Seventeen-year-old Scarlett, unlike her theatrically gifted parents, is not one to spend time near a spotlight. Scarlett dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer, where she can flex her creative talents away from a crowd. So it’s no surprise when she sneaks into her school’s costume shop to explore the racks. Unexpected, however, is coming face-to-face with Nathaniel Wilder, a talented theater student who piques a new interest.
With fashion still as her main priority, Scarlett vows to learn how to make a 50s-inspired dress for her best friend, Macie. After all, she needs a strong portfolio of work to help her get into her dream school, the Fashion Institute of Technology. The one problem? She has no idea how to operate a sewing machine. Thanks to Nathaniel’s encouragement, Scarlett decides to shadow the school’s drama teacher to practice her skills, hoping to fuse her passion for fashion with theater…and be closer to him for the spring play.
Scarlett’s designs are unfolding, but a distressing event involving Macie shakes everyone in Scarlett’s world—causing their friendship to falter and Nathaniel to unexpectedly pull away. With building stressors threatening the rest of the year, including a rival who wants to tarnish Scarlett’s reputation, Scarlett must rely on her determined spirit and newfound sewing skills to keep her fashion dreams—and her most important relationships—from unraveling.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
First and foremost, I absolutely love what they’ve done with the cover of this book. The first time I saw it I was immediately interested without knowing anything about it.
If you’re looking for a book that will take you right back to having crushes and the drama of high school, this one really packs that punch. There were certainly some things that might make you cringe normally, but they were written really well so that you didn’t have that feeling.
I did really like the different interests that were represented as well as the characters themselves and their development and growth throughout the book.
All in all this was a cute and endearing young adult romance and was an entirely fun read.
Each spring, Ithaca condemns twelve maidens to the noose. This is the price vengeful Poseidon demands for the lives of Queen Penelope’s twelve maids, hanged and cast into the depths centuries ago.
But when that fate comes for Leto, death is not what she thought it would be. Instead, she wakes on a mysterious island and meets a girl with green eyes and the power to command the sea. A girl named Melantho, who says one more death can stop a thousand.
The prince of Ithaca must die—or the tides of fate will drown them all.
Sarah Underwood weaves an epic tapestry of lies, love, and tragedy, perfect for fans of Madeline Miller, Alexandra Bracken, and Renée Ahdieh.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
I’m always up for something that is tied to mythology in some way, so I was excited to pick this one up. While I enjoyed the premise and overall story, I found myself wanting a little more with this one. There were definitely a lot of great aspects to the way this story was told, perhaps being a look at the events and characters of The Odyssey through a different lens, but there were also aspects of it that just didn’t quite get there for me.
The writing style is beautiful and flows really well, that was something I especially enjoyed with the book as a whole and kept me engaged. While the characters were really interesting on one level, I did feel like they could have been built out a bit more. At times it felt like they didn’t have depth so they were hard to really root for. All in all an interesting take on the story that I did enjoy overall.
Fans of bestsellers like In Five Years will fall for this unexpected love story about a woman and her contractor who discover a divorce decree with their names on it … dated ten years in the future.
When Susie inherits a charming fixer-upper from her aunt, she’s excited to start living her best HGTV-life. But when she opens the door to find that her contractor is none other than her ex’s (very good looking) best friend Lars—the same man who witnessed their humiliating public break-up 6 months ago—she isn’t exactly eager to have him around. But, beggars can’t be choosers and the sooner the repairs are done, the sooner she can get back to grudgingly accepting the single life.
Things go from awkward to unbelievable when Lars knocks down a bedroom wall and finds a divorce certificate dated ten years from now…with both their names on it. It couldn’t possibly be real…could it? As Susie and Lars try to unravel the document’s origins, the impossibility of a spark between them suddenly doesn’t seem so far-fetched. But is any kind of relationship between them doomed before it’s ever begun?
The big blond man standing on my doorstep blinked.
“How are you, Lars?” I gave him my very best fake smile. “Nice to see you.”
“Susie. It’s been what…five, six months?” Setting down his toolbox, he gave me an uneasy smile. It was more of a wince, really. Because the last time we saw each other was not a good night. Not for me, at least.
“Something like that,” I said.
“This your new place?” He nodded at the battered arts and crafts cottage. “The office said you had some water damage you wanted to start with?”
“Yeah, about that. I was told Mateo would be doing the work.”
He gazed down at me with dismay. The man was your basic urban Viking marauder, as his name suggested. Longish blonde hair, white skin, blue eyes, short beard, tall and built. I was average height and he managed to loom over me just fine. In his mid-thirties and more than a little rough around the edges. Nothing like his sleek and slick bestie. An asshole whose continued existence I’d prefer to be reminded of never. But we don’t always get what we want.
I took a deep breath and pulled myself together. “Why don’t you come in and I’ll show you…”
“Don’t worry about taking your boots off. The shag carpet isn’t staying.”
Heavy footsteps followed me through the living room and into the dining room where we turned left to enter the small hallway. From this point we had two options, the bathroom or the back bedroom. We headed for the latter.
“The water was getting in through a crack in the window for who knows how long,” I explained. “I only inherited the place recently. There were all these boxes piled up in here. No one could even see it was an issue.”
“I spent the first month just sorting through things and clearing the place out.”
Beneath the window frame, a large stain spread across the golden-flecked wallpaper. As if it weren’t ugly enough to begin with. That was the thing about my aunt Susan; she wasn’t a big fan of change. The two-bedroom cottage had belonged to her parents and everything had pretty much been left untouched after they passed. Apart from the addition of Susan’s junk. Which meant that while the wallpaper and carpet were from the 1970’s, the bathroom was from the 1940’s, and the kitchen cabinets from the 1930’s. At least, that’s what I’d been told. The place was like an ode to 20th century interior design. The good, and the bad.
He got down on one knee, inspecting the damage. “The bottom of this window frame is warped and needs replacing.”
“Can you do that?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I need to have a look behind here. You attached to the wallpaper?”
He almost smiled.
“The sooner I can repaint and get new flooring down, the better.”
Nothing from him. A knife appeared from the tool box, sharp-pointed with jagged teeth. He punched the blade through the drywall with ease and started cutting into the wall.
“How is he?” I asked the dreaded question. Curiosity was the worst. “Enjoying London?”
“Yeah,” was all he said.
“And how’s Jane?”
“We’re not together anymore.”
Not a surprise. Lars went through various girlfriends during the year I’d been with what’s-his-face. Neither he nor his friend were down with commitment. Which was fine if you just wanted to have fun. But Jane was a keeper, smart with a wicked sense of humor. Lars definitely had a type. All of his girlfriends were petite, perfect dolls who behaved in a ladylike manner. The opposite of buxom, loudmouthed me.
He pried a square of drywall loose. “You thinking of living here permanently or flipping and selling the place, or what?”
“Great location. A bit of work and it’d probably be worth a lot of money,” he said, keeping the conversation on the business at hand. As was good and right.
Using the flashlight on his phone, he inspected the cavity. The man was all handyman chic. Big ass boots, jeans, and a faded black tee. All of it well-worn. And the way his blue jeans conformed to his thick thighs and the curves of his ass was something. Something I hadn’t meant to notice, but oh well, these things happened. Maybe it was the way his tool belt framed that particular part of his anatomy. For a moment, I couldn’t look away. I was butt struck. Which was both wrong and bad. It would not be smart for me to notice this man in the sexual sense. Though it was nice to know my thirst meter wasn’t broken.
I don’t know if Lars and I were ever really friends. We had, however, been friendly. Though that was romantic relationships for you. One moment you had all of these awesome extra people in your life and the next moment they’re gone.
I tugged on the end of my dark ponytail. An old nervous habit.
“At this stage, it looks like the damage is only superficial,” Lars said. “These two sections of drywall have to go. Once I’ve done that, I’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with.”
“But it wouldn’t surprise me if some or all of that one needs replacing too.” He pointed to the wall the bedroom shared with the bathroom. “See how there’s bubbling along the joins of the wallpaper there?”
“Do I have your approval to get started?”
None of this was exactly unexpected. Old buildings might have soul, but they could also have heavy upkeep. Renovations cost big bucks. While my savings were meagre, lucky for this hundred year old house, my aunt left me some money. Which was a point of contention for a few of my family members. Like any of them had time for Aunt Susan when she was alive. Besides being my namesake, she was also the black sheep of the family. A little too weird for some, I guess. But weird has always been a trait that I admired.
“I’m going to make myself coffee,” I said. “Would you like some?”
“How do you take it?”
“White. No sugar.”
“You’re sweet enough, huh?” And the moment those words were out of my mouth, I knew I’d made a mistake. Talk about awkward.
He snorted, then said, “Something like that.”
Lars didn’t mess around. By the time I returned, he’d removed the first two panels of drywall. Hands on hips, he stood staring at the interior of the wall with the problematic window. Mostly it looked like a lot of dust and a couple of cobwebs. But then, I’m not a builder. When I handed over his mug, he gave me a brief smile before taking a sip.
“How is it looking?” I asked.
“Your house has good bones.”
“As long as the damage on that wall is due to the moisture spreading from the window and not a leaky bathroom pipe, this should be pretty straightforward,” he said.
I’d taken over the main bedroom, but this room still held a lot of sentimental value for me. Whenever Mom and Dad were busy or needed a break from us kids, my brother would stay at a friend’s house and I’d be packed off to Aunt Susan’s—to this bedroom in particular. Which was fine with me. Andrew was an outgoing jock while I’d been kind of awkward. In this house, I was accepted for who I was. A nice change. With my parents divorced, growing up between three households and living mostly out of a school bag sucked. But Aunt Susan gave me the security that was lacking elsewhere.
“Is the floor okay?”
“Let’s pull up some carpet and see.” He set his coffee on the windowsill. Then, knife back in hand, he got busy with the shag. It was impressive how the tool became a part of him. An extension of his body. “You’ve got good solid hardwood under here.”
“Ooh, let me see.”
He tugged the tattered underlay back further. “Oak, by the look of it.”
“Wow. Imagine covering that beauty up with butt ugly brown carpet.”
“No sign of water damage. You were lucky.”
I smiled. “That is excellent news.”
“Now let’s see what’s behind this.”
I took a step back so he could start removing the next section of drywall. He had such big capable hands. Watching him work was pure competence porn. . As a mature and well-adjusted thirty year old woman, I definitely knew better than to have sexy times thoughts again. The best friend of my ex is not my friend. Confucius probably said that.
“Looks like there’s something back here,” he said, setting a panel of drywall aside.
“Something good or something bad?” I winced as a big hairy spider scurried out of the cavity. “Ew.”
“It’s just a wolf spider. Nothing dangerous.”
“But there might be more.”
Without further comment, he reached down and picked up a piece of paper. It looked old. Which made sense. Lord only knew how long it had been in the wall. It was kind of like opening a time capsule.
“What is it?” I asked, more than a little curious.
His gaze narrowed as he read, his forehead furrowing. Next his brows rose and his lips thinned. His expression quickly changed from disbelief to fury as he shoved the piece of paper at me. The open hostility in his eyes was a lot coming from a man of his size. “Susie, what the fuck?”
“Is this your idea of a joke?”
“No. I…” The paper was soft with age and the writing was faded but legible. Mostly. Superior Court of Washington, County of King was written at the top. There was also a date stamp. This was followed by a bunch of numbers and the words Final Divorce Order. “Wait. Is this a divorce certificate?”
“Yeah,” he said. “For you and me. Dated a decade from now.”
I scrunched up my nose and ever so slightly shrieked, “What? Hold on. You think I put this in there?”
“No,” he said, getting all up in my face. “I know you put it in there, Susie.”
“Take a step back, please,” I said, pushing a hand against his hard chest.
He did as I asked, some of the anger leaching from his face. Then he grumbled, “Sorry.”
“Why would you do that? Actually, it doesn’t matter. Find someone else for the job,” he said, gathering up his tools. “I’m out of here.”
“Can you just wait a second?”
Apparently the answer was no. Because the man started moving even faster. “I don’t know what game you’re playing. But I’m not interested in finding out.”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I did not put this in the wall, Lars. Think about it. You’re a builder. Had any of the wallpaper or drywall been disturbed in the last forty or fifty years?”
“You could have accessed it from the other side. I don’t know.”
“I didn’t even know you were coming here today.”
He grunted. “Only got your word for that.”
“And I’ve only got your word that you didn’t put this in in the wall for some stupid reason,” I said, thinking it over. How did that not occur to me? “Of course you put it there. I wasn’t the first one to have access to that space. You were. A quick sleight of hand is all it would have taken. This is so unprofessional.”
“Very nice. I’m sure you prepared that speech at the same time you planted it, knowing I’d inevitably be the one who first touched it.”
“And I’m sure you prepared that speech at the same time you planted it, knowing I’d suspect you.”
He glared at me. “Why the hell would I, Susie?”
“Why the hell would I, Lars?” I bellowed. “This is ridiculous. I just want my house fixed. That’s all. And I specifically asked who would be doing the job because I didn’t feel the need to see you again.”
With his back to me, he paused.
“No offense. But I knew it would be wildly uncomfortable.”
“Why’d you use the company I work for then?”
“Because I know they’re reputable and do good work. You yourself said that’s one of the main reasons why you’ve stuck with them. Because they don’t encourage you to cut corners or use shoddy materials and they treat their staff well. Also, they pretty much do everything. These things matter.” I raised a finger. (No. Not that one.) “Take car repairs for instance. Because I know little to nothing about cars, I get ripped off by repair shops—I’m sure of it. I didn’t want that to happen here.”
Another grunt. What an animal.
“I wish neither to marry nor divorce you, Lars. And I’m pretty sure the feeling’s mutual. So this piece of paper I’m holding in no way benefits me. Look at me. Am I laughing? No, I’m not. Nor am I enjoying all this drama. Confrontation stresses me the fuck out,” I said, my shoulders slumped. “I don’t know what else to say. This is ridiculous.”
“You already said that.”
“It’s worth repeating.”
He gave me a look over his shoulder. “If you’re messing with me…”
“I’m not. Are you messing with me?”
“Then what the hell is going on?” I asked the universe.
Without another word, he got to his feet and strode out of the room, heading straight into the bathroom next door. There he made quick work of checking everything. The tiling and paintwork, around the white pedestal basin, inside the mirrored cabinet set into the wall, and the end of the claw foot bath tub. Then he turned around, face set to cranky. “Access point for the attic?”
In no time flat, he had the ceiling hatch open and the ladder down. Then up into the darkness he went. His cell phone doubled as a flash light again.
“Lot of stuff up here,” he commented.
“That does not surprise me. My aunt was kind of a hoarder. Not as bad as the people on those TV shows, but…yeah.”
He sneezed. “A lot of dust, too.”
“Bless you. I haven’t even been up there yet,” I said. “Cleaning and clearing space out down here has taken all of my time.”
His big boots disappeared up the last rungs of the ladder while I waited below. After all, I’d only be in the way. It had absolutely nothing to do with my fear of creepy crawlies. Someone had to wait below with the weird ass document. The sounds of him stomping about and things being shifted came next. Something heavy was pushed aside. Something else fell and glass broke.
“Sorry,” Lars called.
“I’m sure it was nothing valuable. Hopefully.”
Then his face appeared in the dark hole overhead. “Looks like they built the attic to use as another bedroom or office at some stage. The floorboards and everything are tight. No real access into the walls below.”
“Plus there’s about an inch of dust on the ground and no sign of any footprints other than mine.”
“Good work, Nancy Drew,” I said. “Is the basement next?”
He gave me a flat, unfriendly look. “Yes.”
Maybe I’d be better off finding another builder. In fact, I knew I would be. Though it would only be trading one peace of mind for another. While Lars would no longer be in my face, I wouldn’t be able to trust the new builder’s work to the same degree. Which would be anxiety-inducing and possibly costly. Talk about a no-win situation.
Back into the dining room then through to the kitchen at the back of the house, we went on our not-so-merry adventure. I opened the door to the dingy staircase. “I like to call this the murder room. Dark, dank, dangerous. It’s got it all.”
No response from him as we made our way down. Tough crowd. It was just a basic concrete room with a boiler, laundry area, and more assorted crap. But the old boiler, the one before this one, used to make creepy noises. Hence my childhood fears of the basement. Helping with the laundry was always an ordeal. I usually avoided it by offering to do the dishes instead.
Lars began examining the ceiling.
“When did you find out you had this job?”
“Around eight this morning. The office called,” he said. “Mateo’s boyfriend got hit by a car riding to work.”
“Is he okay?”
“A few bumps and bruises and a sprained wrist.”
“Yeah,” he said. “The job I was on was close to finishing and they could spare me, so they asked me to come here.”
“What gets me is that the paper looks old. I mean, the way the text is faded and everything.” I carefully turned the certificate over in my hands. “I wonder if we could get it tested, somehow.”
He scoffed. “You don’t actually think it’s real?”
“I honestly don’t know,” I said. “What I do know is, if you didn’t put the certificate there to mess with me—and I guess I believe you when you say you didn’t—then I can think of no rational explanation for how it got there.”
He frowned harder and kept right on inspecting the ceiling. Even he had to admit that it was highly unlikely I’d put the decree of dissolution in the wall. Surely.
“Does your middle name start with A?”
“So the details are right, at least. No money judgement ordered. No real property judgement ordered. This marriage is dissolved. The petitioner and respondent are divorced. Not much information there to go on.” I chose my next words with care. “You know, my aunt, she was kind of eccentric. She was always burning candles and buying crystals.”
Looking back over his shoulder at me, he raised a questioning brow.
“The thing is, she used to talk to the house sometimes,” I finally said. “Like it was an actual living breathing entity. And yes, maybe she was lonely or a little strange. Please don’t say anything mean or dismissive about her.”
“I’m not going to say anything about your aunt.”
He didn’t even blink. “But it’s not supernatural, Susie. This was no ghost or spirit or whatever you’re suggesting.”
“Okay. Fine. I just thought I’d put that out there,” I said. “Did you find anything down here?”
“So now what?”
Face set, he walked over, staring into my eyes as if he could read my soul.
“I want to believe you when you say you had nothing to do with it. You always seemed like a pretty honest person to me,” he said. “A bit too honest, sometimes.”
“How so?” I asked, only mildly annoyed—although I was exercising great restraint.
“Some of the stuff you come out with sometimes is…unnecessary.”
“Let’s agree to disagree,” I said.
He shook his head.
“I would point out, however, that I’m not brutal. Ever notice how people who say they’re just being honest usually are?”
His nostrils flared on a deep breath. How that was in any way attractive I had no idea. Something must be wrong with me. Guess my vibrator was getting a little boring. Maybe it was time for me to get out there and meet some men. Then again, not dating for the rest of my life would also be great.
“For the last time,” he said, speaking nice and slow, “did you put that piece of paper in the wall?”
“No. I swear.”
“Fuck,” he muttered.
“Fuck,” I agreed.
He sighed. “Someone’s messing with us.”
Kylie Scott is the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and international bestselling author of 19 novels including the Stage Dive series, the Dive Bar series, the Larsen Brothers series, and West Hollywood series. Her most recent release, Pause, debuted on the USA Today bestseller list. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages, and she has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
The Worst Woman in London Julia Bennet
Publication date: February 2nd 2023
Genres: Adult, Historical, Historical Romance
A defiant Victorian wife fights to escape a bad marriage but her love for a forbidden man jeopardizes her chance at freedom.
James Standish knows how to play society’s game. He’ll follow the rules, marry a virginal debutante, and inherit a massive fortune. At least, that’s the plan until he meets Francesca Thorne. She’s not the sort of woman a respectable gentleman like James could ever marry—not least because, strictly speaking, she’s married already.
Francesca is determined to flout convention and divorce her philandering husband. When James sweet talks his way into her life tasked with convincing her to abandon her dream of freedom, she’s unprepared for the passion that flares between them.
Torn apart by conflicting desires, James and Francesca must choose whether to keep chasing the lives they’ve always wanted or take a chance on a new and forbidden love.
Ten minutes before intermission, Francesca entered the crush room and found James asleep in his chair.
He looked different in repose, gentle and unguarded. Faint laugh lines marked the corner of each eye and, underneath, light shadows. What had put them there? Not worry, surely. Too many late nights, perhaps? His lips, so often curled sardonically, looked different too—softer, capable of compassion as well as teasing.
Ah, she’d seen his compassion. The remembrance made her want to smooth the hair from his brow.
The stray impulse took her by surprise. He didn’t need her tenderness. He was an English gentleman of means. Problems melted away before the bright rays of his wealth and breeding. She’d long lost her tendency to romanticize men of his type, or so she’d thought. Yet here she was again.
His breaths grew shallower. Soon he would open his eyes and they’d exchange awkward greetings. His duty to Edward discharged, he’d have nothing left to say, and, anyway, how did one behave toward a man who’d seen one fall apart? If only she’d waited for the end of the act, Caroline would be here now and this whole encounter with James could’ve been avoided. But, even though Edward had stopped pawing Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Francesca had wanted to escape. Fleeing from trouble; a worrying tendency she needed to check.
Just when she’d decided to back away slowly, James opened one eye. He smiled up at her and shut it again before she had a chance to speak. Since he made no effort to hide a broad grin, she knew he wasn’t still sleepy. What did he mean by it?
“Jemmy, are you perchance a little the worse for drink?” she asked, escape plan forgotten.
“Certainly not, you rude girl,” he said, though his eyes remained closed.
Laughter welled up in her chest, but she held it in check. “Then perhaps you’re feeling unwell?”
“I’m never unwell.” How he managed to convey urbane insouciance while sprawled in a chair she’d never know. “This is the crush room, is it not?”
“Of course it is.”
“Well, there you are, then. I slipped in early to avoid the crush.”
How provoking he was when not comforting crying women. She waited, but he didn’t speak. “You were sleeping,” she informed him.
“Nonsense, I was resting my eyes.”
“That’s what all the old men say.”
At last, both eyes snapped open. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a forked tongue?”
Julia writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden English woman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. If she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys or procrastinating on the internet.
Cannetella Elodie Rowan
Publication date: March 2023
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Romance
A lush and dark fairytale retelling steeped in Italian folklore, Canetella is sure to please fans of Elise Kova, Sarah J. Maas, and K.F. Breene.
Cannetella is doomed to marry. As the only child of the bankrupted King of High-Hill, her twentieth birthday spells the end of life as she knows it. Cannetella dreams of adventure, not refilling the kingdom’s coffers. Determined to keep her freedom, she hatches a plan: Cannetella announces she will only marry a man with a face of pure gold. Pleased with her impossible standards, she prepares for a life unburdened by a husband.
But on the night of her birthday, a mysterious man appears. On his face is a mask made of the finest gold. The relieved King declares Cannetella will marry the man with enough wealth to save the heirless and penniless Kingdom of High-Hill. Cannetella is forced to wed and whisked away from the only home she has ever known. But the gilded gentleman is none other than her father’s most bitter nemesis, Enzo Fioravante, an infamous and feared Stregone, a dark Sorceror.
Tied to Enzo with no way of returning home, Cannetella learns she is a pawn in a game of revenge between the two families, and that Fioravante will do anything to gain what was stolen from him five years ago. But as Cannetella delves into her captor’s past, she uncovers a devious plot burrowed in both of their kingdoms, one of magic, murder, and lust. And worst of all, she learns Fioravante is not the villain he appears to be.
Together with her greatest enemy, Canetella and Enzo must break a curse that has claimed the lives of six others, or become the next victims. And as the unlikely pair grows closer, a dark and undeniable attraction blooms. But when magic is involved, no one’s heart will remain unscathed.
Queen of the Underworld Felicity Heaton
(A Guardians of Hades Series Prequel)
Publication date: January 31st 2023
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Hades, the wickedly dark god-king of the Underworld, needs a queen…
And he’s chosen Persephone.
All Persephone has ever desired is control of her own life, and someone noticing her once in a while. Kept in her mother’s shadow, and overlooked by the entirety of Olympus, her dream seems impossible… and now she’s doomed to wed a dull god of her mother’s choosing…
Until she crosses paths with a handsome, dark warrior who rouses wildfire heat in her veins—a male whose immense power is unmistakable, and who matches the fearful tales whispered in Olympus—stories of a cruel, heartless king who rules his realm of death with an iron fist.
When Hades abducts her and imprisons her in the depths of the Underworld, a dormant part of her awakens. And as she slowly discovers the truth about him, Persephone isn’t sure whether the snarling, dark beast of a king is her doom… or her saviour… but she knows one thing…
She will embrace the fire he awakens in her with every heated glance, and every vicious growl.
And use it to tame him and forge her dreams into reality.
Because, Persephone, the quiet, gentle goddess of nature, desires a king.
And nothing will stop her from claiming his black heart.
Queen of the Underworld is a forced proximity, enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance novel retelling the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, and a prequel in my Guardians of Hades series. In the vein of an adult beauty and the beast, it features a grumpy-sunshine pairing that will steal your heart, with a secretly cinnamon roll hero and a secretly fiery heroine, and a powerful forever kind of love. All Guardians of Hades books have no cliffhangers, a guaranteed happily ever after, and some strong language.
Feminine voices curled through the trees, a trio of them speaking while one continued her siren’s song, luring him towards her.
Hades stilled where rock met grass and tried to pinpoint their owners with his senses. One was closer to him than the other three, who were all grouped together at a distance. He edged to his right, his focus on that single female, curiosity rising within him again to have him trying to catch a glimpse of her.
That desire to catch just a glimpse transformed into something else—something powerful and demanding—as her soft voice grew closer, her song growing clearer, and he smelled the faintest hint of lilies.
Heat curled through his veins, that scent rousing a fierce need that thrummed in every inch of his body and had the darkness writhing harder, violently attempting to wrench control from him and make him find the owner of it. He needed to see her. He couldn’t remember the last time he had smelled such a delicate scent. His world was ash and smoke and blood, and death.
Everything about this female seemed to be the opposite of what he knew.
Her song teased his ears as her scent teased his nose, and his breath caught in his throat as he was swept up in her—a female he hadn’t even seen yet. Not just the man in him either. The darker side of him burned with a desire to see her too. He needed to know if her beauty matched her voice and her scent. He loosed a low growl and took another step forwards, remaining just within the shadows of the cave, the powerful need to see her colliding with a wariness of disturbing her.
He inched further to his right and straightened to his full six-eight height, the hard black plates of his armour shifting as he strained to catch a glimpse of her. He felt as if he wasn’t master of his own body as he tried to spot her, but it wasn’t the darkness in control of his actions.
It was the pressing desire to see her.
She was moving closer, but no matter where he moved, the trees blocked his view. His claws itched with the need to attack them until they were nothing more than splinters of wood and his view was clear of the obstruction.
He moved the other way, tracking her with his senses, and discovering something intriguing.
She was strong.
There were mortals near to her though. The other three females. Were they her servants?
What goddess had come to this place, so far from Olympus or Poseidon’s realm?
Her power caressed his, grazing it lightly in a way that urged him onwards and made him forget about the mortals as it cranked up the desperation to see her.
Because he had never felt anything like her power.
It was light. Warmth. Goodness.
It was everything he wasn’t.
Hades edged closer, a predator stalking his prey, his mind churning with dangerous thoughts that roused the darker side of his blood and brought it to the fore again. Perhaps the Moirai had brought him here after all, seeking to give him something he desired for once, an attempt to appease him. Poseidon had his new queen. Zeus had his. Hades hadn’t even seen this female, but already his blood burned for her. The brush of her power against his and the delicate beauty of her voice were enough to entrance him and rouse his desire to an unbearable degree.
He wanted this female.
The thought of her warming his bed had his blood quickening.
It had been too long since he had taken a female, his duties keeping him too busy to indulge in such things as his brothers did. But he had the feeling it wasn’t his ignored physical needs that had his body aching for this female.
It was something else.
He growled low, baring his fangs, and his breaths came faster still as he moved to his right. He glared at the trees that continued to deny him, blocking his view. There had to be a better vantage point, one that would allow him to see more than tree trunks and the leafy scrub that covered the ground in places.
He froze, his entire body locking up tight.
His breath gusted from him.
A striking scarlet-haired maiden stepped into view.
She was beauty and light wrapped in flawless pale skin and rosy cheeks and pink lips that beckoned him, awakening something fierce in him as her tongue poked out to wet them. His breath lodged in his throat as he gazed at her, his awareness of the world destroyed and something fundamental inside him changing from just the sight of her. She was perfection, and she roused not only the man in him, but the darkness. It growled at him, sharpening his fangs and his nails as it whispered a fierce demand that echoed the desire that thrummed in his blood and beat in his heart.
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Struggling to balance the expectations of her immigrant mother with her deep ambivalence about her own place in the world, seventeen-year-old Ocean Wu takes her savings and goes off the grid. A haunting and romantic novel about family, friendship, philosophy, and love.
Ocean Wu has always felt enormous pressure to succeed. After struggling with depression during her senior year in high school, Ocean moves to New York City, where she has been accepted at a prestigious university. But Ocean feels so emotionally raw and unmoored (and uncertain about what is real and what is not), that she decides to defer and live off her savings until she can get herself together. She also decides not to tell her mother (whom she loves very much but doesn’t want to disappoint) that she is deferring—at least until she absolutely must.
In New York, Ocean moves into an apartment with Georgie and Tashya, two strangers who soon become friends, and gets a job tutoring. She also meets a boy—Constantine Brave (a name that makes her laugh)—late one night on the subway. Constant is a fellow student and a graffiti artist, and Constant and Ocean soon start corresponding via Google Docs—they discuss physics, philosophy, art, literature, and love. But everything falls apart when Ocean goes home for Thanksgiving, Constant reveals his true character, Georgie and Tashya break up, and the police get involved.
Ocean, Constant, Georgie, and Tashya are all cartographers—mapping out their futures, their dreams, and their paths toward adulthood in this stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding the strength to control your own destiny.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I will always try to give books featuring these subjects a chance, even if they might be somewhat triggering. These are subjects that I feel should be explored, especially in a YA space, instead of ignored as they have in the past.
At times the story does feel very raw and real. I really enjoyed the relationships between Ocean, Georgie and Tashya. It was nice to see how they grew and bonded as the book progressed and the different struggles they each had.
I did like the Google Doc exchanges that were included, but there were times I felt there could be a little less of them. Still, I enjoyed the different ways the conversations could be interpreted and how different readers could see the exchanges different ways.
This was a great exploration of Ocean’s growth and journey through her gap year and recovering from past events. Definitely be mindful if suicide talk, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are triggering.
Frenemies with Benefits Lydia Sharp
Publication date: September 5th 2023
Genres: Comedy, Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
One summer. One plan. Two boys.
Jess’s older brother’s best friend—aka her giant crush—is staying at their house for the summer. She either has the best luck ever or the worst. This is her chance to show him she’s not just his best friend’s shy little sister anymore. But he’s a college boy. And she’s…her.
Just turned eighteen. Just graduated high school. Just way too innocent for him.
Jess is a virgin. She’s never been ashamed of that, except now it’s holding her back from what she wants. Her lack of experience is wildly obvious, a repellant for boys who want a partner who knows what they’re doing. So the only way to get the boy she really likes to notice her is to ask the boy she really hates to show her how to be, well, less innocent.
And she hates Benjamin Oliver. Loathes. Despises. Can’t stand the sight of his stupid-hot face. He’s her frenemy throughout and through, and a player, so not the kind of guy she’d ever seriously consider. But she needs his help—and he’s actually willing to give it. All she has to do is promise him one little favor…
Lydia Sharp worked a number of different jobs, everything from retail management to veterinary medicine, before turning their passion for stories into a career. They are now an editor for Entangled Publishing and write young adult novels with lots of kissing and adventures. Lydia lives in Ohio with their family and an ever-growing collection of owls. When not completely immersed in a book, Lydia binges on Netflix, pines for Fall, and hosts mad tea parties in Wonderland. Follow on Twitter @lydia_sharp and visit lydiasharpbooks.com for more details.
From debut author Charlene Allen comes a captivating YA contemporary mystery and coming-of-age story, celebrating the power of friendship, first love, and exploring the criminal justice system from the lens of restorative justice. Perfect for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, and Maureen Johnson.
In the game of life, sometimes other people hold all the controls. Or so it seems to VZ. Four months have passed since his best friend Ed was killed by a white man in a Brooklyn parking lot.
When Singer, the man who killed Ed, is found dead in the same spot where Ed was murdered, all signs point to Jack, VZ’s other best friend, as the prime suspect.
VZ’s determined to complete the video game Ed never finished and figure out who actually killed Singer. With help from Diamond, the girl he’s crushing on at work, VZ falls into Ed’s quirky gameiverse. As the police close in on Jack, the game starts to uncover details that could lead to the truth about the murder.
Can VZ honor Ed and help Jack before it’s too late?
Rating: 4 out of 5.
This book was quite a ride and ended up being so much more than I originally thought it would be. It is an excellent debut, with amazing writing and an engaging story that tackling real world issues.
I found the characters very engaging and their stories to be very compelling, which really drove the story forward for me. The murder mystery aspect was engaging at the same time as being a very serious story components. There are a number of subplots that are sprinkled in, most were good contributions to the story but perhaps there could have been a little more focus on the main aspects of the story and less subplots.
I feel like the discussions of loss, the criminal justice system and especially racism were well handled and written and very important conversations to have. All in all I would definitely recommend this book as it’s a fantastic read.
Sea of Snakes Heidi Stark
Publication date: January 26th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Dark Romance, Reverse Harem, Romance
Zeke, Skyler, Dom and Rake—they grew up on this island and are in charge of protecting its various interests. They’re used to being in control of everything here. Including the surf. I’ve been kidnapped by a dangerous man, and am being used as collateral while my father comes up with the funds to pay off his debt (sadly not the worst thing he’s ever done although it’s up there), and if he doesn’t come up with the cash soon I’ll be auctioned off to the highest bidder. In the meantime, these four men are tasked with keeping me in their control and protecting me, and they take their role very seriously.
But they’re not the only people to be concerned about. I’m tough in my own way. I can tell that they want all of me, to take me over like they do everything else. But five can play this game, and I’m not good at losing.
**This is a Dark Reverse Harem/Why Choose Romance. 18+. Warning: this book includes graphic violence and sex scenes, and references of abuse/assault that some readers may experience as triggering.
“It’s a protection job,” says the clipped voice. “We need you to hold her for us. She’s collateral for a debt.”
“What does that entail, exactly?”
“Like I said, we need you to hold her for us.” The voices pauses. “You can do whatever you like with her while she’s with you.”
“Oh, really?” Now he has my interest. “How long do we need to keep her for?” I wonder what the other guys are going to think of this.
“No more than ten days,” says the voice. “That’s how long our associate has to repay his debt.”
“How is this associate connected with this girl?” Skyler’s been teaching me to ask more questions rather than just accepting information at face value. I’m trying.
“You ask too many questions. But it’s her father.”
“How old is she? An adult, I am assuming? We’re not babysitters.”
“Yes, an adult. Not that it’s any of your business, but he crossed a contact back on the mainland and is here on what he believes to be a business trip. His debt has been on-sold to us, and he’s evidently having a little trouble accessing funds, as his primary asset source has been frozen.”
“I see.” I need to know more. There must be an end game to this. Tane wouldn’t ask us to help if he didn’t have a grand plan, or if he simply intends on disposing of her after the time is up. “And if he doesn’t repay it? What happens then?”
“She’ll be auctioned off to the highest bidder. And I have a feeling she’ll attract a high price. Maybe higher than the value of the debt. Even if the debt is repaid, we might reassess our next steps.” His tone is clinical.
Jesus, these guys are ruthless. We make sure to do just enough to stay on their good side, but we try to avoid getting involved with the human trafficking and hard drugs that they also control across the island chain.
“Oh, so she’s attractive?” He’s really piquing my interest here. Numerous buyers bidding on a woman. I wonder how someone determines the price to purchase a human.
This isn’t something we’ve done before, harboring a captive, and it’s definitely on the cusp of what we’re prepared to do.
I wonder what Zeke will have to say. Skyler is slightly more mellow than him, but they both tend to be overly cautious. Whereas I’m usually up for anything. And, well, Rake is up for anything involving a woman.
“You’ll see.” The voice on the other end lets out an icy chuckle, causing a shiver to creep up my back.
I have no doubt that Tane’s men are evil, just like him. I’m no angel myself, but my soul is just dark, whereas his simply doesn’t exist.
“Do you expect anyone to come looking for her?” I glance at my free hand again and crack my knuckles.
I wouldn’t mind an excuse to use my fists, maybe curry a little favor with our captive to give her reason to be grateful to me. Nothing like a damsel in distress who owes you their life.
“That’s for you to worry about,” says the voice. “But again, she’s yours to do with as you please while she’s with you. Just don’t do anything that will… lower her market value too much, if you catch my drift.”
“That leaves a lot of options.” I can’t help but grin.
The person at the other end of the phone directs me to stay tuned for further instructions, and then they click off the call.
It’s been a while since I’ve been around a woman. I tend to avoid them. Sure, I’ll have a little casual fun with a random woman every now and then. No strings attached, a one-time event where nobody catches feelings.
But that’s where I leave things. Because ultimately women are dangerous, and from my experience, they inflict nothing but pain.