re not here to have tea with the Countess.”
“No, I’m not.  I don’t know her.”
He leaned nearer and whispered, “You’re fortunate you don’t.”
“Honestly!  You are horrid.”
“I can be.”
“Go away.”  She shooed him off with her hand.  “I have an appointment, and since I have no idea who you are, I don’t want the butler to peek out and find you with me.  If you’re a notorious character, I’d be so embarrassed.”
“I am notorious.”
“I’m certain you are.”
He grinned wickedly.  “Who is your appointment with?”
“That’s none of your business, and it’s excessively impertinent of you to inquire.”
“Seriously, Miss Bates.  Who is it with?  I’ll give you my opinion of the person.”
“There’s no reason to seek your opinion.   I wouldn’t believe you, and I like to make my own assessments.”
“You wound me again, Miss Bates.”
“I pray none of the blows have been fatal.”
“What if they have been?  After we part, I may languish and waste away.”
“I’ll offer up a prayer for you at church.”
Their banter dwindled, and they tarried, the quiet settling.  As she studied him more closely, he looked tired and weary, as if he was carrying heavy burdens, and she suffered a spurt of guilt.  Perhaps she should have been kinder, but then, he was a rogue who needed to be kept in his place.
“Good luck with your appointment,” he said.  “I hope it goes well.”
“So do I.”
“Will you visit us in the future?  Should I expect you?  It would elevate my mood if I thought you might return.”
“No, I don’t think I’ll ever be back.”
“What a pity,” he mused.  “Will you call me Peyton?  Just once?”
“No.  Why would I?”
“I’m simply eager to discover if I can coerce you into it.”
He was precisely the sort who could coerce a female in numerous ways that didn’t bear considering.  She was lonely and much too isolated, and she was already wishing she could see him again.  Would she never learn?  
“Goodbye,” she said.
“Goodbye.  Thank you for enlivening my day.”
“Have I enlivened it?” she asked.
He spun and sauntered away, and she watched him until he vanished around the side of the house.  She wondered if he would use the servant’s entrance, but he hadn’t seemed like a servant.  She couldn’t figure out what he seemed like, and it dawned on her that she felt a bit sad at his departure.  The afternoon was no longer quite so vivid or fun.
She’d assumed he’d glance back at her before he disappeared from view, but he didn’t, and she shook her head at her foolishness.  Then she went to the door and banged the knocker.  

Cheryl Holt is a New York TimesUSA Today, and Amazon “Top 100” bestselling author of forty-eight novels.
She’s also a lawyer and mom, and at age 40, with two babies at home, she started a new career as a commercial fiction writer. She’d hoped to be a suspense novelist, but couldn’t sell any of her manuscripts, so she ended up taking a detour into romance, where she was stunned to discover that she has an incredible knack for writing some of the world’s greatest love stories.
She is considered to be one of the masters of the romance genre, and her emotional, dramatic, and riveting stories of passion and illicit love have captivated fans around the world. She has won or been nominated for many national awards. For many years, she was hailed as “The Queen of Erotic Romance”, and she’s also revered as “The International Queen of Villains.” She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year” by the trade magazine Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.
Cheryl lives and writes in Hollywood, California.

Friday, September 7, 2018

LIES Review

 “Assured, compelling, and hypnotically readable—with a twist at the end I guarantee you won’t see coming” (New York Times bestselling author Lee Child), T. M. Logan’s debut psychological thriller dissects a troubled marriage straight to the marrow as one man separates the truth from the Lies

Six days ago, Joe Lynch was a happily married man, a devoted father, and a respected teacher living in a well-to-do London suburb. But that was before he spotted his wife’s car entering a hotel parking garage. Before he saw her in a heated argument with her best friend’s husband. Before Joe confronted the other man in an altercation where he left him for dead, bleeding and unconscious.
Now, Joe’s life is unraveling. His wife has lied to him. Her deception has put their entire family in jeopardy. The man she met at the hotel has vanished. And as the police investigate his disappearance, suspicion falls on Joe.
Unable to trust the woman he loves, Joe finds himself at the mercy of her revelations and deceits, unsure of who or what to believe. All he knows is that her actions have brought someone dangerous into their lives—someone obsessed with her and determined to tear Joe’s world apart.
What if your whole life was based on LIES?

(synopsis from Amazon)

Have you ever read a gothic novel?  

So many aspects of LIES ie: atmosphere and that ominous feeling of not knowing who you can trust just screamed gothic for me. If you set it in an urban area during current day with a hero vs a heroine, you'd have LIES.

Joe is in that position. After following his wife and witnessing her encounter with an acquaintance, Ben, and his minor altercation with Ben after, his life takes a frightening turn for the worse.

With a wicked twist at the end, (and a not so subtle jab at social media) LIES will certainly keep the reader on their toes as they join Joe in his quest to clear his name and salvage the family life he treasures above all else.

4 stars

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Wooing a Woman w/Gabe Trahan of Erin Nicholas' GOING DOWN EASY & giveaway

Wooing a Woman: New Orleans Edition with Erin Nicholas

My newest book, Going Down Easy, is a hot, contemporary romance set in one of the sexiest cities in the country: New Orleans. I’ve loved New Orleans since my first visit there in 2011 and have been back multiple times. I fall more in love with the place every time I’m there. There’s just something about the city that I can’t explain but that keeps me coming back. The music, the history, the laid-back attitude, the food…there’s just so much to love. So finally, the right characters and stories came along and it was time to write a series set there. Here's a little bit about my characters and book...

Gabe Trahan: dirty-talking, charming, and a little bit sweet bar owner in the French Quarter. Has lots of friends and close to his family. Has a slow, sexy drawl, panty-melting grin. And a son, Cooper, who is five years old.  
Addison Sloan: restoration architect who comes to New Orleans from New York City once a month to consult on a new project with a local firm. Confident, independent (very), smart, sassy. Loves dirty-talk in a slow Louisiana drawl. And jazz. And beignets. And pralines. And pretty much anything related to New Orleans. She’s also a single mom to five-year-old Stella. 

How they meet: Addison comes into Gabe’s bar with a friend. The chemistry is immediate. And Addison’s love for New Orleans is obvious. Even the mention of beignets makes her eyes sparkle, she melts when she hears jazz, she loves the café au lait, the horse-drawn carriages—just everything. Gabe’s never been much of a romantic, but suddenly he wants to get that sexy, sweet look on her face as often as possible. (You can actually read all about this in "Easy Going", the prequel novella! Check out Goodreads to find it :)

So whenever Addison is in town they go to jazz clubs, eat all the traditional New Orleans dishes—gumbo, crawfish, pralines—and they take in everything about the city. And Addison gives him a new appreciation for his home town. Though, their favorite place is definitely the balcony on the apartment above Gabe’s bar. For lots of reasons ;) (Did I mention the prequel novella? "Easy Going". Goodreads).

Then, everything changes. Addison is moving to New Orleans to take a permanent job with the firm…and she has no time or energy or interest in a full-blown, all-the-time, same-city relationship. 

But Gabe’s not giving up.

He has every intention of using Addison’s weakness for New Orleans and the south “against” her in a huge play for her heart. So how does he do it? Read on for hero Gabe Trahan's Seven EASY(ish) Steps To Woo A Woman in New Orleans: 

Step #1

Start off with reminding her of the sweet stuff about being with you in New Orleans. Send a basket of pralines and Magnolias. Be romantic. Do not mention dirty stuff on the card. Probably. 

Step #2

Turn up the heat. Send her some beignets and an extra bag of powdered sugar to remind her of the night on your balcony where lots of other things ended up with sugar on them. Maybe mention the dirty stuff on the card now. Or again.

Step #3

Invite her on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Quarter. Make it impossible for her to say no by sending the invite with a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 and tell her that there’s going to be a parade at the end. She can’t resist a parade.

Step #4

Have your mutual friends suggest a night out on the town to her and then surprise her by joining them at Preservation Hall for the jazz show. Make sure you show up just before it starts. There’s no way she’ll yell at you when she can be listening to jazz. She’ll very likely let you stand really close and wrap your arms around her like you’ve done all the other times she’s heard a jazz trumpet. You can say some dirty things in her ear here. For sure.

Step #5

A few days later, send her a book about alligators. Make sure it’s something her five-year-old daughter will be interested in. A coloring book with alligator trivia would be perfect. Insert a brochure for a swamp boat tour in the book. Text her the next day and suggest you all go on the swamp boat tour together. 

Step #6

After a day in the sun on the bayou with your kids, invite her to a masquerade ball. Be sure to mention it’s at a plantation. And that she gets to wear a ball gown. And a mask, of course. And that there will be mint juleps. She’ll be putty in your hands. This is your chance to do a few dirty things.

Step #7

In the end, even if some of the other stuff has failed, use the Ace up your sleeve. Show up on her doorstep with a pot of your grandma’s gumbo and tell her that you’re madly in love with her and that if she’ll let you in, she’ll be able to have that gumbo regularly for the rest of her life. No one can say no to grandma’s gumbo.

As far as flings go, single dad Gabe Trahan is pretty sure that Addison Sloan is his best bet. Once a month, Addison comes to New Orleans and then…It. Is. On. Until Addison returns to New York, it’s just hot, happily-no-strings-attached sex. And beignets. And jazz. But lately for Gabe, it isn’t nearly enough.

Sure, maybe Addison’s gotten a bit hooked on Gabe. After all, who can resist a guy who’s so sexy, so charming, and so…available? But maybe he’s too available for her right now. Addison’s just moved to New Orleans, and relationships are definitely off the table. Besides, guys always bail when they learn her secret: she’s a single mom.

Only Gabe’s not running. Worse, he’s thrilled. But Addison never signed up for ever-after romance, and Gabe won’t settle for anything less. Now it’s a battle of wills—and when it comes to the woman he’s falling for, Gabe isn’t above playing a little dirty.

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Erin Nicholas has been writing romances almost as long as she’s been reading them. To date, she’s written over thirty sexy, contemporary novels that have been described as “toe-curling,” “enchanting,” “steamy,” and “fun.” She adores reluctant heroes, imperfect heroines, and happily ever afters.

Erin lives in the Midwest, where she enjoys spending time with her husband (who only wants to read the sex scenes in her books), her kids (who will never read the sex scenes in her books), and her family and friends (who claim to be “shocked” by the sex scenes in her books).