Blitz | Strut by Jay Hogan

Strut
Jay Hogan
(The Style Series, #2)
Publication date: July 14th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

New Zealand farm boy turns New York fashion model.
Fairy tale? Maybe. But it hasn’t been easy. A year in this crazy city, working my tail off just to survive in a ruthless industry where sex sells and boundaries are too readily crossed.

A year and a reassuring ocean away from Hunter Donovan—a sexy, humiliating mistake that I’m not about to repeat. Distance is good. Distance is safe.

But now Hunter is back. In New York. In my life. In all those treacherous feelings that haven’t gone anywhere. But when my world suddenly crashes and I have to piece myself back together and fight for my career, will Hunter be there when I need him? Will we have what it takes to make it through this, together?

Note: This book contains themes of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Halfway down the block I came upon a small queue outside a tidy brick establishment which proved to be Color. The distant thrum of Ariana Grande leaking through the double wooden doors onto the sidewalk reminded me I was close to a generation older than most of the guys ahead of me waiting to get in.

I joined the line, ignoring a low whistle of interest from one of the guys as I passed. I took his appreciation as reassurance that my skinny black jeans paired with one of Rhys’s new season tight black-and-white-checked T-shirts passed muster. I checked my phone as I waited and fired off a text to my younger sister knowing it was afternoon in New Zealand. A few seconds later the phone rang in my hand, and I smiled and swiped it open.

“Hey, sis.”

“Hey, you. I’m heading to the supermarket. What’s up?”

The line shrank by a couple of guys, and everyone shuffled forward. “Not much. I’m waiting to get into a bar and thought I might catch you.”

Silence. “Hunter Donovan is in a queue?” She chuckled. “You don’t do queues, bro. I thought you rarefied fashionista types skipped those pesky things.”

“It’s not that level of club,” I explained. “Think popular, off-the-beaten-track gay bar. I doubt I’ll see anyone I know and certainly no one who knows me.”

“A gay bar? Ohhhhh, are you on a date?”

“No, I am not on a date. You know me. Besides, I’ve only been here two days.”

“You’re right. I do know you. Which means you’re cruising for some pretty arse. You after a bit of downtown rough, big brother?”

“Jesus, Patty, you sound like a low-budget movie, and we are not having that conversation. Ever. If you must know, I met a guy I worked with in Auckland and he happens to tend bar here. I said I’d drop by.” Kind of, almost.

“Riiiight.” She sounded sceptical. “Do I know them? You’ve always said the best thing about your trips to New York was all the great clubs. I’ve never known you to waste your time on suburban bars.” My sister was way too perceptive.

“True, but this is that model from fashion week last year? The guy Rhys discovered—”

“Oh my god,” she blurted. “That gorgeous hunk of drool you shot for Flare. Alec someone, right?”

“Alec Williamson. He got signed by Cage Talent after the show and has been in New York since. I ran into him quite by chance.”

Patty was quiet for a few seconds as the cogs in her brain ticked over. “But you liked him, right?”

What the fuck? I said nothing

.

“You can’t lie to me, Hunter. I know you. He’s the one hanging in your office on your wall of fame, aka my personal wall of hotness. He’s wearing Rhys’s design. Holy shit, Hunter. Do you have a thing? Are you—”

I needed to shut this down fast. “He’s hanging there because it was my best friend’s signature shoot for his new label,” I argued. “Not because it’s Alec.”

“Mm-hmm.” There was an irritating smile in her voice. “Pull the other one. I called into Flare that day, remember? You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Neither could I, to be honest, but you were a little smitten kitten.”

I so was. “I so wasn’t. You’re dreaming. Alec is a great model, that’s all. If I was smitten, it was on a purely professional level.”

“And yet you’re queuing to have a drink at the place he works?”

Well, when you put it like that. “Maybe.” It was all she was getting. “It’s the friendly thing to do, right?”

“Aha. Yep. Very neighbourly of you. Oh, here’s a thought. If you like him, how about you keep it in your pants for once, at least for more than a day? Get to know him.”

Too fucking late. “Oh, look at that, the bouncer’s waving me in. Gotta go, sis. Nice talking to you.” I stabbed the End Call button, stared at the double doors for a second, took a deep breath, and then pushed through.

The immediate assault to my eardrums almost rattled my brain from my skull. Add that to the heaving crowd and multicoloured light display circling the room and dripping down the walls, and I needed a minute to orient myself. I passed the coat check desk and slid against the closest wall to take a look around.

The place was humming, the music pulsing loudly above the thrum of a hundred different conversations, while the surprisingly spacious dancefloor writhed with every possible combination of couples, throuples, and dogpiles of slick bodies. Like the queue outside, it was a younger crowd, mostly early twenties, but with enough around my age to drop the creep factor to acceptable. I watched the dancers for a bit, appreciating all the hot skin and tight muscle on display before scouting the bar.

“You wanna dance?” A warm body leaned close, and I turned to find an attractive dark-haired man just inches from my face. He had the greenest eyes I’d ever seen and a pouty mouth made for sucking cock. He licked his lips and ran his hand up my arm. “You’re fucking gorgeous.”

On any other night I would’ve had him down the back and on his knees with my dick down his throat in about five minutes flat, but I wasn’t even tempted—a disturbing fact that was worth an alarm bell or two. Instead, I simply smiled and covered his hand with mine.

“Thanks. You’re pretty hot yourself, but I’m meeting someone.”

Author Bio:

Heart, humour and keeping it real.

Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year.

She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She’s travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor. Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel

Author Links


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Blitz | One Kind Hero by Christine DePetrillo

One Kind Hero
Christine DePetrillo
(Heart of a Wounded Hero)
Publication date: July 14th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

What do you do when your life plan goes up in flames?

Army sniper Reid Colborn has nothing left. His last mission was technically a success. Enemy hit. Boy rescued. Day saved. Getting trapped in a burning building, however, wasn’t part of the plan. Now Reid doesn’t have a steady shooting arm, and his military career is over. Heading back to his hometown of Maplehaven, Vermont is not the next target he’d hoped for, but he’s out of choices.

Until architect Valerie Bellerose gives him another option.

When Valerie sees Reid, every detail of their one night together as teens nearly ten years ago comes flooding back. Not that the memory had ever died. Reid had given her something that had made it impossible to forget him. Now that he’s back, can they have a second chance to hit their mark?

Is one kind hero high enough caliber to build the family they’ve always wanted?

One Kind Hero is a second-chance, small-town, steamy contemporary romance novella with a wounded military hero searching for what comes next after losing everything. For more romances set in Maplehaven, check out the One Kind Deed Series also by Christine DePetrillo.

The Heart of the Wounded Hero series was created to pay tribute to and raise awareness of our wounded heroes. Each of the over eighty authors involved have contributed time, money, and stories to the cause. These love stories are inspiring and uplifting, showing the sacrifice of our veterans but also giving them the happily ever after they deserve.

By increasing awareness through our books, we believe we can in a small part help the wounded heroes that have sacrificed so much. Thank you for reading.

Goodreads / Purchase

EXCERPT:

Reid

I have a place to stay and a job to go to. I need to quit whining and suck it up. That’s hard to do, however, when the treasured motorcycle I owned and rebuilt myself as a teenager is staring at me right now.

Straddling it, I love feeling it beneath me. The seat contours to my body. The paint finish is still glossy because Uncle Karl kept a cover over it. The chrome parts glint in the overhead lights. My left hand wraps around the left handlebar, the grip molding to my palm, as I lean forward a bit. I tighten my hold and imagine zipping down the open road.

I reach for the right handlebar with my right hand. The grip hits my palm, but my fingers won’t close all the way around it. My entire right arm shakes at being stretched out. There’s absolutely no way I can steer this motorcycle ever again.

I slam my left hand into the handlebar and get off the bike. The urge to kick the thing onto its side is overwhelming, but I get rational at the last second and refrain from doing so. Instead, I drape the cover back over the motorcycle.

Out of sight, out of mind.

If only I could drape a cover over myself, but all I have is a green Brenton Sawmill baseball hat and a matching sawmill T-shirt. Smoothing the wrinkles out of the shirt, I stomp out of the barn. The morning sunlight is too harsh, too cheerful. I should have picked a rainier, gloomier place to restart my entire life.


Author Bio:

Christine DePetrillo can often be found hugging trees, conversing with dragonflies, and walking barefoot through sun-warmed soil. She finds joy in listening to the wind, bathing in moonlight, and breathing in the fragrances of things that bloom. If she had her way, the sky would be the only roof over her head.

Her love of nature seeps into every story she tells. As does her obsession with bearded mountain men who build, often smell like sawdust, and know how to cherish the women they love. Today she writes tales meant to make you laugh, maybe make you sweat, and definitely make you believe in the power of love.

She lives in Vermont with her husband and cat who defend her fiercely from all evils.

Visit her and sign up for her newsletter at http://www.christinedepetrillo.weebly.com anytime.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter


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Blog Tour | The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson | Excerpt

Detective Anjelica Henley confronts a series of ritualistic murders in this heart-pounding thriller about race, power and the corrupt institutions that threaten us for fans of S.A. Crosby and Tami Hoag

When Detective Anjelica Henley is called to investigate the murder of popular preacher in his own church, she discovers a second victim, tortured and tied to a bed in an upstairs room. He is alive, but barely, and his body show signs of a dark religious ritual.

With a revolving list of suspects and the media spotlight firmly on her, Henley is left with more questions than answers as she attempts to untangle both crimes. But when another body appears, the case takes on a new urgency. Unless she can apprehend the killer, the next victim may just be Henley herself.

Drawing on her experiences as a criminal attorney, Nadine Matheson’s new novel deftly explores issues of race, class and justice through an action-packed story that will hold you captive until the last terrifying page.

Buy Links | Bookshop.org | Harlequin  | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

“We all lost,” said DS Paul Stanford as he held out a Quality Street tin in front of Henley.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Henley asked as she took off her coat and flung it onto a spare desk. “Are there any toffee pennies in there?”

“You might want to keep your coat on. The heating’s on the blink again. Either that or they’ve forgotten all about us and haven’t paid the bill. There’s a hundred and forty pounds in the pot and no toffee pennies.”

“Why is there a hundred and forty quid in there?”

Stanford rolled his eyes in mock exasperation. “Remember our bet?” he said. “On him. Our illustrious fully fledged Detective Constable Ramouter.”

“What have I done?” Ramouter asked from his position in the kitchen where he’d been eyeing the bottom of a mug with disgust.

“This is ridiculous,” Henley said. Her ears picked up the whirr coming from the electric fan heaters and the ice-fueled wind whistling outside and rattling the glass.

“You lasted, Ramouter; that’s what you did,” said Stanford. “We had a bet on how long you would last in the SCU.”

“And you didn’t think that I would last six months?” asked Ramouter as he picked up another mug.

“Mate, I didn’t think you would last six days. I’ll have a coffee if you’re making.”

“You shouldn’t be so mean to him,” said Henley as she took off her scarf and pushed it against the rotting frame of the window to block the icy draft that was sweeping across her desk.

“How am I being mean? I’m paying him a bloody compliment. After everything that happened, no one would have blamed him if he’d bolted for the door.”

“Well, he didn’t. He’s stuck with it. So, what are you going to do with the money?”

“I could give Ramouter the money. He could spend it on a train ticket to Bradford or something.”

“Now who’s getting soft?” Henley said. The phone on her desk started to ring.

“Or I could book a table at the curry house down the road. It will be teambuilding.”

“Or a normal Friday night out with you falling asleep in your chili chicken.”

“Rude,” Stanford replied as Henley picked up the phone and Ramouter appeared by his side with a mug of steaming coffee for him.

“Right. I see,” said Henley, reaching for the pad of blue Post-it notes on her desk and a ballpoint pen with a chewed cap. “I didn’t realize that we were still on duty. Can you send me the CAD details? No, I can’t get it myself because the system has crashed again. Thank you. Who found the body? Right.”

Henley pulled off the Post-it note and stuck it to the side of Ramouter’s mug. He peeled it off and looked at it quizzically. “Depending on traffic, we should be there in fifteen minutes.”

“You’re not going to have time to finish that,” said Henley, putting the phone down and grabbing her scarf.

“There’s a body in a church?” Ramouter said as he read the note. “Seriously?”

“That’s what it says.”

“Why are we dealing with this?”

“We’re dealing with it because the borough commander decided that the Serial Crime Unit should be helping out Homicide and Serious Crime with their caseload,” Henley replied wearily.

“Anyone would think that we were just sitting here watching Netflix all day,” Ramouter moaned. “Is it even a murder?”

“We won’t know until we get there, will we?”

“Can I say it?” asked Stanford, a grin spreading across his face.

“No, you can’t,” Henley replied. She picked up her bag and headed toward the door, with Ramouter in tow. She knew Stanford well enough to know exactly what he was going to say.

“I bet you a tenner that it was the Reverend Green with a candlestick in the library,” Stanford shouted out as Henley slammed the door shut behind her.

“I’m not telling you again. Step away from the tape.”

“What’s going on?”

“If I knew I was going to spend the afternoon standing out in the freezing cold I would have stayed in bed this morning.”

“I bet that they’ve found a body or something.”

“Look, those CSI lot have turned up.”

“I only popped out for a coffee and now the old bill are saying that I can’t go back into my own office.”

“F this. I’m going home.”

“I’m telling you that they’ve found a body.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I don’t understand these kids. Too busy stabbing each other up. No value for life.”

“You can dress it up as much as you like. It’s Deptford innit.”

The murmurings of the curious and disgruntled crowd met Henley and Ramouter as they walked toward the scene of the crime.

“This is a church?” Ramouter asked as he looked up at the cream-colored facade of the brickwork. “I was expecting something a bit more… I don’t know, church-like. Maybe a steeple. This looks like a bank.”

“It used to be a NatWest when I was seventeen. The space was once cheap to rent. Not so sure now,” Henley replied.

“I did a quick Google search—”

“Of course you did.”

“And there’s another seven churches on the Broadway.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Henley. “Betting shops, churches and chicken shops on literally every London high street.”

Henley and Ramouter held up their warrant cards to the officer behind the police tape. Henley scoped the gathering crowd. Nothing about them raised any alarms, but she knew from experience that some murderers were voyeuristic by nature.

“Look likes Dr. Choi is here,” Ramouter said, pointing out the car of Henley’s friend and the Serial Crime Unit’s favorite pathologist, parked between a police motorbike and small white transit van that had ‘Forensic Services Crime Scene Investigation’ marked in black font on the side.

Henley stopped and looked around the small car park. There were no security cameras. She felt a sense of calm as she walked closer to the crime scene. It was a welcome emotion and a respite from the anxiety that was usually coursing through her veins, which she could keep at bay if she bothered to take her prescription to the chemist. She spotted the police officer that she was looking for leaning against the side of a police car, flipping through the pages of his notebook with a pen in his mouth.

“PC Tanaka? DI Henley from the SCU.”

PC Tanaka looked up and then stood to attention a little bit too quickly as Henley walked toward him.

“Ma’am,” said PC Tanaka.

“This is my colleague, DC Ramouter.”

“Shit,” said PC Tanaka when he dropped his notebook. “Sorry.” He brushed off slush from the cover. “It’s bloody freezing.”

“You were first on scene?” Henley asked.

Tanaka nodded. Henley could tell that he wanted to get it right. Giving a senior officer information about a murder scene was a lot different to dealing with burglaries, domestics and breaking up a fight between a couple of crackheads at the bottom of the high street.

“We, that’s the sarge, Sergeant Rivers, and I were driving back to the station. We’re based around the corner at Deptford station. We had just finished our shifts and was coming back from the McDonald’s up the road…”

PC Tanaka paused and took a breath.

Henley felt sorry for him as nerves or possibly shock overtook him. She saw a look of sympathy on Ramouter’s face as they both waited for PC Tanaka to continue.

“Sorry, guv, I mean ma’am,” said PC Tanaka straightening himself again and lowering the volume on his crackling police radio. “As I said, we were heading back to the station and one of the guys who works in the design agency practically threw himself onto the bonnet of the car. He was screaming about a body. We found the cleaner in hysterics in the staffroom of the agency. She refused to leave and take us to the church. I left her with the sarge and I went into the church and yeah, I won’t forget what I saw.”

Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.

Social Links | Author Website | Twitter: @NadineMatheson | Facebook: @NadineMathesonWriter | Instagram: @QueenNads | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Cover Reveal | Two for the Show by Skye Warren

Two for the Show
Skye Warren
(One for the Money, #2)
Published by: Dangerous Press
Publication date: August 16th 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


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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Blitz | Mermaid of St. Moritz by Jincey Lumpkin

Mermaid of St. Moritz
Jincey Lumpkin
(Mermaid of Venice, #5)
Publication date: July 11th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Billionaire mermaid Gia Acquaviva is back for the riveting fifth installment of the Mermaid of Venice series. Gia struggles with intense feelings for a man from her past, while her passionate love affair with a Hollywood actress threatens to ruin it all.

The Mermaid Civil War unleashes Ancient Magic, putting both mermaids and mankind in danger. Caught in the middle of warring factions is Gia’s daughter, Serena. Will the child master her magical powers, or will she become a casualty of war?

Everything’s on the line for Gia. Will her risky behavior cause her to lose everything she’s worked so hard to regain?

Tropes:

• Love triangle
• Enemies to lovers
• Secret affair
• Billionaire romance
• Paranormal romantic suspense

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

They call it the “Top of the World.” The glitterati come to St. Moritz for its famous ski slopes, but they stayed for the champagne climate. Home to mineral springs and abundant forests, the chic village also draws a summer crowd. Late spring brings heavy rain and wildflowers as far as the eye can see. Today, though, the sun awoke and claimed the day.

Gia rose from her slumber to find Florent making her an espresso. They had their coffee on the deck, soaking in all that Alpine glory.

She finally felt relaxed again, knowing that she had taken care of Yiannis for good.

“The scenery reminds me of the Sound of Music,” Florent mused.

“Oh?” Gia asked. “Will you run to the top of the mountain and serenade me like Julie Andrews?”

Florent chuckled. “You would like that, wouldn’t you? Seeing me turn round and round in circles?”

“I am sure we can find you an apron somewhere. I would like the full experience, please.”

He slid out of his chair and approached her, nuzzling her face with his prickly, unshaven skin.

She put both hands on his cheeks and kissed him.

“Mmm!” Florent smiled with a devilish grin. “I almost forgot, Gia! I have a surprise for you.”

She grunted. “You know I hate surprises.”

“Oh, but you will love this. I have organized a private yoga session… with baby goats!”

“Florent, stop. Do not tease me.”

“I am quite serious, Gia! I thought you could bring the au pair… and Serena could pet those smelly little goats. My daughter loves all animals. Serena is probably the same.”

Gia realized for the first time that Serena had never been around any animal. The baby didn’t exactly have a normal start to her life.

“All right,” Gia accepted, feeling amused by this new development on the itinerary. “I will shower and then… baby goats.”


Author Bio:

Jincey Lumpkin is a writer who splits her time between NYC and Lisbon. She has been profiled by Dateline NBC, Vice, and GQ, among others. Out Magazine listed her in its “OUT 100,” naming her as one of the world’s most influential LGBTQ+ people, alongside celebrities like Laverne Cox and Ricky Martin. Sign up for free stories at JinceyLumpkin.com

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Newletter


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Blog Tour | Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber | Excerpt

Rachel lands her dream summer job at a luxurious Tuscan villa. She’s quickly drawn into a new group of rich and beautiful sophisticates and their world of partying, toxic relationships, and even more toxic substances. They’ve never faced consequences, are used to getting everything. But then someone goes too far. Someone dies. And nothing will ever be the same.

Lizzy Barber’s debut A Girl Named Anna won the Daily Mail First Novel Competition. In her newest and even more unputdownable work, she weaves a clever and deadly web of manipulation and desire. A summer thriller rife with back-stabbing, bed-hopping, and murder, Out of Her Depth is a perfect escapist read for fans of Euphoria, J.T. Ellison’s Her Dark Lies, or Rachel Hawkins’s Reckless Girls.

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

Before you judge me, remember this: a girl died, but it wasn’t my fault.

I know that seems like a pathetic confessional. Even more pathetic because the confession itself has, until this point, never been uttered.

I’ve wanted to. Believe me, I’ve wanted to.

The words have formed themselves on the precipice of my tongue, palpitating with their ugly need to be heard, to make me part of the narrative. To declare to the A-level students when I see it coming up on their news feeds, languorously debating it, now, once more, as it has risen into public consciousness twenty-one years after the fact: I was there.

When they stumble in late to my lesson, less eager to talk of the trapassato prossimo than about who fucked whom at last night’s social, and whether crimped hair really is making a comeback.

I was there.

When they blink at me from faces still etched with yesterday’s makeup, reeking of the top-shelf vodka and menthol cigarettes that their house mistresses will studiously ignore.

I was there.

When they declare they “really struggled with this week’s essay” so they only have notes, and they say, “About that C on the mock exam… Did you know my parents funded the library?” and they don’t even bother to wait for the response as they pull out their laptops and glance at their watches, and they think to themselves, Boring bitch has never lived.

I was there.

I imagine each letter incubating in the saliva that pools in the side of my gums. I picture myself standing, drawing the blinds. An illicit eyebrow raise that will make them pause, look up at me anew, place their laptops on the floor as I edge toward them.

Screw Dante. Let me tell you a real story about Florence.

..….

Now

I am just leaving for dinner when I hear.

People talk of remembering exactly where they were when great events happened: Princess Di, the Twin Towers, Trump. I know this isn’t quite on the same scale, but I’ll remember exactly where I was, all the same.

I’ve had back-to-back lessons all day, but now, at last, I have an hour to myself, the only person left in the languages office. I spend it working on my paper “Pirandello and the Search for Truth” for the Modern Language Review, barely coming up for air. This is the part of academia I enjoy the most: the research, the pulling together of an idea, the rearranging of words and thoughts on the page until they start to take on a life of their own, form arguments, cohesion. I’m hoping that this will be the one they’ll finally agree to publish.

I am the only French and Italian teacher at Graybridge Hall, 

have been for the last ten years. When they decided to introduce Italian for the younger years, as well as the older students, I did suggest that perhaps now it would be time to look at hiring someone else. But Ms. Graybridge, the eponymous head—and third of that name to have held the position—reminded me that the school’s ethos was “personal and continuous care for every girl.” Which didn’t really make sense as a rebuttal, but which I knew was shorthand for no, and which she knew—because of certain circumstances under which I assumed my position in the first place—I wouldn’t argue with.

Not that I don’t enjoy teaching. Sometimes. “shaping young minds” and all that seems like it should be a worthy cause. When I was younger, much younger, I imagined maybe I would do a PhD, become a professor. I also thought about diplomatic service, traveling the world as a translator, journalism, maybe, why not? Instead I sit through mock orals on topics as ground-breaking as Food and Eating Out, Cinema and TV, and My Family.

My rumbling stomach is the first signal I have that evening is approaching, and when I tear myself away from my laptop screen to look at the darkening sky, I decide to ditch my planned root around in the fridge, and be sociable instead. Wednesday is quiz night at the pub near school. A group of teachers go every week, the little thrill they get as their cerebral cortexes light up with a correct answer just about making up for a day spent asking the girls to kindly not look at their Apple Watches until break, and maybe not take their makeup out of their Marc Jacobs backpacks until class is over just this once.

I close down my laptop and do a brisk tidy of the room before slipping on my coat and scarf, and am just about to slide my phone into my rucksack when an alert catches my eye—specifically, a name, bouncing out of the BBC News push notification, one I have avoided all thought of for a long while, as much out of circumstance as necessity.

Sebastian Hale.

I freeze in the doorway—phone clutched in my hand as preciously as though it were the Rosetta stone—and look again, not quite believing I saw it right, presuming perhaps it was just wishful thinking, a long hour of screen-staring playing tricks on my eyes, that could have conjured his name before me.

But there it is. That name. Those five syllables. The six vowels and seven consonants that have held more significance for me than any word or sentence written in my entire attempted academic career.

And next to them, three words that throw my whole world off kilter, that see me reaching for the door handle and wrenching it shut, all thoughts of dinner gone from my mind:

Sebastian Hale Appeal Proceeds Tonight.

I sit at my desk, lights off, face illuminated by the white glow of my phone screen, and read someone else’s report of the story I know so well. The story I have lived. I place the phone facedown on the desk, snuffing out its light, and press my palms into the woodwork. The feel of my flesh rubbing against the desk’s smooth surface grounds me, helps me process the report—think.

I knew there had been requests for appeals over the years, all denied by the Corte d’Assise d’Appello. A change of lawyer, probably hoping that new eyes on the case could find something that was missed. But they’ve all come to nothing. How did I miss this?

If he is retried, if there is any possibility that he might be released…everything would change.

After the initial trial, after my part was done and I could finally go home and resume the life I had worked so hard to live. I tried—I really, truly tried—to put it behind me.

That was what she did, after all, and I wanted to follow her lead. I have always wanted to follow her lead. But that time has never truly left me. Sometimes, it will take the smallest thing—the light filtering through a window just so, a particular kind of humid heat, walking past a patisserie and being hit with a waft of baked vanilla sweetness—and it all comes back to me with cut-glass clarity. The sound of our laughter ricocheting off ocher-colored walls. The clink of glasses and the taste of hot weather, raw red wine. The touch of sweat-dewed skin. The scent of pine. The giddy, delightful feeling of being young and happy and having the rest of our lives spooling out in front of us.

These are the good things—the things I want to remember.

The bad things…those I have no choice but to remember.

And now, at the sight of his name alone, I am instantly transported: flying on the wings of a deep déjà vu, away from the cold late-autumn day and the dusty corners of my tired office and back, back, back to that time—that summer.

To those gold-tinged days and months that crescendoed so spectacularly into those final, onyx hours.

To the start.

Lizzy Barber studied English at Cambridge University. Having previously dabbled in acting and film development, she has spent the last ten years as head of marketing for a restaurant group. Her first novel, A Girl Named Anna, won the Daily Mail and Random House First Novel Prize. She lives in London with her family.

Social Links | Author Website | Twitter: @ByLizzyBarber | Facebook: @ByLizzyBarber |
Instagram: @ByLizzyBarber | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Review | So You Want to be a Viking? by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw

Kate, Eddie, and Angus are dazzled by pictures of Viking warriors’ deadly axes and blingy swords in their library books. But when they’re transported back in time to Scandinavia in 991 CE, they must figure out if they have what it takes to become Vikings themselves.

A big, burly Viking called Bjorn initiates the kids in the ways of wielding a battle ax, plundering and looting, and soon they learn all sorts of other tricks as well, including how to get shipshape and navigate the seven seas with just a stone, how to recite rude poems, and how to scare enemies into submission before a battle even begins. Hervor, the haunted shield-maiden, is also on hand to share her tips on how to take off with a handsome ransom and how to make it into Valhalla in the afterlife.

So You Want to Be a Viking? features the field’s latest scholarship and is illustrated throughout with zany illustrations by Japanese cartoonist Takayo Akiyama. Any kid who’s ever daydreamed about being a fierce Norse warrior will love this interactive guide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I got this book in an Owlcrate box and have wanted to at least give it a read through since it looked like a fun book for a middle grade audience. The art style is quirky and fun as you go through the book, learning little tidbits about Viking life and beliefs. It’s got a lot of good information that is written in a way that is easily digestible and was a fun read overall. I would definitely recommend it for its intended age group and then they would find the illustrations engaging and the text intriguing.

Happy reading!

July TBR | TBR Card Challenge

Hey everyone! I know I haven’t posted a TBR or a card challenge update in a while, so figured now was a good time. I’ve been in quite a bad slump the last few months but I’m trying to get myself out of it, especially since I’m behind on my goal for the year. That means a lot of mood reading, but I’m also trying to get back on my more structured picks such as through the cards.

I’m still working on some card challenges from previous months, but I do have audiobooks available for a number of them, so I’m hopeful I can knock those out pretty easily.

For this month I picked the following:

  • Nine of Clubs: Anthologies – Love Beyond Body, Space and Time
  • Ten of Hearts: Rich Pick – So You Want to be A Viking (he wanted to be kind and pick a short book)
  • Jack: Under 300 Pages – Wolf’s Rain Volume 1
  • Seven of Spades: Spin a Wheel – Nightbooks
  • Three of Hearts: Random Color – The Ex Hex
  • Four of Diamond: NetGalley – This one I’m leaving to just pick one on my list when I get to it.

Other than those I’m going to concentrate on ARCs that I have commitments to and mood read where I can. What’s everyone else reading this month?

Happy reading!

Blitz | The Sisterhood of Secrets by Winnifred Tataw

The Sisterhood of Secrets
Winnifred Tataw
(The Gods’ Scion, #4)
Publication date: July 1st 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy

Author Winnifred Tataw explores kingdoms and worldbuilding in this fantasy novel full of secrets and twists in her latest book, The Sisterhood of Secrets.

The story follows Arcelia, her flawed family, and Prince Rodrick, as they tumble through the deserts and underground city of Siesa Arid. Everything has been off since she found out her mother could be a murderer with the whispers of lies and broken promises hanging over her head. She hopes that a visit to her twin cousins’ homeland of Siesa Arid may be the kind of family reconciliation she’s been hoping to have. Arcelia and Rodrick are troubled by threats from a criminal organization; they become overwhelmed with moral questions of right and wrong. All with the help and under the watchful eye of the Archangel and God of Life.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

“The queen called for me,” I said.

One of them nodded as he knocked on Queen Riva’s office door. After a short while, she didn’t answer the door, so he hit it again.

“What is it?” she grumbled from the other side.

The guards cautiously opened the door to speak to the Queen.

“Let her in,” was all I heard echoed back.

The two guards stepped out to let me inside the office.

“Thank you,” I said to them as I was face to face with the Queen of Diar. She was still in her royal ceremony attire, with fewer jewels and hairpins adorning her. Her crown no longer sat on her head, yet no strand of silver hair laid out of place. The room’s lights were soft and dimmed, with a light cinnamon aroma.

I bowed. “Good evening, Queen Riva.”

“Good evening, Duchess,” she pointed to the seat in front of her desk. “Please have a seat.” I did as I was told and sat down, letting the yellow dress drape over the legs of the chair.

“So, how did you enjoy my son’s wedding?” she asked.

“It was beautiful. Honestly, it was fun seeing a different type of wedding.” I smiled softly. The queen’s face didn’t move. It was pretty chilling.

“That’s good.” She sighed, “Well. You are smart enough to know I didn’t call you here for just small talk.”

I nodded. I could hear my heartbeat slowly rising. I was so nervous. Throughout all the years I had been with Rodrick, Riva had never asked to talk to me like this.

“The reason for this conversation wasn’t planned, Duchess.” the Queen said. “I had only thought of it until today as my son’s wedding proceeded.”

She rubbed her temple and looked me in the eye. “As you know, Rodrick may be in that same position one day.”

I looked down at my manicure. “Yes—”

She cut me off, “Look at me when you’re talking to me, Duchess.”

I quickly snapped my head back up. “My apologies.”

She droned. “Just don’t do it—no need for apologies.”

I nodded again. “Yes, I’m aware that Rodrick will get married one day…or that he wants to…I think.” My nerves were finally getting to me. I didn’t know where she was going with this. I didn’t know how I was to answer her without stepping on her toes or getting on her wrong side.

“And as we all know,” Queen Riva continued, “Rodrick is the Acolyte of Time.”

She sighed. “As the Acolyte of Time, Rodrick is mighty. Even without the status of the prince, he still holds a great deal of power both physically and institutionally in the world.” Queen Riva clapped her hands together. “And I may not know if this is true for the other followers of the gods, but, for Tempus, this isn’t the first time a Royal has been an Acolyte.”

I raised my brows. This was new information to me. But how would I know?

She stared at me, her icy blue eyes sending shivers down my spine. “So as a contingency plan of some sorts, we placed the rule the Royal family placed in law. If an Acolyte were to marry and be of Royal blood…they would have to give up their title.”

My mouth dropped. “Are you serious?!”


Author Bio:

Winnifred or Winnie, as most know her by, is an artist, writer, and author of her debut novel: The Gods’ Scion: Child of Tempus. As a military child, Winnie has traveled extensively around the US East Coast and Germany, learning about the history, lore, and culture of each region. Winnie has spent the last two years writing and expanding the world of The Gods’ Scion trilogy series. Winnie has had a lifelong love of literature and art. As a new writer she wants to create beautiful fantasy world with compelling and intriguing characters. Winnie resides in South Carolina and is an undergraduate at the College of Charleston. She loves to spread positivity and joy to those around her, and look at the world through a glittery pink lens.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Life Update | 7/5

Hey everyone! I figured it might be time for a little life update. It’s a pretty big one.

Last week was me and my SO’s anniversary. Eleven years of being together as a couple, a lot of that was long distance, but we’ve lived together for the last four years.

So on our anniversary…he proposed! There were a lot of emotions and a hard adrenaline crash later, to be honest I’m still emotionally processing in some ways.

So that’s the update – I promise I’ll be back to regular content tomorrow, but had to share.

Happy reading!