Blitz | Wild at Heart by Stacy Gold

Wild at Heart
Stacy Gold
(Wild Love, #1)
Publication date: May 2nd 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

They each hit the trail solo in search of themselves…

Overworked entrepreneur Jules Martinez is sick and tired of men leaving her for their exes. Determined to wipe the giant, scarlet Rfor rebound off her forehead, she kicks off a yearlong vow of celibacy with five, blissful weeks backpacking her favorite trails through Washington State. Solo.

Out-of-work financial analyst Evan Davenport hasn’t been happy since camping in Scouts as a kid—before his wealthy parents and now ex-fiancé made all his major life decisions. Hoping to find joy and purpose, he buys all the latest ultralight backpacking gear, flies to Washington, and sets off alone on a weeklong speed hike through the wilderness.

Mother Nature has other plans, though, and keeps shoving Evan and Jules in each other’s paths. Usually naked. When sparks fly, can they find what they’re looking for in life together instead of apart?

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EXCERPT:

Chapter 1

JULES

“I’m so jealous, Jules.” Bryn perched on the end of one of the beds in our hotel room at Cascade Locks, watching me pack gear. The thin, gray light of pre-dawn filtered through a crack in gold curtains that’d seen better days.

I tucked a bag of snacks and my rain jacket into the top of my backpack, cinched the drawcord, and buckled the lid with a solid click. “Of what, twelve guys dumping me for their exes in a row? I’m sure we could arrange that for you too. If you ever really start dating again.”

“Ha. Funny.” She toed my calf. “You’re taking five weeks off to go backpacking solo. Who cares why?”

Tingles of excitement zoomed around in my chest and I flashed her a grin. “Yeah. Dealing with zero assholes and zero clients for more than a month does sound pretty heavenly, doesn’t it?”

She grinned back. “Like I said, totally jealous. At least of your trip.” Her expression went serious. “I still can’t believe the next guy you date is gonna be unlucky number thirteen, though.”

“Yeah. I’ve thought about that. Probably too much. Definitely enough to jinx the next one for sure. So, I’m swearing off men for at least a year to restart the count.” I hesitated, the excitement buzz fading. “A year is enough time to consider it a clean dating slate, right?”

“Wait. You mean you’re swearing off dating, or swearing off sex too?”

The last eight years had been nothing but suckage on the relationship front. It’d probably take more than a year to fix my shit. But nothing would change if I didn’t change something. “Yes. Both. All of it.”

Bryn eyes widened. “You’re serious.”

“Dead.” Bending, I tugged the rough nylon laces of my left boot. The well-worn leather snugged around my foot. “I’m never gonna figure out anything buried in too much work plus too many bad dates.”

“When did you decide this?”

“Last night.” I shouldered my pack and adjusted the straps until the familiar weight settled on the tops of my hipbones. “What I’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s time to take a big step back and focus on myself for longer than just a few weeks.”

“I guess that’s one way to break the pattern.” Bryn opened the door, and we stepped outside into early morning stillness. “And yes, a year is definitely long enough to clean your dating slate.”

Fog tendrils drifted from the Columbia River across the half-empty parking lot. The air hung thick with moisture and cedar and the sweet mustiness of damp soil. The best smell in the world after too many days breathing city fumes.

“I sure as hell hope so. If not, at least maybe I can figure out what to do about my business. I can’t keep working this much.”

We strolled across the lot side-by-side, the chill air nipping my skin through my nylon hiking pants and shirt, waking me up. The sky glowed marigold behind the inky silhouettes of the mountains.

“You’ll come up with a plan. You always do.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” We crossed the empty highway, walked a few hundred yards, and turned off. Gravel crunched under our soles. “And thanks for driving me down here from Seattle. And picking me up at the other end.”

“Of course. That’s what best friends are for.” She wrapped a hand around my arm and leaned in, hugging one of my few body parts not covered by my backpack. “Though I still wish I was going with you. I could use a break from assholes and clients, too.”

The first golden rays of sunlight slanted through the tree branches, lighting the dirt road ahead. “We’ll have to plan a girlfriends’ trip once I get back.”

“I’m holding you to that.” Her warm hand tightened on my biceps. “Maybe we can convince Aly to come with us for once.”

I snorted. “We’ll get Aly on a backpacking trip when pigs fly. But I’m all for trying.”

A handful of parked cars and a dark brown trailhead kiosk appeared, marking the southern end of the Pacific Crest Trail through Washington. And my starting point. And the start of five weeks of solitary bliss in one of my favorite places in the whole world.

Bryn pulled out her phone. “Hey. Let me grab a shot of you in front of the sign, to commemorate the moment.”

“Okay.” I took a few steps back.

“Say, single life.”

I popped a hip and smiled for the camera. “Single life.”

“Perfect.” She slipped her phone into her pocket. “I love you, girlfriend. Stay safe out there and call me whenever you hit civilization.”

“I will.” My throat tightened. “I love you, too.”


Author Bio:

Award-winning adventure romance author Stacy Gold would rather be in the middle of nowhere than almost anywhere else. To that end, she’s run more than 50 rivers in three countries, been heli-dropped into remote ski huts multiple times (and made it into even more under her own steam), worked for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service as a backcountry ranger, river ranger, and naturalist, and spent fourteen years as a commercial river guide and kayak instructor. Her last “real job” was serving as Communications Director for a state-wide mountain biking non-profit.

When she’s not busy kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, or hiking, with her husband and happy dogs, Ms. Gold writes about independent, badass women finding love and adventure in the great outdoors. Her latest release, Wild at Heart, came out May 2nd, 2022.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Amazon / Bookbub


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Blog Tour | Snowed in for Christmas by Sarah Morgan | Excerpt

What happens if the only Christmas celebration you want to attend is one you haven’t been invited to? USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan delights with this hilarious and heartwarming Christmas cracker of a novel!

The Miller family Christmas is legendary – it’s the kind of perfect festive gathering that advertising exec Lucy has only ever read about. Until now. Because this year, she needs to get Ross Miller on board with a new contract, and he’s not taking her calls. So she has no choice – she’ll gatecrash the Miller Christmas, get Ross’s signature, then disappear before her envy at their epic family celebrations gets too much.

The Miller sisters couldn’t be more different – tough cookie doctor Alice despairs of soft-hearted nanny Clemmie – but they are united by two things. A wish to see their disreputable older brother Ross settle down, and horror at their parents’ well-meaning interrogations every Christmas! Especially this year, with both women hiding life-changing secrets they do not want dissected over the Christmas turkey. So when a woman shows up on their snowy Highland doorstep, asking for Ross, and their grandma mistakes her for Ross’s new girlfriend, an opportunity presents itself

Before she knows it, Lucy has been invited to stay for the holidays, as the newest Miller plus-one. Her ‘boyfriend’ is furious, but the chemistry between them is as tempting as it is surprising. It’s shaping up to be either Lucy’s worst Christmas of all, or the best mistake of her life….

Buy Links | BookShop | Harlequin | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million |  Powell’s

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Maya helped Lucy pack boxes of the Fingersnug into a bag. “Isn’t there a risk that turning up at his house in Scotland makes you look like a stalker?”

“I can see why you might be concerned about that and I’m not going to say it didn’t cross my mind, but no. Firstly because I’m in Scotland anyway, doing a photoshoot for the Fingersnug along with reindeer and several influencers, and secondly because this is what Zoe told me to do. I’m simply following her advice. And it’s not as if I haven’t tried every other route first.” Maybe she was overstepping a little, but sometimes you had to take a risk to get ahead.

Ever since Arnie’s health scare she’d been working flat out to put together ideas for Miller Active. She was excited about her plan and desperate to get her proposal in front of Ross Miller before the competition snagged his attention. She was willing to take the chance that the whole thing could explode in her face. What was the worst that could happen? He’d slam the door on her, which wouldn’t be pleasant but at least she’d be able to limp home knowing that she’d done everything she could to help Arnie and protect people’s jobs.

“Who is Zoe?”

“Ross Miller’s personal assistant. She’s great. She’s organized, and she knows everything. We went to that new wine bar near the river last night, and—”

“You went to a wine bar with Ross Miller’s assistant?”

“Yes.” Lucy tucked some of the festive “props” she’d bought into the bag. “We’ve been talking every day for the past week, and we’ve become friendly.”

Maya shook her head in disbelief. “How do you do it? If someone stands still for long enough, you befriend them.”

“It wasn’t hard. I like her. I took my proposal over to the office and we got chatting. Turns out she’s from Scotland, too, and she knows Ross from school.”

“And he gave her a job?”

“Why not? She’s brilliant. And who knows, maybe she threatened to reveal all his secrets if he didn’t employ her.” Lucy added two boxes of fairy lights to the bag. “They’re obviously good friends. Sounds as if they have one of those fun relationships full of banter where she scolds him, and he pretends to do as he’s told. Can you pass me the snow globe?”

Maya handed it to her. “Good friends? Or very good friends.”

“Not romantic. According to Zoe, Ross isn’t involved with anyone. He occasionally dates, but women tend to get frustrated by his focus on work. He actually forgot about his last date, left her sitting in a restaurant.” She forced the snow globe into the bulging bag. Maybe it had been optimistic of her to think she could manage with the one bag.

“Not the king of romance, then,” Maya said. “Does Ross know that his assistant is revealing his entire personal life to strangers?”

“I’m not a stranger. I’ve seen her four times this week.”

May rolled her eyes. “And no doubt by Friday you’ll be godmother to her children.”

“She doesn’t have children, although she would like to. She’s dating William, but he’s currently living in Edinburgh and she misses him horribly. William, it seems, is very slow to make a commitment so Zoe is thinking of proposing herself. We talked through a few strategies.” Lucy tried to close the bag and failed. “A little help, please?”

Maya pushed the sides of the bag together. “No offense, but since when did you become the expert on marriage proposals?”

“I know a lot about the theory.” Finally, Lucy managed to close the bag. “You don’t have to travel the world to teach geography. I’m creative, that’s my job. I know how to make an impact. Also, I pay attention to what people want and need. That’s the basis of successful selling and, in the end, that’s what we’re doing. All the time. Every day. I’m going to be selling the idea of me to Ross.”

“So where does William fit into this?”

“William works in risk assurance so it’s understandable that he won’t be given to impulse. He needs a little something to nudge him past that caution barrier. Fortunately Ross Miller closes the office for a week over Christmas, which means Zoe can go home, too.” Lucy lifted the bag. “This weighs a ton. Nothing else is fitting in there.”

“He closes the office?”

“Yes. He goes home to Scotland to spend time with his family.”

“That’s nice.”

“It is. I like it when people appreciate family.” Lucy lowered the bag back to the floor. “I feel as if I’ve forgotten something. What else do I need?”

“A whole lot of good luck and the bound copies of your proposal. You wanted two, is that right?” Maya handed them to her. “You haven’t discussed this with Arnie, have you?”

“No. He is supposed to be resting. No stress. You know what he’s like. If I even mention this, he’ll want to be involved.” She knew she’d never forget the sight of Arnie being taken away in an ambulance. For a horrible moment she’d thought she might lose another person she loved, but fortunately it hadn’t turned out to be as serious as they’d feared.

Arnie had been discharged with medication and a lecture on lifestyle.

He was keeping in touch with the office, but Lucy had given everyone strict instructions not to contact him.

The office felt strange without him there. Even the Christmas tree and the decorations couldn’t make up for his absence. But if he rested now, hopefully he’d be well enough to come back to work in January.

In the meantime she was holding the fort.

Maya gestured to the proposals in Lucy’s hand. “Good work, by the way. Clever. I think Ross Miller will be impressed.”

“Let’s hope so.” She grabbed some Christmas wrapping. “Did you see the photo Ted sent round? The baby is gorgeous.”

“They’re not getting any sleep.”

“I know. Ted says he watches the baby half the night to check she’s still breathing.” Lucy knelt on the floor, cut the wrapping paper and measured a length of ribbon.

“Ribbon?” Maya frowned. “You’re not seriously gift wrapping the proposal?”

“Why not? It’s Christmas.” She wrapped the document carefully. “Even the most hard-hearted businessman can’t help but respond to wrapping paper covered in cheerful robins, surely?”

“That’s why you’re wrapping it? To fill his hardened heart with festive joy?”

“No.” Lucy tied the ribbon and secured the label she’d handwritten in careful script. “I’m wrapping it in case something happens and I’m not able to deliver it to him personally. It’s Christmas, and they have a big family gathering every year.”

“Zoe again?”

“No. I read about it in that magazine feature I mentioned.” She’d pored over every page, envious of the oversize Christmas trees, the lush garlands adorning fireplaces and the curved bannister. “If I hand them a boring-looking proposal the chances are they’re going to forget about it. Who wants to read a boring document at Christmas? If I wrap it, then there is a good chance that at some point over the festive season it’s going to be opened.”

“Possibly by one very disappointed kid who is immediately going to throw a tantrum before tossing it out of the window.”

“No young children in the family, according to my research.” She tucked the wrapped parcel carefully into her laptop bag, along with the spare unwrapped proposal.

“Please tell me you’re not dressing as Santa when you drop it off.”

“I wasn’t planning to—” Lucy rocked back on her heels “—but now you’re making me think.”

“Well don’t think. You’ve done enough thinking.” Maya rested her hip on the desk and folded her arms. “So why didn’t he go into the family business?”

“Ross? I have no idea, and it’s not relevant. I am not there to interfere with family politics. I am simply going to ring the doorbell and hand over my gift. Merry Christmas. That’s it.”

“You should have put a copy of that marketing magazine in with the proposal. Cover girl Lucy.”

Lucy stood up and put the unused wrapping paper back on her desk. “That’s one of those awards that we are all super proud of, but no one else in the world has ever heard of.”

“But you’re the face of modern marketing. He might be impressed.”

“Or not.” Lucy glanced at her phone. “I have an hour before my train leaves.”

“The sleeper. I’ve always thought that sounds romantic. Traveling on a train through the darkness, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.”

“There is nothing romantic about having a carriage to myself.”

“Maybe it will be like one of those spy movies,” Maya said, “where the bad guy is lurking, waiting to throw you out of the window.”

“And for that comforting thought, I thank you.”

“You should have taken some days for yourself while you’re up there. Have a mini break.”

Lucy couldn’t think of anything worse. “I’ve already booked my return journey the following night. All organized. It’s a flying visit.”

Even if she had the money for it, she didn’t want to spend time in a hotel on her own at Christmas. How miserable would that be?

No, she’d spend the day taking creative photos of the Fingersnug with the reindeer herd as her backdrop, and then she’d deliver her proposal to Ross Miller on her way back to catch the train.

As far as she could see, there was nothing that could go wrong.

Sarah Morgan is a USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She has sold more than 21 million copies of her books and her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe. Sarah lives with her family near London, England, where the rain frequently keeps her trapped in her office. Visit her at http://www.sarahmorgan.com.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Book Hater’s Book Club by Gretchen Anthony | Excerpt

Filled with humor, family hijinks, and actual reading recommendations, The Book Haters’ Book Club features a messy group of people trying to save their local Indie bookstore —  and who might just save each other along the way. This heartwarming, wildly entertaining novel is both a celebration of found family, and a love letter to booksellers and librarians everywhere. 

Elliot, co-owner of Over the Rainbow Bookshop in Minneapolis, started The Book Haters’ Book Club—a newsletter of reading recommendations for the self-proclaimed “nonreader” – because he believed that it only takes the right book to turn a Book Hater into a Book Lover. Now, after they’re all reeling after Elliot’s sudden death, his business partner, Irma, has agreed to sell Over the Rainbow to a developer. When Irma breaks the news to her daughters, and Elliott’s romantic partner, Thom, they are aghast. Especially since Irma won’t explain why she’s so intent on selling. 

Irma’s daughters and Thom conspire to save the bookshop. Even if it takes some snooping, gossip and (minor) sabotage, they won’t give up without a fight.

Buy Links | HarperCollins.com  | BookShop.org | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Thom Winslow swept through the glass doors of Vandaveer Investments a titan. “Good afternoon,” he announced to the receptionist, his voice bold, his tenor unwavering. “I’m here for the Over the Rai-iin-bow—” He faltered as the word “rainbow” indiscriminately, and most unpleasantly, stuck to his throat like jelly, leaving him no choice but to clear it with a sickening “HUUCCHH!”

“I’m here for the meeting about the bookstore.” This he said with the voice of a defeated man, aware that his too-narrow shoulders and pigeon neck were rapidly deflating in shame. Damn his rehearsed confidence.

The receptionist barely paid attention, his focus on the tablet attached to his hand. (Was it glued there?) “You’re meeting in the Lake Minnetonka conference room. I’ll escort you.”

Irma Bedford, co-owner of the Over the Rainbow Bookshop with Thom’s recently deceased partner, Elliot, was already inside, waiting. Seeing her, Thom felt a second blow, his vision for today’s meeting all but stomped dead. He’d arrived early to be the first one in the room—he’d read it was a power move—and yet here she was, extending her hand.

“Thom.” She stood when he entered. “They’re running a few minutes behind.”

She was rumpled. He hadn’t expected that. Of the few things  Thom appreciated in Irma, it was her easy chic, a style that never failed to impress—well-ironed jeans, crisp white shirt, flawless foundation and knockout lips. Today they were an unfortunate shade of coral.

“Here.” He plucked a tissue from a box on the side table. “Lipstick. On your tooth.”

She accepted it and turned discreetly to fix herself. There was a stain on her back pocket, the flowering blue swell of ink that would never come out, and before realizing, he said, “I’ll walk behind you when we leave so no one can see that spot on your slacks.” It was a kindness she perhaps did not deserve, and yet he couldn’t help himself.

Irma smiled, gratefully. “Before they come,” she began to say but hadn’t finished before James and Trevor Vandaveer, father and son, walked through the door and started the handshaking and back-patting portion of the afternoon. Trevor, the younger, pulled out chairs for Thom and Irma, as if they were elderly, joints too swollen with arthritis to do it themselves. Or in Thom’s case, enfeebled by a set of useless-looking shoulders.

“Will your daughters be joining you, Irma?” Trevor asked.

“Laney’s flight was delayed.” She nodded toward the glass wall behind him. “But here’s Bree now.”

Bree Bedford exited the elevator, armpits sweating through her shirt, the voice in her head hyperventilating about what a stupid mistake she’d made by not having worn a blazer, as usual failing to avoid even one of the mini disasters that, together, comprised her average day.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” The clock on the wall above the crystal water pitcher that looked too fancy to touch read 2:58 p.m., two minutes early. But the energy in the room said she was embarrassingly late. She slipped silently into a chair next to her mother and pulled her planner from her purse for notes. The clasp snapped loudly, echoing against the room’s hard surfaces. “Sorry. Again.”

She and Trevor Vandaveer had graduated high school together, and twenty years on, he looked just as much the tailored son of privilege as he always had, wearing a suit that probably cost more than she was comfortable thinking about. His father, whose first name she kicked herself for not being able to remember, remained the only one standing. She sensed he spent too much time in the sun—though his cheeks and forehead were shiny and taut as if fresh from the dermatologist, the wrinkles on his hands betrayed his age, all but undoing the medical illusion up top.

“We waiting for more?” he barked.

“Just Laney,” Irma, Bree, and Thom said in unison. Irma added, “She texted me a few minutes ago. She’s on her way from the airport.”

It had been upon learning that Laney was flying in from California that Bree began to feel anxious about what she might learn at this meeting. Their mother had only said, “With Elliot gone, I’ve enlisted an outside firm to help me make some decisions about the Rainbow.” Bree was more or less the bookshop’s assistant manager—it made sense for her to attend. Her sister, Laney, though, never flew in for store matters. In fact, she almost never flew in for personal matters, either. Their mom’s best friend and business partner, Elliot, had died several months ago and Laney hadn’t flown in for his funeral. She hadn’t flown in when their mom’s late-in-life boyfriend, Nestor, passed away unexpectedly last year, and she hadn’t spent a Christmas or Thanksgiving in Minneapolis for as long as Bree could remember. Laney didn’t come home for things, and yet she was coming home for this.

The receptionist opened the door a third time. “Laney Hartwell,” he announced.

Before stepping through, Laney pulled her baseball cap low and made a wish to whatever god, genie, or fairy watching over her that Old Man Vandaveer would keep on talking. The sooner this was over, the better. She was tired. She didn’t need to be here. It was too big of an ask.

“What are you doing over there?” Mr. Vandaveer saw her choose a seat in the corner and, grossly offended, slapped his notes on the table with a violent, outsize thwak!

She rubbed at the back of her neck, her hair at full attention. “I’m trying not to interrupt.”

“Laney.” Her mother tapped the chair beside Bree. “There’s plenty of room right here.”

“It’s a big table,” Old Man Vandaveer barked, a man showing off his territory—big office, big voice, big dude-jewel ring rapping on his big table’s glass top. “Alright, brass tacks.” He returned to his agenda. “Ms. Bedford, on behalf of Over the Rainbow Bookshop, LLC, has entered into a contract for sale of said business with Vandaveer Investments. Per her request, we’ve agreed to brief you all, her stakeholders, on the terms.”

Trevor handed each of them a slick folder adorned with the firm’s green-and-gold logo. Laney accepted hers, placed it unopened on the table, and set her brain free to wander. It was strange, flying in from her grown-up life in Oakland, only to come face-to-face with a kid she’d graduated with, now an adult with a tailored suit and a haircut too slick for his conservative, monochromatic tie.

“Let’s begin with the Terms of Sale,” Trevor said. The words entered the air, floated around the room. Laney didn’t try to catch them.

“‘…will be paid by the Seller in full upon closing in the form of certified check, agreed to by both Buyer and Seller…’”

Bounce. Bounce.

He had a tiny blue dot above his lip. She’d thought it was an ink spot, a rogue pen leaving its mark. But the more she watched, the more she became convinced. Trevor had a perfect dot of a mole above his lip.

“‘—six weeks,’” the mole said. 

“I’m sorry?” Bree’s voice cut through Laney’s foggy thoughts.

“Yes, July 1,” Trevor said. “When Irma signed the Statement of Intent, we agreed to an expedited, six-week timeframe. We’ll sign the final closing documents at the end of the month.”

“But that’s only three weeks from today.” Bree double-checked the date. She was correct. “You sold the shop three weeks ago and you’re just telling us now?” A panicked chill seized her; she didn’t think she could lift her arms. “What about all our customers? What about the neighborhood? We’re the only independent bookstore left in Lyn-Lake.”

“I admit the timeframe is less than ideal.” Her mother did not sound remotely apologetic. “I needed time to get Laney here.”

Bree dug her fingers into the edge of the glass tabletop to keep from crying. Three weeks until her life came to a crashing halt, until the bookshop that had first been her refuge, then family, and then career, ceased to exist. “I don’t understand.” Tears slipped from her chin to the table. “How can you close the Rainbow?”

Irma didn’t respond.

“If you’ll turn to page seventy-nine,” Trevor said, apparently anxious to move the meeting along, “you may understand more after hearing the details.”

“Take a look at the offer price,” his father said. “That oughta dry your boo-hoos.”

Thom pushed the tissue box down the table toward Bree. That Irma was only now telling her daughters of the sale did not surprise him. She was a beauty with fangs, and he’d known from the very beginning it was dangerous to get too close. She and the bookshop had consumed Elliot, and just as a new chapter of their lives was to begin, just as Elliot had agreed to cut back on his work there, to consider retirement, to refocus on his life with Thom, he’d died. In a flash. Gone without warning or goodbyes.

Thom turned to the correct page and looked for the price Irma had received for the beloved Over the Rainbow, aware that no amount of money would ever dull the resentment he’d sharpened for the woman and her bookstore over so many years. Trevor was now spewing gibberish, a tactic meant to blunt the impact of what he could see with his very own eyes: Irma had sold Elliot’s life’s work for practically nothing.

“Oh, Mom,” Bree cried. “Is that all the Rainbow means to you?”

Laney flipped her page, assuming there had to be more on the other side. “So, is this just the first installment or what?”

Thom felt his jaw, followed by stoic resolve, go slack. “Irma,” he hissed.

The woman didn’t flinch. “These are the terms the Vandaveers offered, and I’ve accepted them,” she said, her back an iron rod. “If you have questions, please direct them to our hosts.”

Thom looked at the sale price again, convinced they’d misplaced a comma.

Bree shifted from being quietly tearful to a sobbing soap opera star.

Laney checked her watch.

GRETCHEN ANTHONY is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, which was a Midwestern Connections Pick and a best books pick by Amazon, BookBub, PopSugar, and the New York Post. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Medium, and The Write Life, among others. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Social Links | Author Website  | Twitter: @granthony  | Facebook: Gretchen Anthony |
Instagram: @gretchenanthony.writer  | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Blitz | Two For the Show by Skye Warren

Two for the Show
Skye Warren
(One for the Money, #2)
Published by: Dangerous Press
Publication date: September 13th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pregnant. Alone. And heartbroken. The only thing Eva Morelli knows for sure is that she wants this baby. She learned how to depend only on herself a long time ago.

The father, however? He made his position on marriage and children very clear.

Finn Hughes has fought his fate for years, but it’s finally catching up to him. Duty took away his choices. How can he hope for forever? He already knows how this ends.

There’s only one thing worse than having a family.

Losing them.

“I was hooked from page one. With steam and grit, Warren captures your attention and has you begging for the next chapter. Book gold!” — USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke for Private Property

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

EXCERPT:

Dark eyes skim over my face, and Eva purses her lips. There’s no current of flirtation between us now. The night I stole her from the Morelli Mansion, we were a team. It was us against the world. Now there’s an ache in my chest like my heart has been stabbed, repeatedly, with one of the dinner forks.

“I’ve been well, Finn. Thanks.”

It’s so dismissive it kills me. More than dismissive. This is polite avoidance from Eva Morelli. She’s probably still pissed at me.

That’s fair.

“Any plans for the holidays?”

Eva looks away, holding her champagne glass close to her body. There’s about an inch in the glass. She doesn’t take a sip. “I’d imagine we’ll have the usual get-togethers.”

“I’m available to help with the mince pies.” I’ll never forget working with her in the big kitchen at the Morelli Mansion. She wouldn’t stop until everything was perfect. I just wanted an excuse to be near her.

She gives a short, shallow laugh. “We’ll have that under control. I wouldn’t want you to lose any sleep over it. You should enjoy the holidays to the fullest.”

Elsewhere, she means. Not at the gala hosted by her family. Not with her.

This is more than Eva being distant. She’s being…cagey. Vague on the details. Making a point of discouraging me from coming anywhere close.

Is she dating someone else?

Jealousy rises. It’s ridiculous for me to be jealous, but I am. I saw Alex Langley among the guests. That was probably Sarah Morelli’s doing. Eva’s not interested in him.

But the fact is, someday she will be with someone. And I’ll have to watch.

I’ll have to watch her be conspiratorial with him and familiar with him and happy with him.

I’ll have to watch until I don’t.

“The champagne’s flowing freely tonight. You must have figured out a way to make sure you never run out.”

Her eyes come back to mine, and there it is. The sparkle I saw there on the night I asked her out. The heat. And yes, the happiness. It’s gone in an instant, but I saw it.

I can feel it between us. It’s like a physical pull. I want to take her hand and tug her out of the Met and into my car. Maybe if I went through the steps we took that night, found her someplace illicit and hidden to take her, we could get that feeling back.

Because it was building. It was becoming something strong and unshakable and goddamn delicious.

“Finn.” Sarah Morelli sweeps in, obvious delight on her face. “We were so sorry to hear your father wasn’t feeling well. I trust he recovered, if you’re here?”

“Yes, absolutely.” I lean down to kiss her cheek. “He insisted that I come tonight. You don’t let a woman like Sarah Morelli down, he said.”

Sarah laughs, dismissing this with a wave even as her face flushes. “Of course you’re here for Eva. Breathtaking, isn’t it? I think she’s surpassed me at hosting events.”

“She could only do that because she learned from the best.” I wink at Sarah. “One detail got overlooked, though. She hasn’t asked me to dance.”

“Eva, you must. This is the best wedding of the season. Let’s toast, and then you’ll take your fiancée to the dance floor.”

“Oh, no thank you, Mama.”

Sarah rolls her eyes, smiling. “You and your newfound sobriety. It’s all right to relax a little once the speeches are over, Eva.”

Sobriety?

Eva hasn’t taken a single sip of her champagne. Awareness whispers across the back of my neck like a woman blowing on a pair of dice.

Something else is going on here.

The music kicks up in volume. Eva hands off her champagne glass to Sarah like she’s been caught out with it. “I like this song,” she says, her tone bright and cheery and fake. “You’re right. We should dance.”

She takes my hand and pulls me onto the dance floor.

Eva Morelli is hiding something.

Whether that’s a new boyfriend, I haven’t the faintest clue. All I know is that I’m being led onto the dance floor for a reason.

I know it, but I don’t make any move to stop her. It feels too damned good to have my hand in hers. It’s a balm to put my hand on her waist and pull her close.

It feels too good.

“I know you’re doing this to distract me,” I murmur against her temple.

Eva curls her fingers through mine, finding the beat of the song. “Is it working?”

“Yes.”

Author Bio:

Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of dangerous romance. Her books have sold over one million copies. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, sweet dogs, and evil cat.

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Review | Reign Returned by Katie Keridan

Kyra Valorian is the most gifted Astral healer the golden-blooded realm of Aeles has seen in ages. When tragedy strikes, Kyra discovers she possesses a life-changing gift: she’s a Recovrancer, able to enter the realm of the dead and recover those who’ve died before their time. Unfortunately, recovrancy is outlawed in her realm. Desperate for answers, Kyra will do anything to get them . . . even partner with a dangerous enemy.

Sebastian Sayre is the most sought-after Daeval assassin in all of Nocens. A silver-blooded Pyromancer, he wields fire and dreams of finding Rhannu, a legendary sword that makes its holder invincible. Since the sword was long ago stolen from Nocens and hidden where no Daeval can retrieve it, however, such a dream seems impossible . . . until he encounters the one Astral who might be both able and willing to help him.

As Kyra and Sebastian work together to uncover the secrets of their realms, they also uncover secrets within their own pasts–pasts that are far more intertwined than they ever imagined. Ultimately, in this tale of discovery, destiny, and a love strong enough to outlast time, remembering the past just may prove to be the only way to change the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was excited for this title because the synopsis piqued my interest right away and I was hoping it would be what I was hoping. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding as well as the characters. I felt both factors were well constructed. While the beginning didn’t grab me right away, it was soon sucking me in as the story started building. This was a great start to a series and I felt that the foundation was well built, so I’m looking forward to the sequel. I’d be interested to see how the world itself expands and what happens to the characters as their journey continues.

Happy reading!

Cover Reveal | Tricked in October by Starla DeKruyf

Tricked in October
Starla DeKruyf
(Pineridge, #2)
Publication date: October 25th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

In this best-friends-to-lovers romance, mistaken identity leads to a Halloween hook-up that might not be so mistaken after all.

After losing her husband last winter, the thought of hosting a Halloween couples costume party is the furthest thing from Kelsey O’Henry’s mind. Besides raising three young children, managing O’Henry’s Bar and Grill, and caring for her alcoholic mother, she has more important things to worry about. Like the stack of unpaid business loans that threaten the bar’s existence. As well as her newfound feelings she’s developed for her best guy friend.

Davis Vance is tired of being followed around by cameras. He misses the days before he and his twin brother became “Renovation Dudes”—hosts of an HGTV show. When Davis learns Kelsey could lose the bar at the end of the fall season, he sees it as an opportunity to not only help his friend, but as a way out of renewing his HGTV contract.

There’s just one problem—lately Davis’s feelings for Kelsey have been less friendly and more romantic. And on the night of the bar’s Halloween party, both Kelsey and Davis can no longer ignore their desires. Will their passionate evening be a one-night stand—only a flicker of heat during the crisp autumn, or will she risk her pride and accept his help?

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Author Bio:

Starla DeKruyf started writing when she still had words left to say and everyone stopped listening. Her love of romance novels began when she borrowed her friend’s copy of Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume and kept it hidden from her mom. When she’s not slinging coffee, volunteering with youth, or taxiing her kids around, you can find her jamming out to her playlists and writing her next swoony romance, usually by hand. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, three children, their English Mastiff, and a rescue pup.

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Review | The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz

A Young Teen Falls in with the Mob, and Learns a Lesson About What Kind of Person He Wants to Be

In The Prince of Steel Pier, Joey Goodman is spending the summer at his grandparents’ struggling hotel in Atlantic City, a tourist destination on the decline. Nobody in Joey’s big Jewish family takes him seriously, so when Joey’s Skee-Ball skills land him an unusual job offer from a local mobster, he’s thrilled to be treated like “one of the guys,” and develops a major crush on an older girl in the process. Eventually disillusioned by the mob’s bravado, and ashamed of his own dishonesty, he recalls words of wisdom from his grandfather that finally resonate. Joey realizes where he really belongs: with his family, who drive him crazy, but where no one fights a battle alone. All it takes to get by is one’s wits…and a little help from one’s brothers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I found the concept of this book interesting, featuring a young teen in a transition period of his life, in a transition time period in Atlantic City. As a character Joey is very compelling and I could see how kids in the same age range would really identify with him. Joey is the third of four sons and really struggling to find his place in his family and in life itself, he feels like no one gets him and like he’s sometime invisible or an afterthought – which is a feeling I think a lot of young readers may struggle with at some point. Throughout the story is the theme of Joey not only figuring out things about himself, but also determining what is right and wrong when he’s exposed to some individuals associated with the mob.

He goes through a lot of growth in a small amount of time while also solidifying his place in a lot of ways. He learns a lot about life in general as well as his family and how society treats people they see as different than them. This book does touch on discrimination and while I don’t know a lot personally about the Jewish faith, I appreciated the snippets of information throughout the book and really appreciated Joey’s questions and contemplation on his own faith.

While some of the little twists were a tad predictable for me, I think they were perfect for the targeted age range for this story. I really enjoyed reading Joey’s story and seeing how he grew along the way.

Happy reading!

Cover Reveal | The Immortal Secret by Christina Farley

The Immortal Secret
Christina Farley
Publication date: September 1st 2022
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

A sizzling romance of supernatural thrills, impossible choices, and heart-stopping adventure.

When Estrella Milton moves to the mysterious Home for Girls after an explosion left her orphaned and amnesic, she’s haunted by strange visions that hint her entire existence is a lie.

Desperate to discover her true identity, Estrella begins investigating her past only to uncover dark and terrifying secrets of her abilities. Her life spins further out of control when she meets Dion and Tristan, two rivals for her heart. One who wants to protect her from the past while the other wants her to embrace it.

As she debates who to trust, she unwittingly thrusts herself and her friends at the Home for Girls into a far greater danger than she could ever imagine. But once she starts remembering, she realizes it’s too late to go back to who she once was. And her secret is too powerful to be contained.

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Author Bio:

CHRISTINA FARLEY is the author of the Gilded series, THE PRINCESS AND THE PAGE, THE DREAM HEIST, and THE IMMORTAL SECRET. When not traveling the world or creating imaginary ones, she spends time with her family in Clermont, Florida with her husband and two sons where they are busy preparing for the next World Cup, baking cheesecakes, and raising a pet dragon that’s in disguise as a cockatiel. Visit her at ChristinaFarley.com.

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Review | The Way Back Home by Courtney Peppernell

When a dark storm settled upon the earth, you lost many things—your hope, your strength, yourself. One day, in the middle of the darkness, you meet a spirit, washed from the ocean onto the shore. The spirit hands you a key.
 
It is time to find the way back home.

Returning with her newest poetry book, beloved poet Courtney Peppernell combines storytelling, poetry, and prose in a uniquely inspirational way. Filled with heartfelt anecdotes and insightful messages, The Way Back Home is a tribute to rebuilding our lives after loss. Divided into sections that draw on themes of courage, resilience, purpose, and hope, the collection has Peppernell once again walking us through a redemptive journey of the heart, mind, and soul.

Discover what it means to continue forward in life, despite all the challenges we face, to find the way back home.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Having read some of Courtney Peppernell’s collections before I knew going in that I would enjoy her style of writing. This collection is a mix of prose and verse, with much of the prose being little stories throughout the collection, some whimsical while others were honest and thoughtful looks at real life. This collection especially seemed to come from the heart, looking at internal feelings of a wide range of emotions as well as external situations. I found a lot of the pieces very poignant and loved when there was a little whimsy or fantasy woven into the poems and prose.

Happy reading!

Review | The Rebel Girls Handbook

All Rebel, all the time. The Rebel Girls Handbook is the ultimate ticket to trivia, activities, and more about 300+ extraordinary women featured across the bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series.

Malala Yousafzai fights for girls’ education around the world. . . and there’s an asteroid named after her. Florence Nightingale was a nurse who saved lives during the Crimean War. . . and she had a pet owl named Athena. María Isabel Urrutia is a Colombian weightlifter. . . and the inspiration for a character in the film Encanto.

The Rebel Girls Handbook includes amazing facts and beautiful illustrations of Rebel Girls past and present, all packaged together in a fun, easy-to-flip-through format. Spotlights on the home countries and traits of trailblazing women let readers explore the Rebel universe like never before, while activities encourage them to join in and make the book their own.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m always excited to see another Rebel Girls title pop up, so I was eager to give this one a read. I really enjoyed that in this installment the beginning features highlights of regions and then broke down into countries, highlighting a few figures from each country. The rest of the book contains 300 profiles of figures throughout history and from all over the world. There’s a wide variety of professions and talents that could prove inspirational for girls of all ages. In this installment we’re given bullet points of important aspects or events from each figure and many of them include a QR code that can be scanned to learn more. As always the colors are bright and vibrant and all of the different art pieces bring life to the different individuals.

Happy reading!