Book Review, Books, Christmas, netgalley, New Release, Romance

Book Review: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

5 out of 5 spectacularly seasonal stars

I never read blubs, especially from authors that I love, because I trust them to tell me a good story. In the case of Christina Lauren, I trust them to give me an excellent story, and this is exactly what I got with In a Holidaze.

Here’s the official description: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favourite place in the world – the snowy cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born. Mentally melting down as she drives away for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, everything goes black . . . When Mae gasps awake, she’s back on an airplane, beginning the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop – and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark hilarious hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

Since I don’t read blurbs, I had no idea what I was getting into with In a Holidaze, but it ended up being precisely my cup of tea. It starts off with a normal holiday gathering, and all of a sudden, there’s time travel involved! This is also the story of two people who have known each other as friends their entire lives, and I love a couple with a complicated history! There is a big, wonderful cast of characters in addition to Maelyn and Andrew. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to keep track of who’s who in books like this, but these characters were so delightful. It was so fun getting to know them, and they were very easy to distinguish from one another.

Since the main character, Maelyn, bounces back in time and repeats the Christmas holidays over and over again, there is an element of suspense throughout the last half of the book, as you wait to find out if she’s going to lose everything she’s gained in the current go-round by ending back on the plane. I kept thinking “Don’t go back! Don’t go back!” and I will definitely not spoil it for you. But if you’ve read a Christina Lauren book before, you know that they can put you through a lot of heartache and drama and angst, but they don’t leave you there! I loved this book so much that I’m going to buy it on audio. I don’t always have time to reread a book, but there’s always time to listen to one!

Thanks to the Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Book Review, Books, Kindle Unlimited, New Release, Romance, series, smartypants romance, Uncategorized

BLOG TOUR: Smartypants Romance release, Stranger Ranger, Park Ranger series #2, by Daisy Prescott – now available in KU

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Stranger Ranger, an all-new standalone contemporary romance from USA Today bestselling author Daisy Prescott, is now available in Kindle Unlimited!

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This is the final release in the Smartypants Romance Spring 2020 launch, and I’ve read every one. Only a few of them have gotten five stars from me, and Stranger Ranger is one of them. I also loved the first book in this series, Happy Trail, which is the story of Olive and Jay, a ranger at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stranger Ranger is about Odin and Daphne, who is a co-worker of Jay’s.

There is so much to love about this story. Daphne and Odin are two self-professed weirdos, and I can totally relate. I saw a lot of myself in Daphne (she’s even a Hufflepuff, like me!) She can be awkward, she is a rule-follower, she’s trying to overcome a lifetime of expectations and become who she wants to be, she loves to learn and travel and have new experiences. Also, “loopy” Daphne is just adorable. I feel like we just scratched the surface of who she is, and where she came from, and I would have loved to know even more about her. That is the sign of a great character.

I liked Odin a lot, and would have liked to know more of his backstory, as well. It was touched on, but I definitely would have read a few more chapters about how he became who he is, and questionable choices in his past that he is trying to overcome. We meet his family briefly, and find out a bit about why he’s returned to his home in the mountains after being away for several years. I love a good origin story, and I wanted more of Odin’s!

There wasn’t a lot of steam to this story, which is absolutely fine. It was sweet, with a bit of a slow burn that I wouldn’t have minded being even slower. 🙂 They got to know each other as we all do, in little bits and pieces, as they spent more time together. There wasn’t a big conflict or a huge reveal of secrets, or a giant misunderstanding that they had to struggle to overcome. I’ve read a few books lately where there was a conflict that seemed manufactured just for the angst factor, and it was wonderful to not have that here.

I didn’t want this book to end. I could have stayed up late to finish it, but I wanted to save the last few chapters for the next day so I could extend my time with it just a little bit. I hope there are many more Park Ranger books to come!

New park ranger Daphne Baum is a reformed good girl. Breaking free from her overbearing family as soon as she turned eighteen, she’s been on her own ever since. The life of a park ranger, moving from park to park, suits her just fine. Though still a rule follower, she’s okay with a little sin in her life.

Every generation of Hill men has its black sheep. The general consensus among the family is that Odin Hill is the lucky bastard this go around. At seventeen, he blew out of town like an angry tornado only to return fifteen years later withdrawn and secretive. Living like a recluse in the hollows in the Smoky Mountains, he’s happy to keep to himself and is content to let locals believe he’s the town weirdo. Odin prefers the company of his pet pig to the nosy citizens of Green Valley.

When Daphne discovers Odin might be committing nefarious deeds on park land, she vows to find out the truth behind the handsome, yet chaotic, loner. Will the stranger help the ranger discover the difference between being good and doing the right thing? Or will they find themselves on opposite sides of love?

‘Stranger Ranger’ is a full-length contemporary romance, can be read as a standalone, and is book #2 in the Park Ranger series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

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Excerpt

By early afternoon, the crowd at the farmers’ market fades, leaving only stragglers, bargainers, and tourists sampling the charms of small town life.

I’ve had enough people for the week I’m looking forward to the quiet of my own company. All the talking and friendly chatter exhaust me. You’d think vegetables would sell themselves given they’re pretty self-explanatory. Yet folks wanna hear a story about a carrot being grown from the guy who pulled it out of the dirt himself. So I play my part of the happy farmer at the stand. It’s my bad luck I’ve always been charming. Part of my DNA.

My family has lived in the mountains surrounding Green Valley longer than anyone around here can remember. Before there was a National Park or even a Cades Cove, the Hills had established a homestead in the Smokies straddling Tennessee and North Carolina.

Because our last name is Hill, some people like to joke we put the hill in hillbilly. Jethro Winston for example. He’s hysterical. Some people think they have a sense of humor when they’re just being mean-spirited. As my Nannie Ida always says, glass houses provide good views, but then again, so do mirrors.

This is why I prefer the company of Patsy over most folks. She’s smart, a good listener, tidy, and doesn’t give a damn about my family and reputation. She has more class than a lot of the gossips and Sunday church-goers around here.

After I consolidate the remaining produce into crates and load up the van, I fold the tables and collapse my tent. While I work, the face of the brunette ranger floats through my mind.

She looked familiar but I didn’t recognize her name. It isn’t likely our paths have crossed. I don’t get out much and I’m not hanging around the bars or the visitor center in Cades Cove. Normally, one of my cousins covers the stand at the weekly farmers’ market and I can avoid the crowds. This is what happens when I let my guard down and am forced to engage with the public. I get iceberg and Bible quotes. I’ve never been a fan of either.

Bothered I’m still thinking about her, I close and lock up the van.

“Come on Patsy, let’s go for a walk.”

She gives a happy snort and steps closer to where her leash hangs on the top rail of her pen.

When the two of us stroll through town, folks stare. It’s worse when they insist on sharing a comment, tell the same old joke, and, in general, make a fuss. Honestly, I assume at this point people seeing the two of us together would be old news around here.

Guess some folks don’t have enough going on in their lives that they need to make commentary about people minding their own damn business.

I don’t understand what the big deal is about a man walking his pig.

Patsy’s excellent on a leash. Doesn’t pull. Has never instigated fights with dogs. Hasn’t bit anyone. Doesn’t do her business in the middle of the sidewalk. In my mind, she’s much better mannered than any old hound dog.

She’s pretty darn perfect in every conceivable way.

Except the one time she trampled Mrs. MacClure’s flower bed.

Even that was my fault for not paying closer attention to where we were walking.

If I had to find fault with her, Patsy thinks she’s in charge. And she’s a little more than spoiled. I only have myself to blame.

“Clarice, please tell me you see that man walking his pig.” A woman shouts to her friend and points from about three feet away.

“I’m not invisible,” I tell her with a flat smile.

“Oh dear.” Her companion rolls her eyes. “You’re a tall drink of cool water, aren’t you?”

The question is rhetorical. Being compared to a refreshing beverage doesn’t require a response, so I remain quiet. Patsy tugs on her leash and releases a frustrated snort that we’ve stopped walking.

“You two have a nice day, m‘kay.” I step off the sidewalk to pass them.

I’d like to say their behavior is atypical. If I hear “You’re like the Jolly Green Giant. Only less green” one more time …

For the record, I am not jolly.

There must be something in the well water around here. We grow ‘em tall in Green Valley.

Does a pig need to be walked on leash for health and exercise? No.

I’m the only weirdo in all of Green Valley who likes to take my daily constitutional accompanied by a sow. Not even Cletus Winston is as much of an oddball as I am. And that’s saying something.

He’s only interested in pigs and boar in terms of sausage. In my opinion, he’s missing out. If we were friends, or even friendly acquaintances, I might suggest we partner up. Truffle salami can be incredible. Or so I remember. I don’t eat pork anymore. Not since I’ve had Patsy. I’d be offended if she ate human body parts around me.

Hogs will eat pretty much anything you give them. A few years ago a pig farmer went missing. Wife said he ran off with his mistress. Everyone believed her until his gold tooth turned up in the muck and mud of their hog pens. Macabre, but true.

I don’t eat pork and Patsy doesn’t eat me. It’s an unspoken pact between us.

Not that she’s some sort of demon pig crazed with bloodlust. Not at all. She’s the best pig in eastern Tennessee. Don’t need a blue ribbon from the state fair to make it true.

This leisurely stroll around town is all part of my ruse.

If someone sees us ambling someplace we don’t belong, they’ll leave us alone, which is the entire point.

There’s freedom in being a weirdo. Folks keep their distance. Sure, there are the asinine comments, but for the most part they assume I’m dim-witted or crazy. Fine by me. With or without my porcine sidekick, I’ve always been different. I learned early on that people like to form and hold onto their own opinions. Pointless to try to change someone’s mind. What they think of me is their problem, not mine.

About Daisy Prescott

Born and raised in San Diego, Daisy currently lives in a real life Stars Hollow in the Boston suburbs with her husband, their rescue dog, Mulder, and an imaginary house goat. When not writing about herself in the third person, Daisy can be found traveling, gardening, baking, or lost in a good book.

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BLOG TOUR: New Smartypants Release, Carpentry and Cocktails, Green Valley Public Library book 5, by Nora Everly – UPDATED

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Carpentry and Cocktails, an all-new heartwarming small-town romance from Nora Everly, is now available in Kindle Unlimited!

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REVIEW: I love a Nora Everly book for all its nerdy references. She is “a nerd in almost every way that exists,” and she’s not afraid to show it! I really like the mentions of other Green Valley characters that we know and love. Unlike other Smartypants Romance books I’ve read, the characters are there for a reason and not just dropped in to make those of us who love Penny Reid’s books feel connected to this new author’s story.

I liked this story, as I love a hot nerd like Everett. Willa was complicated, and I enjoyed her character development. I loved that they both had involved, supportive families. The ending seemed a bit rushed but it was still satisfying. I hope the rest of Everett’s siblings will get their own books, especially Barrett.

This book is now available in Kindle Unlimited. Thanks to Smartypants Romance and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Everett Monroe can’t keep his eyes off his gorgeous tenant.

He’d like to put his hands on her too, but she’s prickly, closed-off, and gives new meaning to the word disgruntled. In other words, she’s his perfect match and he’ll do anything to make her see it too.

Willa Hill has finally left her teen runaway past behind and wants a fresh start—alone. Men are nothing but trouble and she’s had enough man-trouble to last a lifetime.

Too bad her irresistibly sexy, nerdy-hot landlord doesn’t agree.

When their mutual yearning becomes a white-hot fling and passion crosses carefully drawn, albeit one-sided boundaries, Everett finds himself in love and Willa finds herself in a pickle.

Because, unfortunately, when she returned to Green Valley, her problems came too.

When the past she escaped crashes into the future she finds herself wanting more than anything, will Willa stay in Green Valley?

Or will she run away again?

‘Carpentry and Cocktails’ is a full-length contemporary romance, can be read as a standalone, and is book #5 in the Green Valley Library series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

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Excerpt

We had danced together before, the night I’d first met her. Months ago, I’d been at Genie’s with Wyatt to have a few beers and shake off the day. Instead, I’d danced all evening with the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Every time I remembered holding her close, I had to fight against getting hard. Since that night, I had been half in love with her. The physical half was all in—I was attracted to her something fierce. The mental half didn’t know enough to start the fall, even though everything I learned about her drew me in and each day made me fall a little further. She was skittish with a fiercely sharp wit; she had been hurt. I could tell she was protecting a soft spot and it made me want to discover it so I could be the one to keep her safe.

But she had kept her distance from me—well, as much as she possibly could while living in the apartment in my basement—and we hadn’t touched again, not once. Having her crash into my arms just now was heady stuff. Her scent, the feel of her body, the warm press of her against me—she made me feel intoxicated, and I had yet to order a single drink. My heart was in danger, but I couldn’t make myself stay away.

“My sister…I’m sorry—” she stammered as she started to step back.

I tugged her closer instead of letting her get away. “Don’t apologize. Dance with me?” My hands drifted around her waist as I started moving us backward toward the dance floor.

“Oh, I don’t know if we should.” Hesitation flashed briefly in her eyes, but she acquiesced and followed me across the floor as I turned to hold her hand, giving it a gentle tug of encouragement.

Leaning to the side, I whispered in her ear as we walked. “It’s just a dance, Willard.” I pulled back and grinned down at her with a wink. Her gorgeous eyes—big and light blue like the summer sky—widened as she opened her mouth to say something, but I twirled her under my arm instead of letting her speak. Country music blasted through the bar, fast and wild. It left no room for hesitation. I yanked her into my arms. “Okay?” I shouted over the music.

My mother loved to dance; she taught all us boys how. A gentleman always takes his lady dancing. And maintains a respectful distance. I took a small step back, placing my hand on Willa’s upper back as our fingers linked together. With a step forward, she closed that distance to press against me once more. My lips curled up in a grin as her hand tightened in mine and her arm slid around my neck, hand drifting through the back of my tied-back hair. She wasn’t as immune to me as she pretended to be and I wouldn’t dare test that by stepping away from her again, even if it wasn’t gentlemanly. If she wanted me close, then that’s where I’d be.

Her gorgeous eyes twinkled in the lights as she smiled up at me and her body relaxed in my arms. “Okay, Everett. I’ll dance with you,” she breathed. Her voice was much too quiet to hear over the blaring music, but my focus on her gorgeous mouth allowed me to understand her words.

Quick, quick, slow—our easy Texas two-step was the same as everyone else’s on the floor but with her in my arms, this felt like so much more than a simple dance. I led her across the floor, spinning her out and pulling her back. I wanted to make her laugh again, like I did during our last dance so many months ago. I wanted her to want me as much as I wanted her. We had almost shared a kiss that night but were interrupted before anything could happen. She had the prettiest lips; full and soft and always pink. If I never kissed Willa before I died, it would be one of my greatest regrets. I had faith the right moment would present itself. As the song came to an end, I took both of her hands to spin her under my arms before dipping her low over my knee. Her ponytail brushed the floor as her neck arched back. She laughed, lifted her head and my heart skipped a beat as her eyes shone into mine with unbridled delight. Her sexy laugh tickled over my skin like I wished her hands would do and I felt the fall I was so afraid of coming even closer.

“God, you’re such a good dancer. Where’d you learn to dance like this, Everett?” she asked, slightly breathless and totally adorable as she beamed up at me. It seemed that dancing with Willa was one of the keys to get her to respond to me. I filed that fact away for future contemplation as I pulled her up and into my hold once again.

My smile turned sideways as I was about to admit my nerdy momma’s-boy truth to her. “From my mother,” I shouted over the music. “She loves to dance. My father tries, but he isn’t very good at it, so she taught all us boys how. We used to take turns two-stepping with her all over the living room.”

“That’s the sweetest thing ever,” she said. Score one for the nerds! “One more?” I didn’t want to let her go yet.

“Sure, I have time for one more before I have to get back to work.”

With its slower beat and romantic lyrics, Lady Antebellum’s “I Run to You” changed the energy between us. The rise and fall of her chest as she sighed against me filled me with need as her forehead briefly rested on my shoulder and our fingers linked. I loved it that she was so tall. At six-foot-six I towered over most women, but Willa fit me just right. My need grew urgent as I wrapped my arm around her waist and my hand met the soft swipe of her skin, bared by the tied hem of her Genie’s tank top. Smooth and warm, it tempted me into thoughts inappropriate for our location. I inhaled a sharp breath to regain control. Dipping my head low, I took in her sweet scent as my cheek rested against hers—so soft. Her curly hair tickled my chin as my senses filled with nothing but her. Having her next to me felt right and I didn’t understand why. My heart raced out of control and I wondered just what it was about her that made me react so intensely.

She reminded me of a Palomino horse; all long legs, flowing light blond hair, and pale skin kissed with adorable freckles. Willa was some kind of wild, and totally free. I shut my eyes and pictured her running across her momma’s land up in the hills above town with her gorgeous hair flying behind her like a gold cloud, her laughter trailing through the air. God, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I grit my teeth as my control started slipping away again. I was in danger of making a fool of myself. I was in danger of a lot of things, and a broken heart was at the top of that list.

“I love this song…” she whispered in my ear as she pulled away. Her head lifted from my shoulder as her hand trailed down my arm. She linked our fingers and I resumed leading her around the floor, rather than the slow sway we’d fallen into when the song started.

“Mm hmm,” I muttered as I gazed into her eyes and smiled faintly, at a loss for words.

She studied my face. “Everett, why do I always feel like when you’re looking at me, you really see me?” she murmured.

“I do see you. Sometimes you’re all I see,” I confessed, hoping it wasn’t too much, too soon.

Lowering her head, she tucked her blushing cheek into the side of my neck and sighed against my skin, leaving goosebumps in the wake of her breath. I continued leading her across the dance floor with my heart beating like crashing thunder bolts in my chest. I should be careful; I didn’t want her to end up being just another girl I fell for who didn’t want me back. Story of my life.

About Nora Everly

Nora Everly is a lifelong bookworm. She started reading the good stuff once she grew tall enough to sneak the romance novels off the top of her mother’s bookshelf and it has been non-stop ever since.

Once upon a time she was a substitute teacher and an educational assistant. Now she’s a writer and stay at home mom to two small humans and one fat cat.

Nora lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and her overactive imagination.

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New Release! Sure Shot, by Sarina Bowen, a standalone in the Brooklyn Bruisers series is LIVE

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On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, successful sports agent Bess Beringer is ready to make some changes. Armed with a five-year plan—indexed and color coded—she’ll tackle a few goals in her personal life.

A big, tall, ripped hunk of hockey player who’s just been traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers is not a part of that five year plan. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz has a lot of baggage. He’s a ride-or-die loner. He’s on the rebound. He’s also the sexiest thing on two legs, and for some crazy reason it’s Bess that he wants.

She knows better. But then she falls stupid in love with him anyway. And for a while it seems like maybe he’ll do the same.

Until she asks him for the one thing he can never give her…

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REVIEW: I love a good hockey story, and Sarina Bowen writes the best ones. Sure Shot is about Bess, the sister of former Brooklyn Bruiser Dave Beringer. Dave’s story was told Bountiful, which is a crossover between Sarina’s hockey books and her True North series. It’s my favorite of that series, and the audiobook is excellent.

Bess is a sports agent, and she meets, or should I say becomes reacquainted with, Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz when he’s traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers, just as Bess herself comes back to New York for the start of a new Five-Year-Plan for her life. Of course, Tank doesn’t originally fit into that plan. But he and Bess have a history that can’t be ignored.

This was a good book. It was well-written, as all of Sarina’s are, and took some twists and turns that I didn’t expect. I like reading a book that is part of a bigger series, because all of the characters from the other stories show up, and we get to see how their lives have continued on since we last heard from them. It made me realize that I’ve missed a couple of books along the way, which is always a good thing to discover. Thanks to the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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RELEASE DAY EXCERPT

Tank: Did you SEE that beautiful goal???

Bess: Yes baby. That’s why I sent you a text last night that said NICE GOAL BABY in shouty caps. Didn’t it come through?

Tank: It came through. But I just wanted to talk about it some more. Because did you SEE that beautiful goal? When Castro accidentally passed to nowhere but I got my stick on it anyway? And before you could say TANK IS A STUD, I put it in?

Bess: Gorgeous goal, hot stuff! I may have spilled my beer I was so excited. 

Tank: Where did you spill it?

Bess: All over my naked breasts.

Tank: Really?

Bess: No. But the purpose of this conversation is stroking your ego, right? So I thought I’d just roll with it. 

Tank: LOL! I’ll take it. 

Bess: 🙂 

Tank: You were right, by the way. After the game, Castro told me I had to get the Brooklyn Bridge tattooed across my ass. 

Bess: Well that’s a good sign. If they’re pranking you it means they like you now.

Tank: I got a goal. They like that at least. 

Bess: What did you tell Castro about the tattoo?

Tank: I said, sure, buddy! 

Tank: And, get this, I told him that if we connect on ten goals this season—in either direction—not only will I put the bridge on one ass cheek, I’ll put his face on the other. 

Bess: OMG. What did he say to that?

Tank: “Let’s not get carried away.” Honestly he looked terrified, which was the point. I told him I was just crazy enough to do it. And then I wondered aloud what the blogs would write about that.

Bess: You are an evil man.

Tank: Never bullshit a bullshitter. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Specifically, I need to know if you’re naked right now. Please say yes.

Bess: I’m sitting in my office waiting for a conference call. So that would be no.

Tank: Lie to me, baby! I miss you.

Bess: There’s no need to lie. The next time we’re in the same zip code again, you can make your dreams come true.

Tank: Now there’s a plan I can get behind. Literally. 

Bess: Indeed. Got to go now! Call starts in two minutes.

Tank: One more thing, hot stuff. Have you seen Henry again? I keep leaving voicemails, asking when I can visit. He texts me back, but I can’t get a phone call. I just want to talk to the old codger.

Bess: Same. I sent him a present but when I asked to visit he shot me down. Now go beat Florida. 

Tank: Maybe you should send me a few motivational photographs to improve my game.

Bess: A good workout followed by a protein drink and then a nap would improve it more.

Tank: Says you.

Bess: I am a professional. I know things. Get some rest! I’ll be watching tonight.

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CREDITS: Photo by Wander Aguiar, Design by Hang Le

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The Treble With Men, an all-new secret identity romantic standalone from Piper Sheldon, is now available in Kindle Unlimited!

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The Treble With Men, an all-new secret identity romantic standalone from Piper Sheldon, is now available in Kindle Unlimited!

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As far as Green Valley is concerned, Kim Dae disappeared into the Wraiths a decade ago. They were sort of right. Kim has spent her life since Jethro fighting her curious nature and trying to blend into the background. Unfortunately for her, a mysterious Maestro comes to town and takes quick notice of her for reasons unknown to anybody.

The masked conductor, known simply as Devlin, was already a source of much gossip thanks to his reputation for getting fired. Now, his sudden interest in the quiet fourth chair cellist has added fuel to the rumor fire. The new conductor of the symphony needs to learn to control his temper and finish his latest musical masterpiece and only the reluctant star of his symphony can help him do that. If Devlin can’t convince Kim to help to finish his latest composition he’ll lose everything.

Can Devlin and Kim compose without losing composure?

‘The Treble with Men’ is a full-length contemporary romance, can be read as a standalone, and is book #2 in the Scorned Women’s Society series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

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Excerpt

““Let’s play through. I want to hear if you’re qualified,” Devlin said.

“Yes, Maestro.”

Around me, the symphony moved into the ready position. Devlin didn’t pick up his baton.

“You’ll need to move,” he said coolly, as his gaze flicked to the empty first chair.

Amazingly, my legs supported me despite how badly my knees tingled. The neck of my cello was tightly gripped in my fist like it was the only thing keeping me from spinning off the earth.

“We will start from the Andante movement,” he called out as I got situated.

Next to me Barry gave me a brief nod of encouragement. I managed a small smile back. Playing alone at night was a heck of a lot different than feeling an entire symphony watch you. I wiped my palms on my dress pants before straightening my spine.

My nerves were shredded. I did this for a living and yet I couldn’t get my bow to stop wobbling where it hovered just above the strings. My heart sputtered and cranked to a manic tempo. Carla should be here. What if something happened to her? The world began to tune out around me. Tears pricked behind my eyes. How ridiculous was that? I played with these people every day, but if I tried to speak or breathe or move, I’d start to cry.

“Hey.” Devlin’s voice was so soft I hardly noticed it at first. His biker boots appeared in front of my blurring vision. “Christine?”

I lifted my chin to find him standing in front of me with a furrowed brow. “Is she okay?” The question just slipped out, but I needed to know.

He dropped into a crouch to better hear me, causing me to pick up soft hints of cologne, fabric softener, and motorcycle exhaust. “What?”

I asked again a little louder but likely only Barry would be able to hear, if that.

His face was impassive like he was processing what I said. “Who? Carla?”

I nodded stiffly.

“Family emergency. She’ll be back on Monday,” he spoke softly.

“Oh.” A weight lifted from my shoulders.

My chest rose as I took a deep breath in. I released it slowly. Surely the entire room was waiting to see what my deal was.

“I appreciate you stepping in for her.” He lifted his chin to get me to look into his eyes. “I’m sure she would appreciate it too.”

I doubted that, but at least I wasn’t taking the performance from her. I was helping the orchestra out. I could absolutely do this. My thoughts had me worrying my bottom lip.

His focus lowered to my lips then quickly to where my hand gripped the shoulder of my cello. He cleared his throat. “Are you ready?”

I swallowed down my irrational fears. Carla was fine. It was just one show. I could do this. I got into position in answer to his question. Those dark eyes flitted around my face as though checking to see if I really was ready.

“All you need to do is watch me.” When he spoke his mask hardly moved; nobody would know he’d spoken at all. My gaze was locked on his as it smoldered with intensity. “It’s you and me.”

As though I could look anywhere else. When he gave me his focus, the rest of the room faded away. The rest of the world.

“Ready?” he asked.

I forced my shoulders down. He got back onto the podium and I lifted my bow to wait for my solo entrance as he counted the rest of the orchestra in. The noteson the page transformed into a foreign language. The music quieted, signifying my entrance. I drew my bow along the string, but my tense arm caused a noticeable wobble. A wave of heat burned up my neck, a flush likely giving me away. Just when I thought I might lose total control, I remembered his directions. I looked to him.

His arm conducted the rest of the orchestra smoothly as they played their soft accompaniment, but his head was turned to me. He was willing me to look at him. His eyes narrowed when mine finally met his. He nodded his chin subtly. I didn’t need to read the music. I knew this solo in my sleep. Instead, I kept my focus on him. I played. Everything else blurred into the background. The music came then. It flowed through me.

It was just us and the beautiful music.”

I have read at least one book in every series from the Smartypants Romance collection, and I think the Scorned Women’s Society may be my favorite series. But I am a big music nerd, and these books are based on musicals. First was My Bare Lady, based on My Fair Lady, and now The Treble with Men, based on Phantom of the Opera. I liked the first book in the series, but I LOVED this second one.

It is clever, it is well-written, there’s a bit of a mystery to it. I am not a huge fan of the Phantom of the Opera, but that did not detract from me loving this book at all. The author loved the original story, and that is very evident in the telling of this tale. She treats it with such love and reverence, while also putting her own unique and interesting spin on the story. Highly recommended, and I am really looking forward to seeing what musicals the author has in store for the rest of the SWS.

About Piper Sheldon

Piper Sheldon writes Contemporary Romance and Magical Realism books that hope to be New York Times bestsellers when they grow up. For now, she works as a technical writer during the day and writes about love the rest of the time. Of course she also makes room for her husband, toddler, and two needy dogs at home in the Desert Southwest.

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Book Review, Books, Kindle Unlimited, New Release, Romance, romcom, series, Uncategorized

Book Review: One Moment Please, Wait with Me book 3 by Amy Daws

 

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5 of 5 surprisingly emotional stars

I love the Wait with Me series. Amy Daws is an excellent storyteller. That being said, surprise pregnancy stories are not my favorite, so I did not expect to like this book as much as the previous two. I should have known better. This book not just Surprise Pregnancy. It’s also an Enemies to Lovers-Roommates-Grumpy Doctor Hero-Waiting Room Meet Cute-Standalone RomCom. It’s also funny, and emotional, and heart-warming, and did I mention funny?

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The author who holds the gold standard of being able to make me laugh out loud one page and cry the next is Kristan Higgins. But Amy Daws is just as good at it! The hero of this story, Josh (aka Dr. Dick!) is SUCH a jerk at the beginning of the book, but we learn that he has a situation in his past that caused him to basically put up a wall between him and the world, not letting anyone get close, not believing he is capable of giving love, or worthy of receiving it. It would have been easy for the author to make him into a two dimensional character and have a sudden realization that he COULD love and be loved. But she goes much deeper than that, and the way it is resolved is so beautiful and touching and heart-warming. Amy Daws is really becoming one of my favorite authors.

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The sign of a good book in a series that you enjoy is when you want to go back and read the entire series over again when you’re done with each new release. This book definitely made me want to do that. I liked Wait with Me, but I LOVED Next in Line (which was my first Amy Daws book, btw.) I definitely want to go back and read all three in a row now. And you should too! Thanks to the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Book Review – New Release – Heartland, Truth North series #7 by Sarina Bowen

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5 of 5 emotional stars

I love Sarina Bowen’s books, especially the Truth North series. I’ve read all but book 6, even though I own it; I just haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet. I was selected to be a member of Sarina’s ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) team recently, and was given the opportunity to read and review this 7th book, and I jumped at the chance.

This book is interesting, because it has a connection not only to the Shipley family and the other Vermont folks we’ve met in the rest of the series, but our heroine has a deep personal history with the hero in book 3, Keepsake. Chastity and Zachariah were both raised on a polygamist ranch in Wyoming, but it would be a spoiler for me to say much more than that. One thing I will say is that they each had to overcome seriously messed up views of men and women and sex. It’s one of the things that made Keepsake such an interesting read, as well. Keepsake looks at it from a man’s point of view, and Heartland sees it from a woman’s.

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you may know that I don’t read blurbs, especially when it’s an author I love.  I actually don’t want to know what is going to happen in a book (or movie or TV show) before I read or watch it. If I know something ahead of time, I’ll spend the whole time anticipating when that thing is going to happen, and I won’t be fully present. So I did not know anything about what Heartland was going to be about, except that the main character was Dylan Shipley.

The last book I read as part of an ARC team was Crush, by Mae Wood. I love her books, but I didn’t really like this one because the heroine was 22. It has been a long time since I was 22, and I couldn’t relate, plus I have a daughter who is 20, so I usually avoid books about kids in college. Dylan is 20, and the heroine, Chastity, is 21, and yet I didn’t have a problem with this story. I’m not really sure what the difference was, but I was hooked from the start of this book and I didn’t want to put it down!

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Book Review! Beef Cake, Donner Bakery book 4 by Jiffy Kate, from Smartypants Romance

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4 of 5 satisfying stars

I was looking forward to the spring launch of Smartypants Romance, so I was excited to read this book. I’d read the other Jiffy Kate contribution, Stud Muffin, and I enjoyed it but found it surprisingly angsty. I’m not familiar with any other Jiffy Kate books, so I don’t know if that is standard for these authors. This had some elements of angst, but not nearly as much as the first book.

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I felt like it was a bit rushed toward the end, and would have liked to see more of the relationship between the two characters once they got past their conflict. One thing I will say is that I loved how persistent Gunnar was in his pursuit of Frankie. She was an interesting character and a tough nut for him to crack; but while he recognized she needed her space, and gave it to her, he didn’t give up.

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Book Review: Code of Honor, Smartypants Romance Cipher Security book 2, by April White

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5 of 5 suspenseful stars

Since this was a Smartypants romance book, chances were good that I would like it. However, I was happily surprised that I LOVED it! I haven’t read any other books by this author, so I’m definitely looking forward to going back to the first book in the Cipher Security series, Code of Conduct.

I used to read a lot of mysteries and suspense stories: Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, Anna Rivers Siddons, Nevada Barr. Since getting back into romance books, I haven’t read a lot of suspense, but Code of Honor is a nice mixture of the two. Is it a romance book with suspense, or a mystery with a side of romance? Either way, I loved it. It was fast-paced, and interesting, and fun, with a dash of sexy sprinkled here and there. I liked Anna and her relationship with her twin sister, Collette. I loved Darius, and the peek into Iranian culture that his character and his family gives us. I loved that Anna referred to him as a Disney prince throughout the story. It really did paint a lovely picture.

The thing I like best about books from Smartypants Romance is that they often contain characters we love from the Penny Reid Universe, in this case, Cipher’s two big kahunas, Quinn and Dan. April White captures them both perfectly, and as I read Dan’s lines, I could hear them as if they were spoken by Stephen Dexter, who narrated Dan and Kat’s book in the Knitting in the City series, Marriage of Inconvenience. It was a wonderful, unexpected bonus.

When I finished the book, I was all set to give it four stars. Then I read the acknowledgments, which bumped it up to five stars for me, because the mystery in the book was based on REAL LIFE EVENTS. Now I want to read the book all over again, after I’ve read Code of Conduct, of course! Thanks to the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Book Review, Books, New Release, Romance, series, Uncategorized

New Release! Sugarcoated, book 1 in a new series by Erin Nicholas!

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5 of 5 scrumptious stars

I love Erin Nicholas. Her books are the perfect combination of sweet and sexy. This lady knows how to write, and her characters never have conflicts that are the result of a stupid misunderstanding. The strife that their relationships go through – and overcome – comes from a more organic place, and it always makes SENSE. I always roll my eyes in disgust when one character in a story overhears the other, or discovers something on their laptop, or finds out something important before their significant other has the opportunity to tell them. Erin Nicholas could have done any of these things in Sugarcoated, which is the first book in her new Hot Cakes series. But she DIDN’T.  And I love her for it.

Sugarcoated is the story of Zoe and Aiden. They’ve known each other since they were kids; they grew up together. Aiden is Zoe’s brother Cam’s best friend, and he practically lived with them after his mom passed away. Zoe runs the bakery that has been in her family for many years. Aiden is back in town after moving away to run a very successful business with four of his best friends. He’s back for two reasons: because he loves Zoe and wants to have a future with her, and he and his friends are buying the pastry factory that Zoe and her family sees as their number one competition. It’s a very interesting premise for a story, and Erin Nicholas handles it so well.

I just loved this book. It was so well-written, and the storyline was fun, and sexy, and sets up nicely the rest of the books in the series. If you haven’t read her Sapphire Falls series, that is definitely the place to start. There are enough books in that series to get you through this lockdown quarantine business!!

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