Review: Exposed by Kristen Callihan

EXPOSED
Series: VIP #4
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Kristen Callihan
Release Date: July 13, 2021

Brenna

There are some people in life who know exactly how to push your buttons. For me, it’s Rye Peterson. We can’t spend more than ten minutes together before we’re at each other’s throats, which makes working together that much harder. Rye is the bassist for Kill John, the biggest rock band in the world, and I am his publicist. It doesn’t help that the man is gorgeous, funny, talented, and…never takes anything seriously. Avoidance is key.

But everything changes when he overhears something he shouldn’t: a confession made in a moment of weakness. Now the man I’ve tried so hard to ignore is offering me the greatest temptation of all—him.

Rye

Brenna James is the one. The one I can’t have. The one I can’t get out of my mind. Believe me, I’ve tried; the woman loathes me. I managed well enough—until I heard her say she’s as lonely as I am. That she needed to be touched, held, satisfied. And I could no longer deny the truth: I wanted to be the one to give her what she craved.

I convinced her that it would just be sex, mutual satisfaction with nothing deeper. But the moment I have her, she becomes my world. I’ve never given her a good reason to trust me before. Now, I’ve got to show Brenna that we’re so much better together than we ever were apart.

Things are going to get messy. But getting messy with Brenna is what I do best.

AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO 

“I’ve spent my entire adult life either wanting you or wanting to forget you.”

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this book. But if there’s one thing that Kristen Callihan does well, is she makes every minute, month, and year of the agonizing wait for our next VIP fix super worth it when she releases the next one. And when I got my grabby little hands on this book, no sleep was had because I had to devour it in one sitting.

I’m good, Bren. I’ll do whatever you want, for as long as you want. I’ll make certain you’re taken care of, and I won’t tell a soul.”
Jesus. I can’t breathe. “So selfless,” I murmur. “And what do you get out of all of this?”
“You.” His fingers stroke my braid. “I get you.”

God. Brenna and Rye. These two just made my cold black heart feel all warm and fuzzy. They’ve spent years in an antagonizing back and forth of hate lust and forced proximity. Brenna is Killian’s cousin and Kill John’s publicist and Rye is the bassist and Killian’s best friend. Until one conversation that Rye overhears changes everything.

My power is in maintaining the illusion that nothing can get to me, and I accept that as part of doing business. But some days? Some days, I want to crumble. I want…comfort, touch, release.

Brenna is a power woman that always put her career first. But she can’t help but feel like something is missing. And when she spills to her friend what it is and Rye overhears? Well let’s just say he volunteers as tribute.

While Brenna is all hard edges and fearful avoidance, Rye is the sexy softhearted one that is willing to put it all on the line for her. I loved this man so hard. SO HARD. I loved that they’ve know each other for so long, but only start to get to know each other over the course of their arrangement. Seeing how they misinterpreted things about each other through the years was almost painful, if they didn’t fully talk it out when the subject came out. I loved watching them grow closer together. I loved their fiery passion. And I absolutely loved the tight bond of the band and their friendships and relationships. I live for cameos from Scottie, what can I say?

The story is told in dual POVs and I couldn’t get enough. I also loved the twist on the romantic conclusion. I loved seeing Brenna’s hard edges soften. And did I mention that I loved my bearded, dirty talking, and uber sweet bassist? Because GAH.

Control has always been mine, no matter the partner, no matter the situation. Rye is another story. Hell, he’s a whole other genre. I can’t control Rye. I can’t control my feelings when I’m with him. I’m on a Tilt-a-Whirl in the dark, terrified the harness might snap.

I did wish we got a little more fleshing out of Rye’s story. While Brenna got the focus here, which I get, we did spend a good chunk of the story on Rye’s issue, and I would have loved more on that.

But as it was, I still devoured this book. It was sexy, entertaining, and oh so satisfying. I’m already desperate for my next fix of VIP with Whip’s story.

Kristen Callihan is an author because there’s nothing else she’d rather be. She has written New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestsellers. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. Her debut book, Firelight, received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence and was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, Best Book of Spring 2012 by Publishers Weekly, and Best Romance Book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she’s not writing, she’s reading.

AUTHOR LINKS
WEBSITE | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | BOOKBUB

#DGRFave Review & Excerpt: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER
Series: It Happened One Summer #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Tessa Bailey
Release Date: July 13, 2021

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who is cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong. 

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.

AMAZON

Brendan Taggart was the first Westport resident to spot the women.He heard a car door slam out by the curb and slowly turned on the barrel that passed as a seat in No Name. His bottle of beer paused halfway to his mouth, the loud storytelling and music filling the bar fading away.

Through the grubby window, Brendan watched the pair exit on opposite sides of a taxi and immediately wrote them off as clueless tourists who obviously had the wrong address.

That is, until they started hauling suitcases out of the trunk. Seven, to be exact.

He grunted. Sipped his beer.

They were a ways off the beaten path. There wasn’t an inn for several blocks. On top of misjudging their destination, they were dressed for the beach at night, during a late-summer rain, no umbrella to speak of—and visibly confounded by their surroundings.

It was the one in the floppy hat who caught his eye right away, purely because she looked the most ridiculous, a lipstick-shaped purse dangling from her forearm, wrists limp and drawn up to her shoulders, as if she was afraid to touch something. She tilted her head back and gazed up at the building and laughed. And that laugh turned into what looked like a sob, though he couldn’t hear it through the music and pane of glass.

As soon as Brendan noticed the way the rain was molding the dress to Floppy Hat’s tits, he glanced away quickly, going back to what he’d been doing before. Pretending to be interested in Randy’s overboard story, even though he’d heard it eighty goddamn times.

“The sea was boiling that day,” Randy said, in a voice equivalent to scrap metal being crushed. “We’d already hit our quota and then some, thanks to the captain over here.” He saluted Brendan with his frothy pint. “And there I was, on a deck slipperier than a duck’s ass, picturing the bathtub full of cash I’d be swimming in when we got home. We’re hauling in the final pot, and there it was, the biggest crab in the damn sea, the motherfucking grandpappy of all crabs, and he tells me with his beady little eyes that he ain’t going down without a fight. Noooo, sir.”

Randy propped a leg up on the stool he’d been sitting on earlier, his craggy features arranged for maximum drama. He’d been working on Brendan’s boat longer than Brendan had been captaining it. Had seen more seasons than most of the crew combined. At the end of each one, he threw himself a retirement party. And then he showed up for the next season like clockwork, having spent every last dime of last year’s take.

“When I tell you that sucker wrapped a leg around the arm of my slicker, right through the pot, the mesh, all of it, I’m not lying. He was hell-bent for leather. Time froze, ladies and gentlemen. The captain is yelling at me to haul in the pot, but hear me now, I was bamboozled. That crab put a spell on me—I’m telling you. And that’s when the wave hit, conjured by the crab himself. Nobody saw it coming, and just like that, I was tossed into the drink.”

The man who was like a grandfather to Brendan took a pause to drain half his beer.

“When they pulled me in . . .” He exhaled. “That crab was nowhere to be found.”

The two people in the crowded bar who hadn’t already heard the legend laughed and applauded—and that was the moment Floppy Hat and the other one decided to make their entrance. Within seconds, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop, and that didn’t surprise Brendan one bit. Westport was a tourist stop to be sure, but they didn’t get a lot of outsiders stumbling into No Name. It was an establishment that couldn’t be found on Yelp.

Mainly because it was illegal.

But it wasn’t only the shock of non-locals walking in and disrupting their Sunday-night bullshit session. No, it was the way they looked. Especially Floppy Hat, who walked in first, hitting the easy energy of the room with shock paddles. In her short, loose dress and sandals that wrapped around her calves, she could have stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine for all those . . . tight lines and smooth curves.

Brendan could be objective about that.

His brain could point out an attractive woman without him caring one way or the other.

He set his beer down on the windowsill and crossed his arms, feeling a flash of annoyance at everyone’s stupefied expressions. Randy had rolled out the red carpet in the form of his tongue lolling out of his mouth, and the rest of the men were mentally preparing marriage proposals, by the look of it.

“Little help with the luggage, Pipes?” called the second girl from the entrance, where she’d propped open the door with a hip, struggling under the weight of a suitcase.

“Oh!” Floppy Hat whirled around, pink climbing the sides of her face—and hell, that was some face. No denying it, now that there wasn’t a dirty windowpane distorting it. Those were the kind of baby blues that made men sign their life away, to say nothing of that wide, stubborn upper lip. The combination rendered her guileless and seductive at the same time, and that was trouble Brendan wanted no part of. “Sorry, Hanns.” She winced. “I’ll go get the rest—”

“I’ll get them,” at least nine men said at once, tripping over themselves to reach the door. One of them took the suitcase from Floppy Hat’s companion, while several others lunged into the rain, getting stuck side by side in the doorway. Half of those jackasses were on Brendan’s crew, and he almost disowned them right then and there. 

Within seconds—although not without some familiar bickering—all seven suitcases were piled in the middle of the bar, everyone standing around them expectantly. “What gentlemen! So polite and welcoming,” Floppy Hat crooned, hugging her bizarre handbag to her chest. “Thank you!”

“Yes, thanks,” said the second girl quietly, drying the rain off her face with the sleeve of a UCLA sweatshirt. Los Angeles. Of course. “Uh, Pipes?” She turned in a circle, taking in their surroundings. “Are you sure this is the right place?”

In response to her friend’s question, she seemed to notice where she was standing for the first time. Those eyes grew even bigger as she catalogued the interior of No Name and the people occupying it. Brendan knew what she was seeing, and already he resented the way she recoiled at the dust on the mismatched seats, the broken floorboards, the ancient fishing nets hanging from the rafters. The disappointment in the downturned corners of her mouth spoke volumes. Not good enough for you, baby? There’s the door.

With prim movements, Pipes—keeper of ridiculous names and purses—snapped the handbag open and drew out a jewel-crusted phone, tapping the screen with a square red nail. “Is this . . . sixty-two North Forrest Street?”

A chorus of yeses greeted the strangled question.

“Then . . .” She turned to her friend, chest expanding on quick breaths. “Yes.”

“Oh,” responded UCLA, before she cleared her throat, pasting a tense smile on a face that was pretty in a much subtler way than Pipes’s. “Um . . . sorry about the awkward entrance. We didn’t know anyone was going to be here.” She shifted her weight in boots that wouldn’t be good for anything but sitting down. “I’m Hannah Bellinger. This is my sister, Piper.”

Piper. Not Pipes.

Not that it was much of an improvement.

The floppy hat came off, and Piper shook out her hair, as if they were in the middle of a photo shoot. She gave everyone a sheepish smile. “We own this place. Isn’t that crazy?”

If Brendan thought their entrance had produced silence, it was nothing compared to this.

Owned this place?

From IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER by Tessa Bailey, published by Avon Books. Copyright © 2021 by Tessa Bailey. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers.

He was a set-in-his-ways fisherman. She was a rich, adventurous socialite.

Y’all. I’m going to make a pretty extreme statement here and you may want to sit down for it. But this? This was, hands down, my favorite Tessa Bailey book to date. I’m on bookish cloud nine. I felt like I was floating just reading it. And the goofy grin on my face for the entire book? Couldn’t help it! I’m in love and his name is Brendan Taggart.
This book had everything; humor, steam, a slow burn, a small town setting, a quirky socialite, and a grumpy bear…err…fisherman.

It won’t let me just use my own name as my username.”
“Yeah, probably because about nine hundred Brendan Taggarts joined before you.”
“So what should I use?”
“CaptainCutie69,” Fox spat out.
“IGotCrabs4U,” Deke supplied.
“SlipperyWhenWet.” Brendan stared.
“You’re all fired. Go home.”

This story reminded me a little of It Had to Be You but in a totally unique way. Maybe it was just the feels that it brought out, but man, I just died.

Piper is a type of heroine that could easily be seen as a fluff, unless Tessa writes her. She’s a spoiled socialite who has never known hard work or trouble beyond no good parties around on the weekend. So when her stepfather finally has enough of her antics and inability to take anything serious, her and her sister find themselves in a small town running their late fathers dive bar in the middle of a fishing town. Suffice it to say they’re ill equipped for the task, but in the most hilarious of ways.

Piper followed, looking down at him from the top of the stairs. “Are we friends, Brendan?”
“No,” he called back, without missing a beat.
Her mouth hung open, a laugh huffing out of her as she closed the door. Hannah sat up and asked, “What the hell is going on there?”
Slowly, she shook her head. “I have no freaking idea.”

No one has ran the bar for years since the passing of their father. And the town just kind of took it as their own. So when Brendan meets who he assumes is an air headed socialite, suffice it to say they get off on the right foot. Add into the fact that no one knew of the long lost daughters and they do anything but fit in with the locals and well, it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen. But god was it good!

The slow burn of this romance was EVERYTHING. And I really mean everything. I loved watching Piper grow into her own and I loved watching Brendan fall for her. She was such a sweet, quirky, and endearing character. And the grumpy and broody fisherman captain? I LIVED FOR HIM.

Going to fuck the word ‘friend’ right out of your beautiful mouth. You’ll forget how to say anything but my name. Real quick, honey.”

I loved this book beyond words and beyond reason. It was funny, swoony, and with a sizzle of Tessa’s signature dirty talk and I was so here for it. If there’s one book you add to your TBR this summer, make it this one. The perfect beach read is here and I can’t recommend it enough. Now if Tessa can just write Hannah and Fox’s book faster because the level of need that I have for that one is UNREASONABLE.

 

Review: What If You & Me by Roni Loren

WHAT IF YOU & ME
Series: Say Everything #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Roni Loren
Release Date: July 6, 2021

The world can be a scary place. At least, that’s what Andi Lockley’s anxiety wants her to believe. It doesn’t help that she narrowly escaped a dangerous man years ago, or that every relationship since has been colored with that lingering fear. But things are better now―she’s channeling everything into her career as a horror novelist and true crime podcaster, and her next book may be the breakthrough she needs.

If only her grumpy new neighbor would stop stomping around at all hours of the night.

Former firefighter Hill Dawson can’t sleep. After losing part of his leg in a rescue gone wrong, he’s now stuck in limbo. He needs to figure out what he’s supposed to do with his life, and he can’t let himself get distracted by the pretty redhead next door. But when someone breaks into Andi’s place, Hill can’t stop himself from rushing in to play the hero. Soon, a tentative bond forms between the unlikely pair. But what starts out as a neighborly exchange quickly turns into the chance for so much more…if Andi can learn to put aside her fear and trust in herself―and love―again.

New York Times and USA Today bestseller Roni Loren blends heat and heart in this emotionally charged story.

AMAZON 

He listened. He hadn’t pushed or rushed her. He hadn’t cajoled. But more than that, he hadn’t made her feel wrong or broken for being the way she was. He’d simply been with her in that moment, meeting her where she was and seeming to enjoy what thye were doing as much as she did.”

When I read grumpy neighbor in the blurb to this, I had to read it. The grump/sunshine trope is catnip for me and I will never get enough of it.

Now my darling OCD reader friends, close your eyes for a second. Because I’m about to admit I didn’t read book one in this series. I said close your eyes and stop judging me. GOD! Where was I? Ah yes. This is shocking, considering I’ve read most of Roni’s backlist and I seriously have no idea how I missed book one in the Say Everything series. But I was so excited for this book after reading the blurb, I couldn’t wait to read book one first. So here we are. *grins unrepentantly*

If you’re looking for a swoony, emotional read with plenty of steam, look no further. This story seriously packed a punch of the feels. We have a heroine who’s a horror writer and a true crime podcaster. Quirky heroine lovers, you’ll want her for your bff. It’s impossible not to love Andi straight off the bat. Her dark and painful past is something you learn as the story progresses and I swear it made me love her all the more.

Andi is struggling to write her newest book, and her noisy neighbor stomping around in the apartment next door through all hours of the night doesn’t help. And can I just say I loved the way they meet? Because I didn’t know whether to laugh or swoon. But I digress again.

Hill is a former firefighter with a tortured past. Still reeling from the loss of his career from an injury that almost cost him his life, he broods in his apartment and avoids people. But when his sweet and beautiful new neighbor crashes into his apartment fearful that someone just broke into hers, he can’t quite avoid her.

This was a sweet, slow burn romance. I loved the friendship that Andi and Hill formed before the romance ever developed. The chemistry was always there but it took a bit to bubble to the surface. There’s also the added element of suspense which added another layer of interesting to the story.

While sweet romance isn’t typically my cuppa, this one did hit the spot. I loved Hill and Andi together. I loved that the author took such a heavy subject matter and managed to not weigh the story down with angst or drama. It was just two people dealing with the demons of their past and learning about themselves through each other. A truly satisfying, swoony romance with plenty of feels and a dash of suspense.

Review: The Sweetest Thing by Maya Hughes

THE SWEETEST THING
Series: SWANK #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Maya Hughes
Release Date: July 1, 2021

Goldilocks has gotten a bit off track. I found her in my room, my bathroom and my bathtub to be precise.

Sabrina Mason is my new roommate. My new unwelcome roommate. Babysitting my Grandma’s apartment means Sabrina’s here to stay. But we’d agreed my room was off limits.

It’s bad enough my nightmares are getting worse, but having her around makes holding it together a little easier. Her smell, smart mouth and sexy a–anyway. I can’t let her get under my skin although it might be too late. In her sloppy bun and pajamas curled up on the couch, she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But a relationship isn’t what I need right now.

It’s hard to remember that when she’s glowering at me when I’m being an ass. We’re forced to live together for only a few more months, I can hold out until I can’t.

She’s in my bathtub and she’s not telling me to leave. So I ask the question, “do you want me to go?”

And I’m shocked as hell when her answer isn’t ‘yes’.

AMAZON

She was a temptation beyond any I’d faced before. I’d never wanted anything as much as I wanted to feel her against me.

Swank is Maya’s more lighthearted series featuring male best friends who meet their matches and The Sweetest Thing was Hunter’s story.

After an ugly breakup, Sabrina is just looking to pick her pieces back up. A generous offer of temporary room is something that she can’t pass up. But what she didn’t expect is the insomniac, cranky roommate that also happens to live there.

Hunter is a man with a tortured past who is desperate to hang on to his secrets. And a woman invading his personal space was not on his agenda. Especially a woman that temps him beyond reason. Theirs is a delicious slow burn full of push and pull and the story a lighthearted contemporary romance. What kept this being a higher rating for me was the same issue I had with The Proposal; it felt too drawn out. I found myself skimming a good chunk of it. DOn’t get me wrong, it was sweet and cute, but also felt unnecessary. It could have easily have shaved off 5-7 chapters with the story losing nothing in the process. As it was, I found myself growing bored at the pacing.

I loved Sabrina’s character. She was so incredibly endearing with her insecurities and the way she fought through Hunter’s stubbornness with his brother that you can’t help but love her. Hunter was a little more hard to love. His push and pull, hot and cold personality made me want to shake him. And his refusal of his brother made me want to strangle him. While I understood his struggles, it just didn’t feel dire enough to warrant his reaction to everything.

That being said, I still enjoyed it. It was cute, fun, and satisfying. It hit the spot just right for a good Maya Hughes fix that I needed after her Falling trilogy. And the cross over into that trilogy with the intro to the couple of the next SWANK book? NEED! I can’t wait for Maddy’s story.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted and steamy romance, this will hit the spot nicely.

Maya Hughes, that’s me!, can often be found sneaking in another chapter while hiding in the
bathroom from her kids! 🙂 I’m a romance writer who loves taking inspiration from everyday life,
namely my husband and biggest fan. Inspiration also strikes when I hear a song, meet someone
new or daydream while at soccer practice.

I love writing stories that capture the possibilities of the paths less travelled and enjoy
experiencing life through my characters’ eyes.

I’m the mom of three little ones, the wife to an amazing husband and also work full time. Some
of my favorite things are cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, white wine, laughing until I can’t breathe,
traveling with my family and Jeff Goldblum.

AUTHOR LINKS
Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Spotlight & Excerpt: When Stars Collide by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

WHEN STARS COLLIDE
Series: Chicago Stars #9
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Release Date: June 29, 2021

Olivia Shore, international opera superstar, is a driven diva with a passion for perfection, a craving for justice, too many secrets—and a monumental grudge against the egotistical, lowbrow jock she’s been stuck with.

It’s Mozart meets Monday Night Football as the temperamental soprano and stubborn jock embark on a nationwide tour promoting a luxury watch brand. Along the way, the combatants will engage in soul-searching and trash talk, backstage drama and, for sure, a quarterback pass. But they’ll also face trouble as threatening letters, haunting photographs, and a series of dangerous encounters complicate their lives. Is it the work of an overzealous fan or something more sinister?

This is the emotional journey of a brilliant woman whose career is everything and a talented man who’ll never be happy with second place.

Tender and funny, passionate and insightful, this irresistible romantic adventure proves that anything can happen…when two superstars collide.

AMAZON

The Diva sat in the opposite corner of the limo, sunglasses still on, cheek resting against the window. So far, the only communication she’d shared with Thad was a look of active hostility when they’d gotten off the plane. Paisley’s thumbs raced over her phone, more

likely texting a friend than doing any work. Henri was also on his cell, engaged in an energetic conversation. Since Thad only spoke some menu French, he couldn’t decipher the topic. The Diva, however, understood. She opened her eyes and waved a hand.

“C’est impossible, Henri.”

The way she said Marchand’s name . . . pushing the Aw-ree from the back of her throat. When Thad said the name, it took all his energy just to drop the h and the n. Forget all that back-of-the throat stuff.

Their subsequent exchange didn’t enlighten Thad about exactly what was so uh-poss-eeee-bluh, but as they pulled up to the hotel, Aw-ree enlightened him. “We’ve had a slight change of schedule. We need to move up today’s interviews immediately after we check in. An inconvenience, but these things do happen, as I’m sure you understand.”

Not even ten minutes later, he and The Diva were being ushered into the hotel’s presidential suite, with Henri and Paisley following. In addition to a luxurious living area, the suite had a dining room, kitchen, grand piano, and big French doors that opened onto a sweeping terrace. A large coffee table in the center of the living room held platters of pastries and assorted bottles of wine and mineral water.

“You have a few minutes to freshen up before the reporters arrive,” Henri said. “Paisley will bring them in.” 

Paisley looked petulant, as if escorting reporters wasn’t part of her job description. Henri didn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he did and was pretending not to.

The Diva disappeared into the bathroom. As Henri double-checked the refreshments that had been laid out for the reporters, Thad wandered onto the tiled terrace to take in the view of Camelback Mountain. If only he were doing this promotion with a female rock star instead of a stuck-up opera singer. The next four weeks stretched in front of him like an endless road headed exactly nowhere.

**

Paisley ushered in two of the newspaper reporters and disappeared into the corner with her phone. Ironically, the music critic was big and beefy; the sports reporter small and wiry. The editor of the lifestyle section arrived soon after, a middle-aged woman with

short hair slicked to her skull and multiple ear piercings.

Thad had yet to meet a member of the press who didn’t appreciate free food. Each of the men polished off a couple of cannoli along with a half dozen lemon cookies while the lifestyle editor sipped a glass of chardonnay and nibbled a few almonds. Thad exchanged small talk with all of them, hiding his irritation that The Diva was still sealed up in the bathroom. Just as he got ready to pound on the door and ask her if she’d fallen in, she deigned to join them.

She’d set aside her trench coat, along with the scarf and sunglasses, and she advanced toward the reporters, stilettos clicking, studiously ignoring him. Her sweep of dark hair coiled in one of those loose bun things, which—along with her royal-blue stilettos—brought her height to someplace in the vicinity of six feet. Her figure was formidable: broad shoulders, long neck, straight spine, and trim waist, all of it accompanied by skyscraper legs. She was neither skinny nor plump. More . . . He searched for the right word, but all he could come up with was “daunting.”

Along with her stilettos and black slacks, the open throat of her white blouse showed off a gold rope necklace with a pigeon egg–sized stone that appeared to be a giant ruby. She wore multiple rings, a couple of bracelets, and the Cavatina3. He liked his women small and cuddly. This one looked like a tigress who’d raided an Hermès store.

The men rose as she approached. Henri performed the introductions. She extended her hand and gazed down her long nose at them, her lips curved in a regal smile. “Gentlemen.” She acknowledged the lifestyle editor with a handshake and gracious smile before she folded herself into the chair across from Thad, ankles crossed off to the side, broomstick up her ass.

He deliberately slouched into his chair and stretched out his own legs, making himself comfortable. The classical music critic led off, but instead of addressing The Diva, he turned to Thad.

“Are you an opera fan?”

“Haven’t had much exposure,” he said.

The sports writer picked up on that. “What about you, Ms. Shore? Do you ever go to football games?”

“Last year I saw New Madrid play Manchester United.”

Thad could barely disguise a snort.

The sports writer exchanged an amused look with him before turning back to her. “Those are European soccer teams, Ms. Shore, not American football.”

She adopted a girls will be girls look that Thad didn’t buy for a second. “Of course. How silly of me.”

There wasn’t anything silly about this woman, from the throaty resonance of her voice to her figure, and something told him she knew damn well they were soccer teams. Or maybe not. For the first time, she’d spiked his curiosity.

“So you’ve never seen Thad Owens play?”

“No.” She gazed directly at Thad for the first time, eyes as cold as a January night. “Have you ever heard me sing?”

“I haven’t had the pleasure,” he said with his best drawl. “But my thirty-seventh is coming up, and I’d sure welcome a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ to mark the occasion.”

The lifestyle editor laughed, but The Diva didn’t crack a smile.

“Duly noted.”

The classical music critic launched into some questions about a concert The Diva had given  about European opera houses. The sports writer asked Thad about his fitness regimen and his thoughts on the Cardinals’ prospects for next season.

Paisley had returned to her cell phone coma. Marchand offered more wine. “We’re honored to have two people as accomplished as Madame Shore and Mr. Owens as our new Marchand ambassadors. Both of them are style setters.”

The lifestyle editor took in Thad’s gray slacks and quarter-zip raspberry cashmere sweater. “What’s your fashion philosophy, Mr. Owens?”

“Quality and comfort,” he said.

“A lot of men wouldn’t be brave enough to wear that color.”

“I like color,” he said, “but I’m not into trends, and the only jewelry I wear is a great watch.”

She cocked her head. “Maybe a wedding ring someday?”

He smiled. “I wouldn’t wish me on anybody. I’m too unreliable. Now when it comes to reliability”—he extended his wrist, earning his paycheck—“this is what I count on. I’ve worn Marchand watches for years. That’s why I was attracted to their invitation.

They’ve outdone themselves with the Victory780.”

Henri beamed. The lifestyle editor turned to The Diva. “What about you, Ms. Shore? How would you describe your fashion philosophy?”

“Quality and discomfort.” She surprised him by slipping off her stilettos.

The style editor’s gaze traveled from Thad’s raspberry sweater to The Diva’s black-and-white ensemble. “You seem to prefer neutral colors.”

“I believe in elegance.” She glanced at Thad with open contempt. What the hell was wrong with her? “Bright pink is best kept on the stage,” ’ she said. “I’m only speaking for myself, of

course.”

His sweater wasn’t fucking pink. It was raspberry!

“I’m very selective,” she went on, her attention returned to the lifestyle editor. “That’s why the Cavatina3 is the perfect watch for me.” She took it off and handed it to the reporter to examine more closely. “My schedule is demanding. I need a watch I can rely on, but also one that complements my wardrobe and my lifestyle.”

Commercial over.

Adapted from WHEN STARS COLLIDE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, published by William Morrow Books. Copyright © 2021 by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers.

 

 

Review: Carnal Urges by J.T. Geissinger

CARNAL URGES
Series: Queens & Monsters #2
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Suspense
Author: J.T. Geissinger
Release Date: June 30, 2021

Carnal (adjective):
1) Relating to the pleasures of the body
2) Given to sensual indulgence
3) The man who kidnapped me

The devil has blue eyes, an Irish accent, and a hatred for me that runs deep.

He blames me for starting a war.
Consorting with his enemies.
Getting his men killed.

Though I’m innocent on all charges, he wants his pound of flesh.
With an eye on revenge, he makes me his captive.

But as we’ll both soon discover, there are more powerful urges than that for revenge.

 

When the devil meets his match but she’s his sworn enemy, that’s when the real war begins.

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

AMAZON 

In a life full of unforgivable sins, sleeping with the enemy would be the absolute worst.

In case you were wondering, above is actual footage of me reading this book. BECAUSE OH MY HOLY BOOK CRACK. This was DELICIOUS.

Men say they love a strong woman, right up until they meet one.

The second Sloane appeared on the pages of Ruthless Creatures, I was instantly captivated. There’s just something about a strong, smart, fiercely independent woman that owns her sexuality and doesn’t feel bad about being one and done with men while leaving them all panting in her wake. And what I mean by that, is this woman was instantly my spirit animal. I loved her as a secondary character but I was nervous about her being the main one. Because it’s so easy to take a character like this and overdo it. Make her too much. But somehow, she was even better than I ever hoped.

I’m not the girl who gets butterflies. I’m not the girl who swoons or begs. I’m the one who moves on before things get complicated, who keeps moving on relentlessly without looking back, like a shark that has to keep swimming forward its whole life or it will die. I’m the one who doesn’t fall. Who doesn’t feel. Who doesn’t get attached.

And you may also remember Declan from Cruel Paradise. And if you haven’t read that series, you haven’t lived. Just sayin’. But I digress. Declan was the right hand man for the Irish mafia, and suddenly finds himself at the head of it in this book. He’s also the mortal enemy of Kage from Ruthless Creatures, who happens to be Sloane’s bestie’s new man. Complication, they has it. But I digress again.

This was enemies to lovers GOLD. Declan kidnaps Sloane and keeps her captive, only it doesn’t go as he planned considering the woman is opinionated, with a razor sharp tongue, and completely fearless. She challenges him at every turn and turns him on at every corner. Their banter was the thing mu bookish dreams were made of.

I’m probably going to die with only you for company. Can you blame me for being upset?” His eyes are narrowed, doubtful, arctic blue.
I throw my hands in the air. “I’m not invincible!”
“So that deal you made with the devil for the power to kill with run-on sentences didn’t include immortality?”

Y’all. When I tell you I lived for this banter, words can’t describe the level of goofy smile I had on my face reading it.

Now I liked book one, but also wanted more story and more tension and (whispers shamefully) less sex. What? Yes it happens even to me. But I digress again. This gave me the tension I had so needed. The buildup was fiery and delicious. And when these two finally collide? HOLY MOTHER!!!!! What’s the best thing you can imagine for a fiercely independent woman? Give her an uber dominant alpha with a penchant for kink. YES PLEASE.
I’ll bind you and blindfold you, probably gag you with my tie, too. And I’ll make you come, over and over. I’ll make you glad you let yourself submit. Are you ready?”


The steam, people! THE STEAM. I died for it. I loved Sloane slowly work her quirky charm on Declan almost as much as I loved his dominant side completely own her in bed.

In this moment, all I want is to let him run me over. To let him break me, savage me, tear me apart.

Carnal Urges was action packed, quick paced, filled with humor, banter to die for, and steam hot enough to set fire to your reader. When I tell you I died for this book, I mean I DIED FOR THIS BOOK. This was JT Geissinger in all of her amazing glory and I was so here for it. And the twist at the end? DIE. I DIE. Seriously. I need the next book like yesterday.

If you love a sizzling hot mafia romance with an uber alpha to die for and a sassy and strong willed heroine to challenge him at every turn, welcome to your next addiction. This book was all of the things! I cannot recommend it enough.

J.T. Geissinger is a bestselling author of emotionally charged romance and women’s fiction. Ranging from funny, feisty rom coms to intense, edgy suspense, her books have sold more than one million copies and been translated into several languages.

She is the recipient of the Prism Award for Best First Book, the Golden Quill Award for Best Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, and is a two-time finalist for the RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America®. She has also been a finalist in the Booksellers’ Best, National Readers’ Choice, and Daphne du Maurier Awards.

Her first novel was published in 2012. Since then she’s written eighteen more novels. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, drinking wine, surfing the internet, and daydreaming about all the things she’s going to be when she grows up. She lives near the beach in Los Angeles with her husband and deaf/demented rescue kitty, Ginger.

Connect with J.T. Geissinger

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Review: Lessons In Sin by Pam Godwin

LESSONS IN SIN
Genre: Taboo, Forbidden Romance
Author: Pam Godwin
Release Date: June 29, 2021

There’s no absolution for the things I’ve done.

But I found a way to control my impulses.

I became a priest.

As Father Magnus Falke, I suppress my cravings. As the headteacher of a Catholic boarding school, I’m never tempted by a student.

Until Tinsley Constantine.

The bratty princess challenges my rules and awakens my dark nature.

With each punishment I lash upon her, I want more. In my classroom, private rectory, and bent over my altar, I want all of her.

One touch risks everything I stand for.
My faith.
My redemption.
And even my life.

As if that could stop me. I need her pain, and her heart, and she needs my lessons in sin.

AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO | GOOGLE PLAY 

Iron sheathed in suede, that voice belonged to a man who bent for no one. His sculpted lips lured victims to the altar with the promise of heavenly salvation before condemning them to eternal hell.

Age gap. Forbidden romance. Student/Teacher. Dirty Priest. I am in book heaven right now floating on endorphins so high, I don’t know if there’s moving on from this story.

Pam Godwin never ceases to amaze me with her talent of creating raw, riveting, and broken characters that I simply cannot get enough of. And a priest with a tortured past, seeking salvation of the collar within the walls of a school for the rich and broken…well it just doesn’t get much more delicious than that. Father Magnus was pure, sizzling energy. The second the man appears on the page, it crackles with electricity. I can’t even describe it to you, but this was one of the most enigmatic characters I’ve read from Pam. And having read her entire backlist, that’s saying something.

Now while there’s no doubt Pam can write the hell out of an alpha hero, what I’ve come to love most about her stories are her heroines. These are tough as nails women who are no simpering ingenues. And it’s not small feat to write an 18 year old virgin heroine but make her an old soul in an entirely believable way. Tinsley Constantine is the youngest daughter in the extravagantly rich Constantine family. She’s also the f*ck up. Turning her nose at tradition, she yearns for freedom to discover herself, but one act out too many lands her in the strict Catholic boarding school. What first starts as bratty behavior to get herself expelled, soon turns into something more when she lands in the crosshairs of Magnus.

For the next hour, I showed her how a sadist made a woman beg. I taught her my lessons in sin.

This is a slow burn. A deliciously painful slow burn full of chemistry and sexual tension. I fell instantly for Tinsley’s character. She’s wild, willful, but also incredibly smart and caring. She has no problem standing her ground and challenges Magnus as every turn. I also loved her loving nature.

The romance here is GAH. It was EVERYTHING. When I tell you that I devoured this from cover to cover in one sitting, I mean I couldn’t set it down for even a second. I though Pam created my favorite student teacher romance in Dark Notes, but man, this book owned me. I don’t know anyone else who can pull off a 20 year age gap with an 18 year old heroine like this.

Lessons in Sin was deliciously taboo, darkly erotic, sinful, and oh so addictive! This may be my favorite Godwin book to date.

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Pam Godwin, lives in the Midwest with her husband, their two children, and a foulmouthed parrot. When she ran away, she traveled fourteen countries across five continents, attended three universities, and married the vocalist of her favorite rock band.
Java, tobacco, and dark romance novels are her favorite indulgences, and might be considered more unhealthy than her aversion to sleeping, eating meat, and dolls with blinking eyes.
Facebook Reader Group: here

Review: Bound To Her Fake Fiancé Boss by Hayson Manning

BOUND TO HER FAKE FIANCE BOSS
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Bound #2
Author: Hayson Manning
Release Date: February 28, 2021

Faking it never felt so real…

I’m a happy workaholic. She’s my sassy assistant. When I need a fake fiancée, she’s the perfect choice. What could go wrong in ten days…

I don’t do ‘I-do.’ Don’t believe in happy-ever-after. But to convince my grandmother I’m about to take the plunge, I must bring a “fiancée” to Montana. My heart might not be open, but my checkbook is. I agree to pay my sexy assistant, Asia Brown, to pose as my bride-to-be. She’s a level-headed professional who will get the job done. Or so I thought. When she openly flaunts my no-public-displays-of-affection rule, my grandmother’s not the only one convinced it’s the real deal. Every part of me from the neck down is totally sold.

When my broody billionaire boss offers me a six-figure bonus to pretend we’re engaged, I can’t refuse the opportunity to secure the funds to get my sister into rehab. And if there’s a little something left over to help me open my own dress shop, it’s a win-win. Determined to charm the grump out of him, I’m caught off-guard by how different Jason is away from spreadsheets and profit margins. And how real it feels when I’m in his arms.

When the stakes ramp up, can two opposites take a chance on love, or is faking it the only reality they have?

AMAZON 

I’m falling for my bossy, broody boss. What the hell have I done and become?

Office romance? CHECK
Grumpy, billionaire hero with a tortured past not looking for love? CHECK
Sassy, quirky heroine not afraid to speak her mind? CHECK
A swoon, sexy, feel good romance that had me turning the pages from beginning to end? CHECK AND CHECK

Now I’ll be the first to admit, reading the above summary makes the story sound a bit cliche, right? WRONG. You know when you have a story that can be like every other in the genre, but then there’s just a little magic to it that makes it different? Yep. This had it in spades. There was just this sizzle and spice to this that had me glued to the pages.

Jason Johnson is stone cold. He runs his business with an iron fist and doesn’t stop to count the casualties. Romance is the last thing he needs and his women never seem to make it past the 3 week mark with him even when they try.

Asia is his quirky assistant that somehow has made it where others have not and been tolerating his grumpy @ss. Though the paycheck certainly helps the crazy hours and lack of social life. She needs every dime she makes to get something her heart yearns for.

Jason doesn’t believe in love but needs to sell it to his grandmother who will sell his childhood home unless she sees him in a happy relationship. So what’s a man to do? Fake it and buy your secretary, of course.

What I absolutely loved about this story is the opposites attract vibe. Asia is vivacious and lovely and caring to Jason’s cold, unfeeling and brooding. Now in stories with a tortured hero who doesn’t believe in love, I really have to buy the why. And Jason’s past certainly did it. I understood why he was the way he was. I also loved watching him slowly but surely and unwittingly fall for his beautiful assistant.

The romance was sizzling and the story was addictive. And the grovel at the end? DELICIOUS!

If you’re looking for a marriage of convenience trope that will put a smile on your face from page one and keep it on there until the last one, READ THIS. And the set up for the rest of the brotherhood? GAH! SO GOOD. I love the friendship these men have and kept through the years that are full of dark secrets and pain. I NEED MORE!!

Review: Break Up With Him, For Me by Whitney G.

BREAK UP WITH HIM, FOR ME
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Whitney G.
Release Date: May 31, 2021

Penelope, I know that it’s three o’clock in the morning, but I have to get this off my chest.

I can’t give you any more advice on landing this other guy, can’t tell you another “sexy” thing that you should do, or suggest a new set of filthy words that you should text him late at night.

As your best friend, I’ve reached my limit, and I can honestly say that he doesn’t deserve you.

I’m not saying all of this because I’m f-cking jealous, or because he had the audacity to say that he makes more money than me. (I still can’t find his name on the Forbes 500 list, and I know damn well that he’s renting that Ferrari, but that’s a story for a different day.)

He’s not who you think he is, and the better man has always been right in front of you…

You have every reason to never give me a chance since you know me better than anyone, and you agree with all the tabloids calling me “The Cocky King of New York,” and the “Untamed Playboy of Manhattan.” But I honestly believe that you’re better off with someone else, and I need you to see.

I’m not asking for too much…I just want you to break up with him, for me.

AMAZON

I have no idea what ‘this’ is, Hayden. When exactly would you need my help?”
“Tomorrow and every morning this week,” I said. “We ride at dawn.”
Silence. “Can you be honest with me?” He let out a long breath. “Is it cocaine or heroin?”

I’ve been desperately waiting for a full length romance from Whit for what feels like forever. As much as I love her steamy novellas, I wanted a bigger hit of her brand of banter and alphas. And I definitely got it with this book.

This was a slow burn, enemies to friends to lovers romance filled with hilarious banter that I couldn’t get enough of. Hayden is Penelope’s older brother’s best friend. When Pen’s parents pass and her brother chases his career dreams of being an MMA brother, Hayden becomes a bit of Penelope’s keeper. Unwittingly they shift from bantering enemies to unlikely friends. Hayden becoming almost like a crutch to Penelope at times. He’s becomes her relationship guru as she stumbles from one disastrous “relationship” to another.

Admittedly, I had a tough time connecting with Pen’s character. It feels like she barely has any growth from 17 to early twenties and remains the bumbling ingenue even boyfriend #15 later. It was frustrating to read. She used Hayden like a crutch more than a friend at times, and that was even more frustrating.

Hayden is the type of alpha I’ve come to crave from Whit. He’s a rich manwh*re whose sudden feelings for his best friend’s younger sister hits him like a two by four. I loved the build up between them, though I could have done with a bit less flashbacks. Those parts dragged a bit for me and were a bit of same old same old. I didn’t really care to know about any more breakups beyond the first two. I also didn’t care for the side plot with Simon. The way that it all resolved was odd and…unsatisfying. But my main quibble was Pen’s brother. I HATED him. SO HARD. I needed him to redeem himself at the end. Grovel. Beg for forgiveness. ANYTHING. But it was mostly glazed over.

All that aside, I did still enjoy this quite a bit. It was steamy and fun and full of banter. I don’t think I could dislike a Whitney G book. Not really. There’s just something about her books that no matter if I have quibbles or not, they’ll still leave me with a smile on my face. And this one certainly did the trick.

Review: When Darkness Ends by Marni Mann

WHEN DARKNESS ENDS
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Moments In Boston #3
Author: Marni Mann
Release Date: May25, 2021

An all new angsty, dark, stand-alone Contemporary Romance in the Moments in Boston Series …

You never forget your first love … even when he becomes a memory.

There was before.
When we were together, when we were happy.
When we had nothing but dreams.
When not a single bad thing could ever happen because we were young and in love.

And there was after.
When the unthinkable occurs, how do you count time, knowing how precious it is?
When dreams turn to nightmares, how do you wake up every day and choose to go on?
When you have a chance to save another, how can you not?

Even if it changes everything.
Even if it destroys you.

A harrowing, heartbreaking dark contemporary romance from USA Today best-selling author Marni Mann, the third installment in the Moments in Boston series of stand-alones that explores the darkest nights and brightest dawns of the heart. A book that will leave you aching … and looking over your shoulder.

AMAZON | B&N | KOBO 

You never forget your first love … even when he becomes a memory

I struggled with my rating for weeks on this book. Did I like it? Did I not like it? Did I just dislike parts of it. How to I rate it to reflect my feelings on the story accurately. And ultimately, I’ll say that I love Marni’s writing but I just didn’t love this book.

I wanted to rate it a 3, but for me, a 3 is something that ultimately I still enjoyed in spite of the issues I had with the story. And while I was left a bit polarized upon finishing this, I struggled to find what stuck with me on a positive note.

The story is told in two parts of past and present. The past and first half of the story felt painfully slow and teeth rottingly sweet to me. I struggled to stay engaged and I struggled to connect to the characters. I skimmed chapter after chapter. The second part of the story is the polar opposite and read more like a thriller or suspense. I suppose what was lacking from me was a balance. We jump from super bright sunny story into an incredibly dark and depressing one. Now I love me a dark romance, but this didn’t feel dark to me. It felt depressing. It felt disjointed. It was also just too much. Not only do we get the story for the main characters here, but we get perspective on the events from When Ashes Fall in the hero’s pov. While I get the impact, it added nothing to the story here. It didn’t feel needed. Unless you read the first book, it didn’t quite hit the same way. It just felt like too much was happening. It could have been mentioned but didn’t need the super detailed retelling. I understood why the author may have wanted to include it, but it just distracted me from the main story that was happening.

Ultimately, I just failed to connect with both the story and the characters. I didn’t love it and while I can’t say I hated it, I also didn’t like it either. So that’s where the rating comes in. Will others enjoy it? absolutely. You can clearly see I’m the odd man out with my thoughts here. So this is just a case of its me, not you, as the book goes. Alas, you can’t love them all.

USA Today best-selling author Marni Mann knew she was going to be a writer since middle school. While other girls her age were daydreaming about teenage pop stars, Marni was fantasizing about penning her first novel. She crafts unique stories that weave together her love of darkness, mystery, passion, and human emotions. A New Englander at heart, she now lives in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband and their yellow Lab. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop, working on her next novel, she’s scouring for chocolate, sipping wine, traveling, or devouring fabulous books.

Connect with Marni

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