Books, New Release, Romance, series

New Release! Lies & Lullabies, Hush Note series #1, by Sarina Bowen

Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details. 

I didn’t know he was a rock star.

I didn’t know his real name.

Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.

And I sure never expected to see him again.

Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

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Excerpt

I watched Kira ride off, wondering what the hell had just happened. Sure, she probably guessed that I wrote that song about her. But she’d only heard the first few bars before sprinting away like I was the devil himself.

Spinning around, I located the lodge’s bike shed. I rolled a bike out and hopped on. The seat was too low for me, so I had to stand up on the pedals. 

But no matter. I rode off after Kira, my first time on a real bike in years. 

The road curved around to the left, and Kira’s house soon came into view. She was sitting on the front steps. She didn’t look all that surprised to see me biking toward her, but the look of pain on her face was so vivid that I could feel it in my gut. Something was wrong, and I still didn’t know what.

“Feel any better?”

She shook her head, and I thought I saw fear in her eyes.

“Kira,” I said softly. “I know you want me to leave you alone right now, but I can’t—our conversation isn’t over. In twenty-four hours I’ll be back on that bus. Honestly, you’re scaring me. When I last saw you, things seemed like they were on the upswing for you. When I said I think about you all the time, I didn’t mean to be a creeper. I meant that I was picturing a happy ever after for you.”

“Mama!” a little voice called from beyond the screen door.

At the sound of it, Kira’s whole body went rigid. And then tears spilled down her cheeks.

I heard little footsteps pounding onto the screened porch. And then a small set of hands became visible against the door just behind Kira. Quick as a flash, Kira leapt to her feet and spun around, darting through the door. It closed with a bang behind her.

“Whoa,” a man’s voice said. “Deep breaths, Kiki. What did he say?”

The hair stood up on my neck. I dropped the bicycle and covered the distance to the stoop in three paces. Leaping up, I opened the screen door. A little girl stood there, with fair, curly hair and blue-green eyes. I was no good with kids’ ages. She wasn’t an infant, but she wasn’t school-aged either. There was a babyish fullness to her face. She was three? Four? Five? I looked up at Kira.

“I’m so sorry,” she squeaked.

That’s when I finally understood. And I almost couldn’t draw breath to speak again. “I… She… What the fuck, Kira?” 

“That’s a very bad word,” the little girl said, accusation in her voice.

“Sorry,” I said automatically. I raised my eyes to Kira’s. “You… She…” 

I couldn’t think. There was pressure in my ears, and my pulse was ragged. Dizzy, I thought, absently, putting one hand on the door jamb for support.

“Breathe, man,” the guy behind Kira said. He wore a bright pink polo shirt and an expression of concern. “Sit down. Seriously, before you crash.”

I bent over and grabbed my knees. “Oh my God.” The only thing I could hear was my own ragged breathing and Kira’s choked sobs.

“Mama!” a little voice said, full of alarm. “Don’t cry!”

The scary moment stretched on, until I heard yet another bicycle approaching outside. A moment later, another male voice called out, “Knock-knock!”

The pink-polo-shirt guy answered him, his voice full of false cheer. “Hi, Luke!” Under his breath he added, “Wow. It’s raining men.” Then he scooped the little girl up in his arms, stepped around me, and walked out the screen door. It closed behind him with a bang.

I just stood there, staring at my shoes, trying to catch my breath. Kira’s shoes moved into my visual field, but I wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. Not until my head could clear. Which would probably be sometime next week. 

We stood here, awkward and quiet for a couple of long minutes. There was some low-key chatter outside, and then I heard the sound of the bicycle departing. 

The guy in the polo shirt came back inside, alone. 

“You’re her brother.” I coughed, trying to reconstruct the world into a rational place.

“Yup,” the guy said. “Uncle Adam.”

“Where is Vivi?” Kira asked, her voice raw.

“Luke is taking her for a little bike ride. There may be ice cream involved.”

“Really, Adam?” Kira moved quickly to peer through the screen. “But that’s awkward.”

“Oh, honey. We have first class tickets on the HMS Awkward today. And the ship has sailed. Luke even had a pink helmet for her, Kiki. Just go with it, okay? I told him you were having a moment.”

I straightened up. “She’s having a moment,” I spat out. “Is that what this is?” My pulse was still pounding in my ears, but now from anger instead of shock.

Kira was as pale as a sheet. “I was going to tell you today.” She pulled a photo out of her pocket. “Here. I was trying to find a way.”

I snatched the picture from her hand. “She’s, what, four?” The photo shook as I tried to look at it. The little girl smiled up at the camera, a stuffed animal in her hands. It was purple. Somehow this detail made it all the more real. The little girl in the photo was clutching the purple cat I’d won at the fair all those years ago.

Book Review, Books, New Release, Romance, Uncategorized

Review of “Hold On Tight” (Returning Home, Book One) by Serena Bell

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5 out of 5 beautiful, sexy, heart-warming stars

I posted about this book a couple of days ago, to help get the word out about its release. Then I had a chance to actually read the book. YOU GUYS, this book is amazing! It is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year! I am lucky enough to be on Serena Bell’s ARC team, and was thrilled to be able to read this book so I could share it with you. The most exciting thing about this book, and the others in this series, is that it is a re-release, as Ms. Bell is now an INDIE author. I’m even more excited to be a part of her team now, because indie authors need even more support than the garden variety. 🙂

Now, I am a sucker for second chance romance. I also love a well-written story about a military hero, having grown up as an Army brat. I’m a big fan of the single parent, being one myself, and while I usually gravitate toward the hot single DAD books, I like to read about a single mom working hard to be all things to her kids, while also finding some time to take care of herself.  Lastly, I can occasionally be found reading a secret baby romance, although it’s not my favorite trope. Hold On Tight has all of these!

Here’s a quick synopsis by the author herself:

“Hold On Tight is the story of Jake—a guy who comes back from war, broken in body and spirit, to discover that he has a kid he never knew existed and a baby mama he’s been trying really hard to forget. It’s also the story of Mira, a single mom who has been working her butt off to hold all the pieces together, and does not need the complication of being attracted to a man who got her pregnant and disappeared off the face of the earth. Aaand, it’s the story of Sam, who—well, he’s seven, and just trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together, especially in light of the fact that his mom told him that his dad was a sperm donor.”

Jake and Mira had a very short, but passionate, relationship 8 years ago, and their paths are about to cross again. Jake is a war hero. Not only that, he’s a wounded war hero, who is back home after a devastating experience overseas. Mira is a single mom, who just moved across the country, and away from her parents, to prove that she can take care of herself and her 7-year-old son. What will happen when Jake finds out he has a son? How will Mira deal with Jake’s reemergence into her life? Will she tell her son, Sam, that Jake is his dad?

I adored Sam. This kid had a heart of gold, and he was not afraid to ask the tough questions. Have you heard the saying, “…and the little child shall lead them”? Sam is that child. I started reading one of the chapters, and when it started out, it made me think it was going to be from Sam’s POV.  It didn’t turn out to be, but I thought to myself, “How freaking great would that be, to get a chapter from a child’s own perspective???” It’s definitely something I have not seen before, and didn’t know I’d love until that moment.

I loved this book. LOVED. I’d read another military hero book recently, and it was pretty bad. It wasn’t realistic, and it was very light on the facts. I don’t know what experience Ms. Bell has with military life, but I found her descriptions to be very authentic. Jake had experienced some very harrowing things while he was deployed, and he had a very difficult time dealing with the challenges of life back home. It all felt very real and honest.

I’ve also come to realize over the past few years that sexy times must be REALLY difficult to write, because some authors just aren’t very good at it. Serena Bell, let it be known, is NOT one of those authors. Her sexy times are off-the-charts hot. It’s possible that I enjoy them so much because I’m really rooting for her characters and I want them to have good sexy times, but I don’t think so. She’s just really good at writing super sexy scenes, which at no point make the reader pause and say “wait…what?”

I’m very excited about book 2, Can’t Hold Back, because it’s not just another book in the series, it’s a continuation of sorts. We meet the main characters, Nate and Alia, at the end of Hold on Tight, and it appears we will also be able to follow Mira and Jake (and Sam!) on their continuing journey.

If you like military heroes, or second chance romance, or secret baby stories, or indie authors, or all of the above, PLEASE go buy this book. I will definitely be bringing you reviews of the other books in this series, as they are released. I hope you love Jake and Mira’s story as much as I did!

Buy Hold on Tight on Amazon

Pre-order Can’t Hold Back

Pre-order To Have and To Hold

Books, New Release, Romance, Uncategorized

New Release: Hold on Tight (RETURNING HOME, BOOK ONE) by Serena Bell

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HOLD ON TIGHT (RETURNING HOME, BOOK ONE)

A wounded soldier. A secret baby. A second chance.

Jake Taylor has made a few terrible decisions, but none worse than the one in Afghanistan that cost him his best friend and his leg.

Or so he thinks, until he comes home from war to discover a seven-year-old son he never knew existed.

Jake can’t regret the blissful nights he spent with Mira in his arms, or the boy with his eyes, but he can leave them alone so they don’t become yet another one of his mistakes.

He’ll rehab his body, figure out how to find purpose again—and keep things simple with the woman he once craved desperately.

Except the sizzling attraction that drew him to Mira is still fierce, and staying away from her is a lot harder than he ever expected…

Mira Shipley has promised herself that if she ever sees Jake Taylor again, she’ll tell him he has a son.

She isn’t expecting to run into him at the physical therapist’s office, where he’s learning to live with an above-the-knee amputation.

She can’t blame him for being a grumpy jerk under the circumstances, but it would be a lot easier to ignore him if she didn’t desperately need child care for her son.

And if Jake didn’t make her feel brand new and dazzlingly alive.

She knows she needs to protect her son’s feelings—but no matter how hard she tries, she can’t forget the long, sweet nights she and Jake spent learning each other’s bodies and each other’s secrets…

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING

“Sweet, sexy and real . . . In Hold on Tight, Serena Bell has written a beautiful story about a wounded soldier and the woman strong enough to love him.”—Jessica Scott, USA Today bestselling author of Because of You

“The authenticity of their story is resounding. This isn’t a story of instant love, but of an uphill battle and determination, of making decisions, and of living in the here and now.”Heroes and Heartbreakers

“This contemporary second-chance romance is Bell’s best written book yet. It deals with the horror of war beautifully and with great care, weaving it into a great love story, and many, many swoons.”—The Book Hammock

“Just a beautiful, and yet not overly emotionally weighted, story of two people fighting their way out of a life they were dealt, toward a life they choose wholeheartedly. This book left me feeling warmed, encouraged, bolstered and full. Phenomenal writing by Serena Bell.”—Ripe for Reader

“I was completely swept away with the characters, story and the writing.”—Twin Spin

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EXCERPT

On the other side of the room, the cocky guy with the prosthetic leg shifted in his seat, drawing her gaze. Brown hair, on the longer side of short, uncombed. A couple of days’ unshaven scruff. Not her type; she liked professional men, clean-shaven. Her mind was about to dismiss him—a guy I ran into in the physical therapist’s office and wasn’t attracted to, but not because he was an amputee, just because he wasn’t my fantasy. But something made her look again.

Holy shit. She knew that face. The strong jaw, the well-formed upper lip, the deep groove that ran vertically between his brows—

She’d memorized his features in the few weeks they’d been together, the quick three-quarters way he smiled, like he couldn’t quite fully commit to happiness, the all-in truth of his smile when he gave himself over. The creases that formed when he frowned, the way his jaw set when something bothered him. That night at the lake—the last night—the look on his face when she’d taken off her clothes. Gratitude and longing and Who, me? For real?

The night came back to her in sharp contrasts, pairs of impressions. The coolness of his wet skin and the heat of his body. The softness of his mouth moving over hers, over her breasts, and the hard tug of his suckling, the yank of desire she’d felt. The rich summer smells, green and overripe, and the clean soap scent of him. How open she’d felt, how boundary-less, melting, flowing, willing—and how her body had betrayed and frustrated her.

How good he’d made her feel, better than she’d ever felt in her life, and the way he’d hurt her. The way they’d dressed, packed up, and driven home in silence. How hard she’d cried, and for how long.

Jake.

His eyes caught hers, caught and held and held and held. Sam’s gray-blue eyes, Sam’s full lower lip, Sam’s absurdly long eyelashes. Jake’s face.

Would Sam someday have a jaw like that, square and strong? Would his nose, which was still a little boy’s pudgy upturned nose, be as bladelike as his father’s?

How many times had she promised herself that if this moment ever came, she wouldn’t hold the truth back from Jake?
Buy Hold on Tight on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo credit Susan Young

USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes contemporary romance with heat, heart, and humor. A former journalist, Serena has always believed that everyone has an amazing story to tell if you listen carefully, and you can often find her scribbling in her tiny garret office, mainlining chocolate and bringing to life the tales in her head.

Serena’s books have earned many honors, including an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Apple Books Best Book of the Month, and Amazon Best Book of the Year for Romance.

When not writing, Serena loves to spend time with her college-sweetheart husband and two hilarious kiddos—all of whom are incredibly tolerant not just of Serena’s imaginary friends but also of how often she changes her hobbies and how passionately she embraces the new ones. These days, it’s stand-up paddle boarding, board-gaming, meditation, and long walks with good friends.

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