Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Rebel Queen by Jeana E. Mann

THE REBEL QUEEN
Series: The Rebel Queen Duet #2
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Author: Jeana E. Mann
Release Date: October 15, 2019

“Shall we begin?” When spoken by my new husband, these three little words fill me with terror and anticipation.

In private, King Henry rules my body like he rules his country—with unrelenting control and passion. I crave his orders, his punishment, his commands. Outside the bedroom, we’re strangers caught in a web of lies and decadence.

Our marriage is a sham, a business arrangement devised to save my life and secure his crown. He doesn’t love me. He loves my body, controlling it, shaming it, worshipping it. To survive the dangers at court, I need to be smart, but it’s hard to think straight with a man like Henry between my legs.

Each night, he locks the bedroom door, determined to teach me a new lesson. Obedience, patience, trust. I lie awake in bed waiting for the sound of his footsteps and the latest installment in pleasure and pain. My heart pounds when the hinges creak and his broad shoulders block the door. I’m not ready, but I can’t wait to feel his hands on me. He shoves his bowtie in my mouth, binds my hands to the headboard, and whispers in my ear…

“Shall we begin?”

From USA Today bestselling author Jeana E. Mann comes this dark, contemporary romance filled with twists, turns, and unprecedented heat.

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START WHERE IT ALL BEGAN IN THE ROYAL ARRANGEMENT, BOOK 1 in the series:

The Royal Arrangement

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When his key clicks in the lock of the apartment door, my heart almost leaps out of my chest. I slip my hands into the fur-lined restraints. Anticipation heightens my awareness. The silk sheets are soft against my skin. They smell of his cologne and shower gel. I draw in his scent and try not to squirm. With each passing second, my mouth grows drier and the ache between my legs intensifies. I can hardly wait to see what he has in store for me tonight.

His light footsteps approach, sending my pulse rate higher. He doesn’t speak. He shrugs out of his jacket, loosens his tie, and sits in the elegant chair at the end of the bed. My skin prickles under the weight of his scrutiny. I’ve never been self-conscious about my body, but insecurity races through me. He’s the king. How many women has he had in his bed? If they’re anything like Lady Clayton, they’ve been the most beautiful women in the world. I tug on the restraints, wishing I could crawl beneath the sheets.

He drags a finger over his upper lip. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“What?” Mortification sends heat rushing into my face. Changed his mind? About me? About us? A knot clenches in my belly.

“I’ve always taken the lead in our lessons, but tonight, I’m giving you control.”

I slide my hands out of the restraints and sit up, clutching a pillow to cover my nudity, feeling vulnerable. “I don’t understand.”

“Take the reins, Everly.” He enunciates each word in his haughty British accent. “Show me how persuasive you can be. Make me want you.”

What I want is much more precious and infinitely more difficult to acquire. I want to own you. Inside and out.”


Well butter my biscuit, this was a sexy little page turner. If you’re looking for a guilty pleasure read that brings an intense thrill and a whole lot of deliciousness, look no further. I was immediately hooked on the connection between King Henry and Everly in The Royal Arrangement, and this brought the sinful conclusion.

The relationship between Everly and Henry is anything but ordinary. He’s a man that demands utmost control, and she’s a woman that’s fighting her every urge to give into his demands. Even though she’s almost a kept woman locked away in his tower in this book, she doesn’t take it lying down. Her spark and fire burns hot and I really appreciated that. Henry is as intense as ever, and I wouldn’t have him any other way.

I would have loved for the suspense element in this story to be better fleshed out. As it was, it felt a bit glossed over and overshadowed by the relationship dynamic. Granted, I didn’t mind that too much since I really loved the relationship dynamic, but I still couldn’t help but want a little more from the ending.

All in all, this was an addicting and sizzling read that I read in one sitting and I’m definitely a new fan of this author and will eagerly jump on all her future releases.

 

Jeana is a USA Today and Publishers Weekly Bestselling Author from Indiana. She gave up a career in the corporate world to write about sexy billionaires and alpha bad boys. With over twenty books and several awards beneath her belt, she’s never regretted her choice to live out her dream. She’s a free spirit, a wanderer at heart, and loves animals with a passion. When she’s not tripping over random objects, you’ll find her walking in the sunshine with her rambunctious dogs and dreaming about true love.

 

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Review, Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway: A Lie For A Lie by Helena Hunting

A LIE FOR A LIE
Series: All In #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Helena Hunting
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: Montlake

Sometimes I need an escape from the demands, the puck bunnies, and the notoriety that come with being an NHL team captain. I just want to be a normal guy for a few weeks. So when I leave Chicago for some peace and quiet, the last thing I expect is for a gorgeous woman to literally fall into my lap on a flight to Alaska. Even better, she has absolutely no idea who I am.

Lainey is the perfect escape from my life. My plan for seclusion becomes a month long sex fest punctuated with domestic bliss. But it ends just as abruptly as it began. When I’m called away on a family emergency, I realize too late that I have no way to contact Lainey.

A year later, a chance encounter throws Lainey and me together again. But I still have a lie hanging over my head, and Lainey’s keeping secrets of her own. With more than lust at stake, the truth may be our game changer.

AMAZON 

Lainey vs. Puck Bunnies in A Lie for a Lie    

A Lie for a Lie is a heartwarming, sexy, emotional romantic comedy. It’s a second chance romance, filled with secrets and there are definitely some exciting, fun twists. It’s also a story of empowerment, self-discovery, and independence.

Rook Bowman, aka RJ or Rookie as he has been known as previously, has recently taken on the role as captain of Chicago’s NHL team, and with that role comes big responsibility and more fame than he sometimes knows how to handle. As with any professional sport, the NHL lifestyle can often be full of excess and decadence; money, fame and an endless stream of women who will do just about anything to get into bed with them, and it’s not always easy to avoid that kind of temptation.

When we meet Rook in A Lie for a Lie we learn that he has a less than shiny past when it comes to the excess and the puck bunnies (hockey groupies). NHL players are often drafted quite young—just watch a game and you’ll notice that the rookies can often barely grown peach fuzz, let alone a full beard. They’re still teenagers when they start their careers, and Rook was no different. Having grown up on an alpaca farm in rural New York, his focus was mainly hockey and the family farm, but once he hit the pros he found himself surrounded by women who literally threw themselves at him. And being young, attractive and full of testosterone, he fell headfirst down that rabbit hole. At least until the drama found him in the form of a fake pregnancy and a social media firestorm. Because of that, and the impact it had on his relationship with his family, Rook swears off the bunnies and refocuses on his career, rather than extracurricular activities.

He meets Lainey on the way to Alaska, where he’s gone every summer since he was a teenager with his dad and his brother. He lost his father a few years earlier, but kept the tradition with his brother because he craves the escape from the demands of his life as an NHL superstar. Lainey encapsulates everything he misses about being a “normal guy.” She doesn’t recognize him or seem to even know anything about hockey, and that makes her even more alluring. For once, he can just be himself. He doesn’t have to worry about ulterior motives or being used. Lainey is refreshingly innocent, incredibly smart, genuine and overwhelmingly sweet and Rook finds himself enamored with her sense of adventure. As they get to know each other, Rook learns about her traumatic past and realizes that despite the challenges she’s faced, Lainey possesses a quiet strength and resilience. Add some insane chemistry and you’ve got a recipe for love. Unfortunately for Rook, he built their entire fragile relationship on lie he can’t take back.

***


 

When Lainey excuses herself to the bathroom, I rush upstairs and throw on a T-shirt. I know she said whatever makes me comfortable, but sitting around shirtless is such a douche move.I make it back to the kitchen and pour her a fresh drink before she returns from the bathroom.

“How can I help with dinner?” Lainey drapes her sweater over the back of a chair.

And my mouth goes dry. Like I ate an entire sleeve of saltines and chased it with a tablespoon of salt. So far I’ve only seen Lainey in a giant parka or an oversize sweater. Under all that bulky fabric is one hell of a body. She’s wearing a simple white waffle shirt that conforms to her curves. A pair of dark-wash skinny jeans encase her toned legs.

I’m used to bunnies throwing themselves at me, often in questionable states of undress. I stopped getting excited about miniskirts and revealing tops a long time ago. There’s something infinitely sexier about a woman who can show off her body without actually showing it off at all.

Lainey tips her head to the side. Her teeth press into her full bottom lip. I want to do that. Suck that pouty, full lip between my teeth and bite it. I want to do a lot of other, far more explicit things than that, but a kiss seems like a good place to start.

“RJ? Is everything okay?” Her eyes dip down to my chest. I’m wearing a shirt from one of my endorsement campaigns. It afforded me the extensive renovations on this cabin a few years ago.

“Huh?” I give my head a shake. “Oh. Yeah. Everything’s good. Sorry, zoned out there for a second.”

She smiles and pushes up on her toes, her eyes twinkling—like, they legit light up, and her excitement makes her entire body vibrate. It also makes her boobs jiggle. I try to keep my eyes glued to her face. It’s not easy, though.

“I do that all the time! Sometimes my brain is busy with so many thoughts I miss entire conversations. Does that happen to you too?”

I grin. I love that she seems to say whatever is on her mind. “All the time.”

“It’s actually a helpful skill when you’re being lectured, because I can sort through stuff in my head, but it’s not so great when your supervising professor is telling you what’s wrong with your thesis.” She pulls her hair over her shoulder and finger combs it.

“I take it that’s happened to you.”

“It did. Thankfully he also emailed all his criticisms, so missing out on it the first time wasn’t that big of a deal.” She divides her hair into three sections and deftly braids it without looking at what she’s doing even once. It’s pretty damn impressive. I almost want to pull it apart so I can watch her do it all over again. “Anyway, enough about that. Let’s get started on dinner!” She nudges me out of the way so she can wash her hands. She dries them on her jeans and moves over to the fridge, opening it to check out the contents.

I kind of like that she makes herself at home. I’m used to women who expect to be catered to. It’s refreshing to meet someone who doesn’t want me to pander to her.

I start pulling things out of the fridge as she starts naming items she’ll need and set them on the counter. I manage to locate most of what she asks for.

“What about garlic? Do you have any of that?” She leans over, peering into the fridge beside me. Her braid slips over her shoulder, skimming my arm.

“Uh, maybe we could forgo the garlic?”

“Are you allergic? My oldest brother gets bloated when he eats it. It took us forever to figure out what was causing it. Sometimes I’ll still put some in when he’s coming for dinner, because it’s funny to see him look like he’s expecting.” She tips her head to the side. “Or you just don’t like garlic?”

“I like it sometimes, but it depends.”

Her brows pinch together. “On what?”

“Who I’m eating with. I mean, if I’m going out with buddies, you bet I’m gonna order the honey garlic wings, or the cheesy garlic bread, or the pasta Alfredo. But if I’m eating dinner with a pretty girl, I’m gonna pass on the garlic.”

“Oh.” She twists the end of her braid around her finger.

I hope I’m not reading things wrong and making her uncomfortable.

“Does that mean you think I’m pretty?”

That she sounds genuinely curious as to my answer is unexpected. “You see yourself in the mirror every day—what do you think?”

She averts her gaze, still playing with the end of her braid. “My eyes are too big, so I always look like I’m surprised. My nose is small, and my lips are too full, so my mouth doesn’t really fit the rest of my face.”

“Wow. I think you need a new mirror, because all I see is a whole lot of gorgeous.”

She snorts a laugh and waves me off. “Once, I took a portrait class, and we learned all about proportion and symmetry of the face. Those are just my flaws based on what I was taught.”

“Well, I’m a big fan of all your flaws, and I think they make you more beautiful, not less.”

“Thanks. I think you’re beautiful too.” She cringes. “I mean handsome. You’re very nice to look at, with or without a shirt on. When I fell in your lap on the airplane, I remember thinking, At least I fell on someone nice looking.”

“Is that so?”

“Mm-hmm.” She opens a drawer, maybe to avoid looking at me. “And as much as I was mortified when you sat beside me on the Cessna, I couldn’t complain about the view, inside or outside of the plane. That you turned out to be really nice, and just so helpful, was a great bonus.” She hands me a roll of foil. “Why don’t you wrap the potatoes? They take the longest, so we should get started on those first.”

I put the potatoes on the barbecue and let Lainey order me around. She definitely knows her way around a kitchen. When I was growing up, my mom did most of the cooking, but my dad could make a mean Saturday-morning brunch. He also made great bread, which I miss a lot.

An hour later we’re seated at the table, plates full of steak, twice-baked potatoes, and crispy brussels sprouts cooked in bacon fat. I open a bottle of red wine and offer Lainey a glass.

“Just a little bit? I’m not sure I like red wine.”

“Maybe you just haven’t had the right red wine.” I pour a little into her glass.

She picks it up and gives it a swirl, then sniffs it. “I’ve seen people do this in the movies, but I don’t really know what the point is,” she admits, then tips the glass back and takes a tentative sip. Her expression turns thoughtful; then she takes another, slightly more robust sip. “This is actually really nice. I like it. Maybe the red wine I had before was bad.”

“Maybe. Some of the cheap stuff tastes pretty awful.” I pour more into her glass before filling mine. I hold up my glass and wait for her to raise hers.

“To chance meetings.”

“To new adventures and great company to share them with.” We toast and take a sip, each smiling behind the rim.

***

My skin burns.
My heart stutters.
I should tell him my own truth.
But for now we’re tied: a lie for a lie.

ALL. OF. THE. SWOONS.

This series couldn’t have started with a better book. I’m totally hooked, line and sinker, and already salivating for more. I’m head over skates in love with Rook and this swoony hockey romance about a reformed NHL star playboy and the quirky nerd that makes him fall.

On this plane I’m not the NHL forward and team captain with a history of being a player on and off the ice. I’m just a guy, and she’s just a girl.

Rook is an NHL star and a former manwhore. He’s a man that’s used to puck bunnies doing anything to get his attention and then getting even crazier to keep it. So when he meets a beautiful woman on his flight to Alaska that ends up being his neighbor, he loves the anonymity of getting to know someone as just him. Lainey is a bit of a nerd and a lot of adorable. She’s a quirky, shy, sweet, and although slightly sheltered in her home schooled ways has also seen things that changed her irrevocably. They don’t see the other one coming but it doesn’t take long at all for them to being a whirlwind romance in the small town of Alaska. But then Rook has an emergency that forces him to leave and as fate would have it they lose touch due to a number of circumstances. Only to be reunited 14 months later in Chicago. This time, Rook knows that he’ll do anything to keep Lainey, if only he can get her to forgive him for the lie.

This was so wonderfully sweet. It was brimming with emotion and sweet heat. I couldn’t get enough of Rook and Lainey. I also loved Lainey’s friendship with Eden, who made for a wonderful secondary character. All of your favorites make a cameo here and I loved how Helena brought it all together. I loved this sweet second chance romance and can’t recommend it enough for all Helena Hunting fans. And if you haven’t read any books by her yet, this is a great one to start with!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. Helena writes everything from contemporary romance with all the feels to romantic comedies that will have you laughing until you cry.

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Review: Damage by Natasha Knight

COLLATERAL
Series: Collateral Damage #2
Genre: An Arranged Marriage Mafia Romance
Author:
Natasha Knight
Release Date:
October 15, 2019

We’re a match made in hell, Stefan and I.

He took me to exact his revenge. I went from being a pawn to my father to being a pawn to Stefan. The only difference is I have a ring the size of a boulder on my finger and a husband I don’t want.

And the hardest part is I thought he was different. I thought I was falling in love.

I guess my father was right. I’m not a very smart girl.

Stefan is a powerful man. He doesn’t play nice, not if you’re his enemy. But I’ve learned one thing about my husband.

He takes care of what’s his.

And I am his.

His enemies have become my enemies, but he’ll never let anyone hurt me. He’s fiercely protective. It’s the predator inside that scares me.

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It’s midnight when we’re back at the house and I carry her to my room. She doesn’t resist when I strip off her clothes, her underthings still damp, and put her in the shower under a flow of hot water. I strip too and step in beside her and there’s no resistance when I kiss her. When I take her in my arms and kiss her as the water washes sea salt from us.

She opens to me and I cup the back of her head. I don’t ever want to stop kissing her. Don’t ever want to stop holding her like this.

When the water begins to cool, I switch off the shower and dry her then myself before lifting her up and carrying her to my bed. I lay her down and lie down beside her, shifting so I’m on top of her but keeping most of my weight on my forearms so I don’t crush her.

I slide one hand down and cup the mound of her breast. I run my fingernail over her nipple, and she moans into my mouth. When I pull away, it’s to look at her.

She licks her lips, reaches up to touch my cheek, slides her hand down to my chest and sets it against my heart.

We don’t talk. We don’t say a single word. Not for a long while. We just kiss and kiss and look at each other. And I can’t get enough of touching her. Tasting her. Can’t get close enough to her.

“Christ, Gabriela,” I start. “I want you.” I roll off her and onto my side to slide my hand down over her belly.

She cups my cheek, touches her mouth to mine. “Kiss me again.”

I do.

But she is who she is. The devil’s daughter. And I just brokered my own deal. I’ve stolen her. And I’m not finished yet.

I’m pretty sure I almost had a damn heart attack after the cliffhanger in Collateral. I was absolutely hooked on the story and salivating for more. There was something so intense and addicting about this enemies to lovers romance. It was especially delicious considering how slow burn the romance was. Stefan and Gabriela burned up the pages together with their chemistry, and we didn’t even get a taste for the romance yet. So to say that I was anticipating the second and final book would be a mild understatement.

Damage starts off with a bang and is a non-stop, twisty, page turner full of dark secrets and betrayals. I was riveted to the pages and couldn’t wait to see how everything comes to a head. And let me tell you, people, there’s some real whoppers of twists in this one that had my head reeling. I love a good mafia romance, and this one spared no details on the dark underbelly of the world. I may have set the romance up too much in my head, because I was a little disappointed with how it concluded here. I just didn’t click with Gabi and Stafan here as much as I did in the first book. It seemed like they went from 0 to 60 in a turn of a page, and I had a hard time buying into it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. But I think my own personal bias was at play here and I just set up my expectations too high. This was still one high-octane and sizzling read, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance, Natasha Knight specializes in dark, tortured heroes. Happily-Ever-Afters are guaranteed, but she likes to put her characters through hell to get them there. She’s evil like that. 

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Review & Excerpt: Need You Now by Molly O’Keefe

NEED YOU NOW
Genre:
Contemporary Romance
Author:
M. O’Keefe
Release Date:
September 12, 2019

MARCO

I have loved Rosa since I met her in high school English, even though the odds have always been stacked against us. She is the child of criminals, resigned to a bleak future. I’m the heir to a successful construction company and am not afraid to go after what I want.

And I want Rosa. Always and forever.

ROSA

I broke the law to make sure Marco got custody of our daughter, and I paid the price. But now that I’m out of jail, I’m terrified my ugly past might bleed into our daughter’s future.

The only way to ensure that doesn’t happen is staying far away from both of them.

But Marco isn’t letting me run from him. Not again.

 

A stand-alone, contemporary romance.

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He looked at me across the room and slowly shook his head. “I don’t want to love you,” he said.“I know.”

“Half the time I hate you.”

“I know.”

He looked away from me, his hands in fists, and I could feel the tension across the room, the fragile control he had on himself. How he was barely holding on. And I knew that he would never hurt me. The thing he was trying to stop himself from doing was touch me.

“I’m leaving,” he said and crossed the room in three angry steps. Everything in me told me to get out of the way. To let him go. But I didn’t. I stood right in front of the door in my gold vest and hot pants.

His face was flushed. “Get out of my way,” he said, and my mouth was full, my throat closed, and I shook my head. “Don’t make me,” he said. “Don’t make me touch you.”

It was exactly what I was doing, because I would take his touch any way I could get it.

“Fuck, Rosa,” he groaned. “Fuck you.”

And he put his hands around my arms and pulled me up and into his body so my breasts touched his chest, and between my legs I felt the hard pressure of him. I gasped and he turned. I expected him to let me go. I expected him to shove me away but he didn’t. Oh god, he didn’t. He lifted me off my feet and took two steps forward, pushing me against the wall. Not gently. But not rough. And then he leaned against me, his entire body against mine. And I was electrified. Every inch of my skin burned where it touched his.

I burned so hot I burned right through all the years. All the pain fell away and it was just us. Marco and me and the desire so pure it kept changing the course of both our lives.

He held himself so still, so carefully, and he was going to walk away. I knew he was. He would walk away and this moment would never happen again.

“Please,” I begged, because it was all I had left. No more pride. No more distance. I was only need.

What do you want?” she asked, like she honestly didn’t know.
“What I’ve always wanted. What I’ll want for the rest of my life,” I told her with the same intensity I’d used to say my vows four years ago. “You.”

Man, but Molly O’Keefe know how to serve up some feels. This was another heartfelt standalone in the same world as The Debt series If you’ve read and remember the pregnant teenager that the group met in their foster home, than you’re already familiar with the heroine. And if you haven’t read that series yet (I highly recommend it), no worries, because this is definitely written as a standalone. But if you’re like me and binge read that series and salivating for more Bates, this will definitely deliver. Because OMG Bates!!! But I digress. Let’s focus on the story here.

Once upon a time she’d send a glance my way and I knew exactly what she wanted for lunch. Or that she didn’t like the person she was talking to. I could read her feelings in the set of her jaw. Yeah. Now? Not so much. She wasn’t a mystery, she was a stone wall.

Marco and Rosa’s story is certainly a tearjerker. My heart broke for Rosa and everything that she goes through. This woman is a survivor and I loved her endearing combination of strength and vulnerability. Rosa made the necessary sacrifice to protect the love of her life and future baby by risking everything and going to jail. This is a woman that has always had all the odds stacked against her. A violent neo-nazi father and brother that threaten everything she loves and forcing her into a life of petty crime that she can’t escape. Pregnant at 16 and living in foster care with a terrible man and his wife. Rosa makes the choice to sacrifice her freedom in order for Marco to get custody of their baby and after serving a four year sentence the only thing cemented in her mind is that she doesn’t deserve anything good in life, especially not Marco and their beautiful daughter. Not when her family still threaten everything.

Marco is so angry with Rosa at first. He doesn’t understand why she stayed away all this time since getting out. But soon the resentment turns into determination and he wants nothing more than his wife back.

I loved the angsty and highly emotional thread between these two. I liked the the story is clearly broken up in past and present and doesn’t have the usual flashback song and dance. It was more impactful this way. I also loved Marco’s quiet intensity and the way he fights for Rosa and her self-sacrificing.

This was such a satisfying romance with plenty of feels and a dash of sizzle. Of course I was salving for more Bates and I’m damn near ravenous after the additional peek we get of him here. If I don’t get his book next, I’m pretty sure I’ll be shaking in a dark corner somewhere.

Molly O’Keefe is the USA Today Bestselling author of over 50 contemporary romances. She lives in Toronto Ontario with her husband, two kids and rescue dog.

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Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: Butterfly In Frost by Sylvia Day

BUTTERFLY IN FROST
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Sylvia Day
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Montlake Romance

Once, I would never have imagined myself here. But I’m settled now. In a place I love, in a home I renovated, spending time with new friends I adore, and working a job that fulfills me. I am reconciling the past and laying the groundwork for the future.

Then Garrett Frost moves in next door.

He’s obstinate and too bold, a raging force of nature that disrupts the careful order of my life. I recognize the ghosts that haunt him, the torment driving him. Garrett would be risky in any form, but wounded, he’s far more dangerous. I fear I’m too fragile for the storm raging inside him, too delicate to withstand the pain that buffets him. But he’s too determined…and too tempting.

And sometimes hope soars above even the iciest desolation.

 

Roxy bounces on her feet with excitement. “Les and Marge sold their house.”I blink. “I didn’t know they were selling.”

She laughs and heads toward the front door. “That’s the thing. They weren’t.”

“Wait, what?” I hurry after her as she steps outside.

I look to the right at my home, a lovingly restored butterfly-roofed midcentury, then on to the traditional house just beyond it that belongs—belonged—to Les and Marge. Including Roxy’s, all three of our homes have unique lots set between the homes that line the street and the Sound, affording us unhindered views of the water as well as exceptional privacy—all within a twenty-minute drive of the airport.

Roxy shortens the length of her stride to allow me to catch up, then glances over at me. “The day after you flew to New York, a Range Rover pulled into their driveway, and the guy inside offered them cash to close—and move out—in fourteen days.”

My step falters, and Minnie gets momentarily tangled in her leash. The dog shoots me what I would describe as an irritated look, then keeps trotting forward. “That’s crazy.”

“Isn’t it? Les wouldn’t say how much the offer was, but I’m thinking it was huge.”

We march up the inclined driveway, my head tilted back to take in the houses scaling the hillside. Designed with big windows to maximize the view, the homes have a look of wide-eyed wonder. Our little stretch of the Sound used to be a secret, but with the housing boom taking over Seattle and Tacoma, we’ve been discovered. Many residences are undergoing major renovation to suit the tastes of new owners.

Reaching the road, we turn left. To the right is a dead end.

“Well, if they’re happy,” I say, “I’m happy for them.”

“They’re overwhelmed. It was a lot to happen all at once, but I think they’re happy with their decision.” Roxanne stops when Bella does, and we wait as the two dogs mark one of their usual spots on the gravel edging the asphalt. There are no curbs on the streets in our neighborhood and no sidewalks. Just beautiful lawns and a profusion of flowering shrubs.

“We all tried prying information out of them,” she goes on, “but they weren’t sharing anything about the sale.” She gives me a sidelong glance. “But they did share a bit about the buyer.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because Mike and I both think the buyer is someone famous. A film director maybe. Or an artist. Can you imagine? First Emily, a bestselling author. Then you, a reality-TV surgeon. Now this guy! Maybe we’re sitting on the new Malibu—beachside living without wildfires or state income tax!”

The mention of Roxy’s husband, Mike, coaxes an inner smile. A New York transplant like me, he adds a welcome touch of the life I left behind to the reality I’ve since created for myself—a reality that’s just been rocked by the loss of neighbors I like.

“What are the clues you’re working with?” I ask, deciding to play along. If I’ve learned anything the past year, it’s to accept the things I cannot change. A tough task for a control freak like me.

“Les pointed out to this guy that he hadn’t even seen the inside of the house. The guy said he didn’t need to. He knew already that ‘the light is perfect.’ I mean, who would say that? Gotta be someone who’s in visual arts, right?”

“Maybe,” I agree tentatively, disquieted by the unexpected conversation. The road rises sharply before us, the incline steep enough to put a little burn in my thighs. “Doesn’t mean he’s famous, though.”

“That’s the thing.” Her words carry a note of breathlessness. “Les wouldn’t give numbers, but he did say it was crazy the guy didn’t just buy that huge compound at the end of the street. That house is listed for three and a half million!”

My mind staggers at the thought. Les and Marge have—had—a beautiful home, but it’s not worth anywhere near that much.

“I think I saw the buyer once through that big arched window in the living room,” Roxy goes on. “The blonde with him was a looker. Supermodel skinny with legs for days.”

I’m panting when we reach the top; Roxy, who hits a gym most days of the week, is not.

A quarter mile farther, there’s a street to the right leading to Dash Point. Beyond that and straight ahead, the road slopes back down and around until it’s at water level. Redondo Beach is there, as is Salty’s, a restaurant on stilts in the water with expansive views of Poverty Bay and beyond. I’m about to wax poetic about Salty’s seafood chowder when a runner dashes around the corner at a full sprint. His sudden appearance rattles me. A closer look makes me freeze midstride. My breath locks in my lungs.

There are too many things to register at once, so my mind attempts to absorb the whole man. Dressed only in black shorts and shoes, he is a visual feast of deeply tanned skin, intricate sleeves of tattooed art, and sweat-slicked, flexing musculature.

And his face. Sculpted. Square-jawed. Brutally, breathlessly handsome.

Roxy, now a few feet in front of me, gives a low whistle. “Hot damn.”

Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Sunday Times, #1 Der Spiegel, and #1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels sold in more than forty countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in twenty-eight countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Visit the author at www.sylviaday.com.

 

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#DGRFave & Review: Another Sky by Jayne Frost

ANOTHER SKY
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Jayne Frost
Photographer: Lindee Robinson
Models: Alexis Susalla & Nick White
Release Date: June 25, 2019

LIGHTNING ON MY SKIN
THUNDER IN MY SOUL
HEAVY ON MY HEART
YOU WERE MY PERFECT STORM


My world stopped turning six years ago.
My best friend. My best girl.
A burning field in the pouring rain.
I survived, but I left the biggest part of me with them.
And now I sift through the rubble of my broken life.

I didn’t want a second chance.
Redemption. Closure.
Not for me.

Until Gelsey.
A dancer. A dreamer. Everything I’m not.
She’s the light to my dark.
The sun from another sky.

But sunny days never last.
The storm is coming.
And this time when darkness falls, I might surrender.

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MILESGravel crunched under the tires as my truck coasted to a stop on the shoulder of the two-lane highway. Cutting the engine, I sank against the leather upholstery and looked out at the open field.

And for a moment, the thin veil separating then and now slipped away, and it was six years ago.

On my back beneath the smoke-filled sky, I’d waited for death to claim me. To put an end to the pain.I was sure it would.

But then I heard the voices. First Rhenn’s—so faint it was nothing more than a whisper.

And then Tori’s.

But not Paige.

Never Paige.

Shifting my gaze to the passenger seat, I almost expected to find her there. But the space was empty. Except for the sealed bottle of Maker’s Mark. Rich, amber liquid whispering promises of peace. Of oblivion.

Lies. All lies.
Because no matter what I drank or smoked or swallowed, peace eluded me. Tranquility had died in this field all those years ago. Crushed under the weight of twisted metal and drowned in the pouring rain.

Grimacing, I dug my fingers into the muscle on my thigh, right over the area where the bone had come through the skin. My leg had suffered the worst of the trauma. Broken femur. Dislocated knee cap. A spiral fracture to my tibia.

Maybe if I weren’t a drummer, it wouldn’t have mattered. But the injuries had silenced my beat. Sadly, there was no grave to mark its passing. No monument to the lost rhythm. Just this empty field.

I guess that’s why I always ended up here. In the place where the music died. Right alongside my best friend and my best girl.

Blowing out a breath, I stashed the bottle in the inner pocket of my leather jacket. Two stints in the psychiatric ward at Millwood, and I knew better than to dance this close to the fire. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t planning on drinking it.

Throwing open the heavy door, I braced a hand on the steering wheel and slid off the seat, making sure to land on my good leg. I didn’t bother with my cane. There was no need for pretense.

Not here.

As I waded into the dried brush, “Blackbird” blared from my phone’s speaker. Tori. I’d lost track of how many times she’d called.

And yeah, I got it. She was concerned.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, we’d been on stage at Zilker Park, capping off the biggest rock festival Austin had ever seen. A Damaged reunion. One last hurrah for the fans. And closure for Tori and me.

Finally.

Except…nothing felt closed.

And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t talk to Tori about it. Not now.
She’d finally moved on from her grief. Fallen in love again. And in some strange way, that had brought us back together.

After the accident, we’d drifted apart. And that was a good thing. Something we’d needed to do. Because when we had been together, sharing the same space, it was like the sum of our losses was too big. All-consuming.

Knowing that Tori was out there in the world with a heart as heavy as mine had made my own burden a little easier to bear.

But now I felt the weight of it more acutely than I had in years. A fact I was determined to hide. So, I’d been avoiding her calls.

Reaching the far end of the field, I eased onto the soft ground beneath the burned-out shell of the elm tree where I’d found Rhenn and lost him minutes later.

“Hey, buddy. Guess you know about that gig last night.” My voice fell to a whisper, and I looked down. “Of course you do.” Squeezing my eyes shut, I blew out a staggered breath and pulled the whiskey from my pocket. “It was weird, you know, not having y’all there to celebrate. So I thought I’d bring the celebration to you.”

Twisting off the cap with shaky fingers, I fought the urge to bring the bottle to my lips.

One drink. What could it hurt?

As I pondered throwing away years of sobriety, a gust of wind blew across the field, kicking up topsoil and dust.

Chuckling, I rubbed the sand out of my eyes. “Message received. You don’t have to get all testy about it.”

I wasn’t an alcoholic. Or a drug addict. But booze was still a slippery slope. A year after the crash, I’d landed in rehab from an “accidental” overdose that wasn’t an accident at all. It only took the counselor a week to get to the root of my real problem. Soul-crushing depression—the clinical kind.

They’d fixed me up with medication that kept the dark clouds at bay. Mostly. But I never told anyone about my diagnosis. Somehow it was easier to let people believe I was a drunk.

With a sigh, I turned the bottle upside down. “Miss you, bro.” After the last drop of liquor soaked into the hallowed ground, I hauled to my feet. “See you on the other side.”
Taking a last look around, I stopped breathing when I spotted a little patch of wildflowers some twenty yards away. Most of the blossoms had wilted on the stems. But a few buds remained.

Red, like Paige’s hair.

After all this time, I’d found her.

My feet moved swiftly with little protest from my bad leg. Brushing a hand over the velvety soft petals, tears spilled onto my cheeks, surprising me. Because I’d never cried for Paige. She didn’t visit me in my dreams. And I couldn’t see her face when I closed my eyes.

That was my penance. The price I’d paid for rejecting her that final night.
But she was here with me now. Her scent on the breeze, and her warmth on my skin. And she gave me the one thing I’d been searching for, even if I didn’t deserve it.

Forgiveness.

 

 

Tell me something no one else knows about you,” she said, her voice a soft whisper.
I thought of all the things I kept hidden. Dark thoughts. And darker intentions. The lure of nothingness. And the fear that one day the clouds would return and block the sun forever.
Tightening my grip, I let her warmth seep through me. “I like ballet.”

My heart right now.

My.
Whole.
HEART.

This book. I have no words for what I just experienced. NONE. It was magical, heart wrenching, emotional and completely unforgettable.

If you think this is just another rockstar book, think again. Miles is also not your stereotypical damaged rockstar. The depth of his character is unlike anything I’ve read in a really long time. This is a man that experienced the ultimate heart break and never really recovered. He’s broken and he doesn’t want to be fixed. His scars run so deep that not even those closest to him know the depth of his pain. For the past six years, he’s been existing. Living but not quite alive. Shattered. Lost. Not letting anyone close enough to the dark crevices of his soul long enough to shine light on them. Especially not a woman.

Gelsey is a beautiful ballerina eight years his junior and completely unexpected. All she’s ever wanted to do was be a dancer like her mother. Working through debilitating pain and unrealistically high expectations of her mother’s fame are her reality. Water therapy is how she’s able to make it through, and it’s also how she meets the grumpy and standoffish rockstar, not even knowing who he is.

A struggling ballerina down to her last dollar, a rich rockstar buried in his own pain, an offer that she can’t refuse, and a chemistry that can’t be denied set the pace of this story. And it was PHENOMENAL.

Lightning on my skin
Thunder in my soul
Heavy on my heart
You were my perfect storm

This was one of the most gripping and memorable romances I’ve ever experienced. And I do mean EXPERIENCE. The slow burn turns into incendiary chemistry that turns to undeniable love. What I loved is how the author manages to build a love story that doesn’t diminish the love that Miles lost. She’s able to build on top of it and create one of the most touching love stories.

I loved watching Miles unravel his layers with every new chapter and let Gelsey in. I loved Gelsey’s sweet naiveté and watching her come into her own under Miles’s wing. I loved how they brought each other’s broken pieces together. I loved how they balanced each other out. But more than that, I loved the incredibly emotional and poignant story of Miles’s past and present. This is one character that’s impossible not to fall completely head over heels for. The romance one that’s impossible not to root for. And a story that’s impossible to put down.

I grew up in California with a dream of moving to Seattle to become a rock star.

But when the grunge thing didn’t work out (I never even made it to the Washington border) I set my sights on Austin, Texas.

After quickly becoming immersed in the Sixth Street Music scene…and discovering I couldn’t actually sing, I decided to do the next best thing—write kick ass romances about hot rockstars and the women that steal their hearts.

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Excerpt: Eighty-One Nights by Georgia Cates

EIGHTY-ONE NIGHTS
Series:
 Beautiful Illusions Duet #1
Genre: 
Contemporary Romance
Author:
Georgia Cates
Release Date: April 9, 2019

Beautiful, penniless American girl meets handsome, wealthy Scotsman.

Sounds like the beginning of a fairy-tale romance?

It’s not.

This story begins with a contract.

And an exchange of money.

A lot of money.

An angel perches nervously on one shoulder.

A devil lounges smugly on my other.

And even that dark little bastard is leery of what I’m doing.

Maxwell Hutcheson wants the girlfriend experience.

All of it.

And I’m going to give it to him.

I’m not supposed to enjoy being his whore.

I’m also not supposed to fall in love with him.

But I do. Both.

When our contract expires, I will walk away.

Because I have to.

But he’ll always have a piece of me.

I’ll mask my sorrow with a smile.

I’ll hide my love with indifference

… all while it’s killing me softly.

A fairy-tale romance.

It isn’t mine to have.

And this man I’ve come to love so dearly isn’t my happily ever after.

About Eighty-One Nights:

While the characters from Eighty-One Nights are entirely new, their storyline is a combination of fresh material and carefully selected themes, scenes, and settings from The Beauty Series, The Sin Trilogy, Dear Agony, and Indulge. This is intentional. I chose some of my favorite elements from previous releases and interjected them into Hutch and Lou’s story. Let’s call it a “story fusion” between our old favorites and new material. This work was briefly released under a pen name and was titled The Girlfriend Experience.

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“No one gets to call you a whore.”

“You can.”

He stops eating and looks at me. “I’d never degrade you by calling you a whore.”

“Not a whore. Your whore. There’s a difference.”

I can almost see the wheels turning in Hutch’s head. “You’re my whore?”

“Yes. Only yours.”

“My whore.” He grins. “I don’t think that I’m supposed to like that, but I do.”

“And I don’t think I’m supposed to like being your whore, but I do. Very much.”

He reaches out for my hand and brings it to his mouth, kissing it. “You never cease to amaze me.”

“Dirty talk. Never underestimate the power of it.”


Georgia resides in rural Mississippi with her wonderful husband, Jeff, and their two beautiful daughters. She spent fourteen years as a labor and delivery nurse before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author and hasn’t looked back yet.

When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her music and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.

Connect w/Georgia:
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Excerpt: Nothing But Trouble by P. Dangelico

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
Series:
Malibu University #1
Genre:
New Adult Romance
Author:
P. Dangelico
Release Date: March 26, 2019

Nothing But Trouble, an all new standalone Contemporary Romance by

P. Dangelico

Reagan Reynolds…

Water polo god.

Owner of a face that belongs under Wikipedia’s definition of drop dead gorgeous.

Too charming for his own good.

But most importantly––the worst driver on the planet.

No, really, I’m pretty sure his blind nana taught him how to drive.

I had no idea who he was until he almost ran me over. And frankly, I kind of wish I still didn’t because then I wouldn’t have a sprained ankle to show for it. And my leg wouldn’t resemble a boa constrictor that’s swallowed a feral pig.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

I’ve spent years saving every penny I’ve ever earned to be able to transfer to Malibu University. And now my entire future––including my scholarship––is in jeopardy.

So I either accept the help he insists on giving me, or lose everything I’ve sacrificed for.

In the meantime, I’m going to ignore the fact that we’re becoming friends.

And I’m definitely going to pretend he’s not turning into the object of my…umm, dirty fantasies.

That’s not happening.

Not even a little.

Because the minute I clapped eyes on him I knew he was nothing but trouble.

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Alice

A strong gust of hot air invades the car and Reagan’s hair gets ruffled. It’s been like this the last few weeks. Crazy hot winds picking up now and then. Mine is literally standing on end. I’m forced to hold it down with both hands.

“The Santa Anas,” he says as if reading my mind. I look over and find him smiling at me. “The hot wind.” He swirls his index finger.

I let go of my hair, close my eyes, and let it have its way with me. It stands instantly upright, like I stuck my finger in a socket. I’m sure I look like an idiot but it makes me laugh, a burst of pure joy emanating from my chest that can’t be contained any more than the wind can.

“Nice hair,” he mocks with a teasing smile.

“Thanks, Flipper.”

“I thought we established that it’s not a dolphin.”

“You’re not going to like me saying this, but you’re more dolphin than shark,” I happily point out. He’s always perky and upbeat, likes to socialize, loves all the attention. He’s a dolphin––whether he likes it or not.

He levels narrowed green vengeance on me, offset by a sly smile. “I’m the top of the food chain, babe. I’m all shark.”

“That’s adorable. Especially coming from someone that wears a swim cap like my nana used to wear. Except yours has those darling cinnamon buns over the ears. Like Princess Leia.”

He fights his amusement. “Those cinnamon buns are meant to protect my ears from all the rough, manly activity. And I’m tellin’ on you. I’m tellin’ all the guys you said that.”

The Jeep comes to an abrupt stop. Only then do I realize we’re parked in front of the apartment building where my study group is being held. Scanning the parking lot, I see people I recognize from class pouring out of a car.

My attention returns to Reagan and I find him watching me. His smile melts. His expression grows serious like he rarely ever is. I rake my hair down and get my fingers snagged on a few knots. Unfortunately I’m not the comb-carrying type.

Mental note: purchase comb. Crazy winds are afoot.

“Thank you for driving me.” I look for some sign of what’s going on in his mind and finding the door shut.

“What time should I pick you up?” He reaches out and I lean away, staring at his hand. “Chill, Bailey. You have a piece sticking up.”

“Oh…okay.” He’s trying to be helpful and I treat him like he’s a festering case of the bubonic plague. How embarrassing.

I lean in and he sets about gently brushing down each and every one of my stray hairs, so gently I can barely feel him picking apart the knots. I can feel his breath on my skin. Fresh from a shower, I can smell his shampoo. My scalp tingles and goose bumps break out on my forearms. Lord give me strength.

P. Dangelico loves romance in all forms, cuddly creatures (four legged and two), really bloody sexy pulp, the NY Jets (although she’s reconsidering after this season), and to while away the day at the barn (apparently she does her best thinking shoveling horse crap). What she’s not enamored with is referring to herself in the third person and social media so don’t expect her to get on Twitter anytime soon. Oh, and although she was born in Italy, she’s been Jersey Strong since she turned six.

Connect with P. Dangelico:

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Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway: Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke

NOT DEAD YET
Series: Not Dead Yet #1
Genre: Paranormal Mystery Romance, MM Romance
Author: Jenn Burke
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: February 4, 2019

Dying isn’t what it used to be.

Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t—though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For seventy years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.

His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago—and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.

As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together—permanently.

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“You are single, right?”“Yeah.” He turned back to watch Gemma’s condo. “We should pay attention to—”“And kids?”

“We need to—”

“We don’t have to look at each other to talk.” To make my point, I turned my gaze back to the empty front entrance too.

Hudson didn’t respond, and he was quiet for long enough that I thought he really wasn’t going to share anything. But then he said, “We talked about this.”

“Yeah. But it’s been thirty-three years. I figured some things were bound to change.”

He’d been—well, adamant wasn’t too strong of a word. No kids for Hudson. His upbringing hadn’t been the best, with an alcoholic father he hated to talk about, a series of stepmothers who rarely lasted more than a year, and a half-brother named Lance who was ten years his junior and lived overseas with his mother—or at least, he had, back in the eighties. Hudson had called him every Christmas we’d been together. He’d shared that there were some good memories of his parents from his childhood, back before his mother had died in a car accident. After that, his family life had descended into something less than tolerable.

So yeah, I got the no-kids thing. Hell if I wanted spawn of my own. I didn’t even know what they’d be—human? Not-ghost? Something else? It was probably best I never find out, and I couldn’t see that attitude changing. But then, like Hudson had pointed out, I was constant and unevolving. My perspective was set. His could have easily changed as he grew older.

“Not about kids,” Hudson said definitively.

“But a husband?”

“Why?” he demanded. “You fishing? You want to get back together?”

I gave up all pretense of watching what I was supposed to be watching, and turned to look at him. “Don’t you ever think about the good times?”

Off and on throughout the day, the happy moments we’d shared had been on replay in my brain, maybe as a way to try to convince myself that Hudson was still Hudson. I wasn’t sure if they were successful or not, but damn, they were some good memories.

“Of course I do.” His expression softened. “Like going up to Algonquin Park and camping under the stars.”

I smiled. I’d hated the obnoxiousness of Hudson’s El Camino, with its noisy engine and excessively large aftermarket tires, but the truck bed had been pretty sweet. Throw an air mattress back there with a few sleeping bags, and…yeah. “Hearing the wolves was pretty magical.”

Hudson laughed. “You were terrified.”

“I was n—” I scrunched up my nose. “Okay, maybe I was. A little. They sounded really close.”

“They weren’t.”

“But they sounded like they were and that was all that mattered.”

“You were…” He paused before voicing the rest of his thought. “So honest.”

“What do you mean?”

“You were scared and you didn’t try to hide it. You wanted me to comfort you, so you asked for it. You were…you are a lot braver than you give yourself credit for.”

I snorted. “Like that small shit matters.”

“Of course it matters. You’ve always been unapologetically you. It was something—something I aspired to.”

“Then why did you leave?”

“Because you weren’t happy, and I sure as hell wasn’t happy, and we were never going to make each other happy. I wasn’t what you needed.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Is it? Think about it. You needed someone to accept you, to welcome you, to love you as openly as they could, and that wasn’t me.”

“It could have been.”

“Not a chance. Not in 1985.” Hudson lifted his hand as though he were going to cup my cheek.

Despite the questions that still lingered between us, I wanted to feel his skin on mine. I wanted to feel the roughness of his hands, the calluses that had always made his touch that little bit more interesting. I closed my eyes—

“And not now.”

Jenn Burke has loved out-of-this-world romance since she first read about heroes and heroines kicking butt and falling in love as a preteen. Now that she’s an author, she couldn’t be happier to bring adventure, romance, and sexy times to her readers.

Jenn is the author of a number of paranormal and science fiction romance titles, including the critically acclaimed Chaos Station science fiction romance series (authored with Kelly Jensen) from Carina Press.

She’s been called a pocket-sized and puntastic Canadian on social media, and she’ll happily own that label. Jenn lives just outside of Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and two kids, plus two dogs named after video game characters…because her geekiness knows no bounds.

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  • One signed paperback copy of Not Dead Yet (exclusive; you can’t buy it in print!) with some Canadian swag – will ship internationally
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Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: Rough Terrain by Annabeth Albert

ROUGH TERRAIN
Series: Out of Uniform #7, *Final book in the series*
Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Male/Male Romance, Military Romance
Release Date: January 14, 2019

The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after in Rough Terrain, the final book in Annabeth Albert’s critically acclaimed, fan-favorite Out of Uniform series.

Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.

Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.

Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

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“Big plans this weekend?” Canaan asked while he made the drink.

“Working out with a friend tomorrow. Gonna film some new moves.”

“Please tell me you put those clips online.” Thinking fast, Canaan grabbed a blank stamp card and a pen and thrust it at him. “I’ll fill a stamp card for you if you give me your handle.”

“Well…” Rooster’s eyes shifted to his friends, who were deep in conversation. “Navy doesn’t exactly approve of me being on social media…”

“Not gonna tell a soul,” Canaan promised. “I just like workout videos and fitness pics.” And how.

“Yeah?” Rooster gave him an appraising stare, one that had Canaan damn near preening. “That so?”

“Yup.” Canaan set the blender going and returned to the counter. He filled a stamp card and waved it at Rooster. “So how about it?”

“Okay, okay.” Rooster scribbled something on the other card and pushed it at Canaan. Their fingers brushed as they traded cards, thick callused fingers rubbing against his, and Canaan swore his toes curled from the contact.

“So how about you?” Rooster asked as Canaan poured his drink into a purple plastic Smoothie Palace cup.

“How about me what?” Canaan was still busy celebrating getting his username and felt a little punch-drunk on the contact to boot.

“Big plans?”

Here was the opening Canaan had been waiting months for, and no way was he missing it. “Dunno. I get off at nine. Wanna help me find trouble?”

“You make that offer to all your customers?” Rooster studied him intently, and Canaan straightened his spine, trying to pass whatever test he was giving him.

“Just my favorite ones.” The more honest answer would be just you, but Canaan didn’t want to seem too desperate, so he kept his voice light and easy. “How ’bout it?”

“Rooster!” Bacon called out before Rooster could answer. “Come on. We’ve got that meeting in ten.”

“Sorry. Gotta head out. Thanks for the card.” Rooster gave him a smile but no answer before hurrying over to join his friends.

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance series include the #OutOfUniform, #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat, #RainbowCove and #PerfectHarmony series.

To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.

Connect with Annabeth Albert:

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