Blog Tour | If You Change Your Mind by Robby Weber | Excerpt

In this hilarious and heartfelt debut novel for fans of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, an aspiring screenwriter learns sometimes love has its own script.

In this hilarious and heartfelt debut novel, an aspiring screenwriter learns sometimes love has its own script.

Harry wants nothing more than to write Hollywood screenplays. He knows the first step toward achieving that goal is winning a screenwriting competition that will seal his admission into the college of his dreams, so he’s determined to spend his summer free of distractions—also known as boys—and finish his script. After last year, Harry is certain love only exists in the movies anyway.

But then the cause of his first heartbreak, Grant, returns with a secret that could change everything—not to mention, there’s a new boy in town, Logan, who is so charming and sweet, he’s making Harry question everything he knows about romance. As he tries to keep his emotions in check and stick to his perfect plan for the future, Harry’s about to learn that life doesn’t always follow a script.

Buy Links | Bookshop.org | Indie Bound | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Amazon | Kindle Kobo

1

WHEN HARRY MET LOGAN

Hot guys are the best part of summer. Pastel ice cream scoops, lemonade-like sunshine, and sea salt–strung hair are staples, but there’s something about guys with sandy calves and strong, tanned arms wearing low-hanging swimsuits.

Honestly, I love everything about summer. The warmth, the way my mom stocks the freezer with the variety pack of popsicles—cherry for Milly, grape for Lottie, and orange for me. There’s new music and the feeling of going into a cold movie theater on a hot day. And, yeah, the guys. Everywhere you look, there’s a hot guy. It’s like that Oprah meme—you get a hot guy, you get a hot guy, everybody gets a hot guy!

I can absolutely appreciate all of the six-packs and dimples, but only as long as I keep my eye on the prize and stay focused. My mom always says fortune favors the determined… Or something like that.

And I am determined. I have two weeks and six days to finish and submit my screenplay before the Reel Sunshine competition deadline, which is totally doable.

My whole future depends on it. No pressure.

Damn, there really are attractive men everywhere—lying out at the pool or, past the iron gate and sandy walkway, stretching across the volleyball court down on the beach. It’s like in summer, hot guys get even hotter. It’s the sweat and the bronzed abs.

I don’t do the whole dating thing anymore, so this summer really is the equivalent of scrolling through the Calvin Klein Instagram or something—purely about the visual.

Getting close to a boy leads only to heartbreak, disappointment, and—most importantly—distraction from one’s goals. See, most people spend their high school years searching for their great romance. One like in the movies. But I’ve already had mine, and TSwift’s “Death by a Thousand Cuts” was my top song on Spotify last year, so I’m good.

Maybe once I’ve secured my spot at USC. Actually, maybe once I’ve gotten an internship at a studio. By then I won’t even remember Grant Kennedy or what heartbreak feels like and I’ll be able to spend a little bit more time focused on romance.

Well, realistically, I should probably wait until I sell my first script and—

My youngest sister, Lottie, laughs maniacally, and I am snapped to the real world. I watch in horror as she grabs a fistful of Milly’s hair and yanks her down into the shallow end of the pool.

“Lottie,” I say. “Come on, that was totally unnecessary!”

Lottie, though she be but five, is fierce. And now she has hair that barely falls under her chin because she decided to give herself an impromptu trim with her crafting scissors just before her last day of school. Nana had to give her an emergency haircut. She narrows her eyes at me and then shrugs.

My mother is careening down the path from the club’s new restaurant, a tote bag slung over her shoulder with a large silver tumbler in one hand and her phone in the other. I haven’t been yet, but the photos I’ve seen are really cool.

Mom met some local beauty influencers there at the launch event and they’ve been promoting her products. Really, her company doesn’t need much more press since Jen Aniston likes her stuff, but she says it can’t hurt to keep reaching the younger crowd.

“Harold,” Mom says, out of breath.

She always calls me Harold. Even though Lottie and Milly get nicknames and everyone I know calls me Harry, apparently I’ll always be Harold to her. Because of this, Milly and Lottie call me Harold, too.

“I thought you guys went to the kid’s pool. I was worried for a second you’d disappeared.”

Moms are always worried. I’m convinced it’s a personality trait that’s earned as soon as they change their first diaper.

Sitting in the chaise next to my table, Mom is wearing a white cover-up and big black sunglasses. Under a giant straw hat, her hair is probably tied up into a knot—it’s dyed much lighter than Milly’s dark brown waves and certainly differs from the more chestnut hair Lottie and I have. Mom lowers her glasses to eye the girls, and then her phone sounds an alert.

“They’re at war,” I say, gesturing my Spider-Man pen toward my flailing siblings. This pen—a gift Lottie selected for me from her class treasure chest—reminds me of another reason to love summer: the new superhero movies. It isn’t all about hot guys. Even if most of the heroes are hot. That’s a happy coincidence.

“They’ll work it out,” Mom says, engrossed in whatever email she just got. She quickly responds as two more alerts come through. She doesn’t even kick off her flip-flops. She just sits up straight and reads, reads, reads and types, types, types.

For my sisters and me, the Citrus Harbor Beach Club is all palm trees and virgin daiquiris and nighttime Disney movies projected on the screen at the kid’s pool. For Mom, it’s a blurred background behind her phone—second to the masses of work emails and texts she gets when she tries to relax by the pool with us before she inevitably goes home because she needs her computer.

The club is fun, but there’s not much variety or excitement apart from the screaming kids like Lottie, or the guys who could resemble a shirtless Tom Holland if you squint really hard. It’s the epitome of our small town’s slow pace and fixed reality. When I’m home from college for nostalgia-filled summers, it’ll probably be a nice, calm escape from the hustle and bustle of my new Hollywood life.

“I said I want to play ‘DANCING QUEEN,’” Lottie shrieks.

“You little gremlin, you scratched me! Do you ever cut your nails?”

Ignoring Milly and Lottie, I look around for Hailey. Behind our table and chairs, up a winding path of rust-colored tile and past the children’s pool, cantina, and toddler play area, the two-story clubhouse is like a bright white seaside castle, complete with a courtyard and a big red fountain. It’s almost historic looking—Spanish, which is common in Florida, but especially here since we’re not far from where Ponce de León first arrived. That’s everyone’s go-to fun fact. Like, awkward silence? Ponce de León.

Lottie growls: “If you don’t play it, I’m gonna scream that you peed in the pool!”

“I would never do that!”

“They don’t know that.”

Hailey says she’s getting snacks and drinks, but there’s a fifty-fifty chance she’s at the spot with the perfectly placed palm trees, taking First Day of Summer selfies for her Instagram story.

“Would you tell me how to Instagram?” Mom says to me, as if she’s reading my mind.

“How to what on Instagram?” I blink.

“How to Instagram.” Mom sighs.

Lottie cackles again: “Is that a floating turd? Is it yours, Milly?”

“You get one song.” Milly groans in defeat.

Hailey sits down next to me and hands me a glass, cold to the touch and nearly overflowing with an Arnold Palmer. She sets down a basket of fries and chicken tenders with a little cup of ranch.

As my best friend and fellow admirer of GQ magazine covers, Hailey Birch appreciates hot guys as much as I do, which is why it’s almost a shame she wants to tie herself down with one guy—Justin Andrews. We’re only seventeen, after all. But Justin’s handsome, motivated, and completely sweet to her. Plus, he always gets me a coffee when he drives us to school. Things could be worse.

It all started when Hailey’s Mimi left the Philippines and moved in with them last summer. She was looking for an excuse to miss Sunday Mass—her parents pretended they hadn’t missed in years—so she signed up for a summer-long weekend surf camp, which lead to many extra one-on-one surf lessons with Justin.

The rest is history. And Hailey still can’t surf.

It’s just hard to understand how Hailey is such an effortless beauty—she’s wearing a red one-piece, her deep brown skin glowing in the sun and her lush windswept curls falling onto her shoulders—and now her entire life revolves around one guy. But that’s her choice and not all guys are Grant Kennedy, so I have to just root for her and Justin.

“Tell me you figured out the big hook for your movie.” Hailey nods toward my notebook, dunking a tender, and Mom looks up from her phone to us. Convinced she might meet a Hemsworth at Hollywood and Vine, Hailey wants my movie to be a total blockbuster for completely selfless reasons.

I think marrying a Hemsworth might be the only thing that could distract Hailey from winning Cutest Couple with Justin for the senior superlatives. It’s all I’ve heard about since we got back from winter break and realized we’ll be seniors this August.

“Justin might have some ideas, he—”

“It’ll come to me,” I say quickly, not ready to make this conversation about Justin. I do hope it’ll come to me.

“It definitely will,” Mom says. “Although it might not hurt to at least consider—”

“Mom, I’m going to win the competition,” I say.

Here’s the thing.

I sort of screwed up. Really, Grant made me screw up more than I was already screwing up, but I’m trying to listen to Mom’s advice and take responsibility for my actions.

My grades are mostly good—not perfect—and USC is not easy to get into. I always sort of knew I wasn’t getting in purely on grades. But then after Grant, it was like my brain just couldn’t do school. Or anything really. It was just looping my heartbreak, over and over, with no time for any other programming.

It was only really bad until December, but by then the damage was done. I had C averages in three of my AP classes and my GPA was seriously affected. Plus I’d absolutely bombed the fall SAT, despite months of studying. It was like it all flew out the window.

Young love is a bitch.

Now this contest is literally my only chance at USC, my dream school. The school I’ve wanted to go to for as long as I’ve wanted to work in movies, which is basically since I could start writing scripts and making Milly and the neighbors act them out. I’ve never even imagined myself anywhere else. Nowhere else will get me where I want to be.

There are severable notable (i.e., Oscar-winning) USC alumni on the board overseeing the competition, and if I can win a mentorship, I’m guaranteed a letter of rec that will stand out.

USC is the best of the best. It’s in the heart of the film industry and even has its own Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Plus, USC has the First Look Festival for students’ work, which has an industry jury.

Kevin Feige, aka the president of Marvel Studios—who produced the highest grossing film of all time before the Avatar re-release I don’t speak of—applied to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts six times before he got accepted. Six!

Let that sink in.

“I want you to win,” Mom says. “You’ve just been struggling with the screenplay for a while now. It’s healthy to have options. That’s all.”

“Who has the time for options?”

“I simply meant USC isn’t the only school. What happens if, for any reason, you—”

“I’m going to USC,” I say, desperate not to have this conversation with Mom again.

She’s always been supportive, but ever since this terrible Grant-induced writing block struck, she’s been pushing for backup—more “viable” options. Safer bets, thanks to my guidance counselor calling USC a reach school.

The phrase reach school actually makes me want to throw up. Like USC is something I’m reaching toward, not something I have. She says I have to stand out from all the killer GPAs and SAT scores with my creative materials.

To name a few, there’s an autobiographical character sketch, my essay about my most challenging moment, and my writing sample. Then there are the letters of recommendation. That’s where the Reel Sunshine competition comes into play.

I think in my mom’s mind, I’m being impractical. A dreamer who screwed up and lost his shot. But I can still make it happen.

“I just need the hook to be perfect,” I say. “Once I have it, I’m gonna really work my ass off, and it’ll all come together.”

My mom points to Lottie. “Your sister can hear you.”

Robby Weber is a Florida-based writer who loves sunshine, summer, and strong-willed characters. He can normally be found as close to the ocean as possible with his dog, Arthur, and a novel from Reese’s Book Club.

SOCIAL LINKS | Author Website: http://www.robbyweber.com/ |
Twitter: @robbyreads | IG: @robbyreads

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Bloog Tour | The Lying Club by Annie Ward | Review

From the acclaimed author of Beautiful Bad comes an explosive new novel of revenge, murder and shocking secrets—where the victims aren’t who you might think. Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Lucy Foley, and Liv Constantine.

Three women. Two bodies. One big lie…
A tangled web of lies draws together three women in this explosive thriller of revenge, murder and shocking secrets.

At an elite private school nestled in the Colorado mountains, Natalie, an office assistant, dreams of having a life like the school moms she deals with every day. Women like Brooke—a gorgeous heiress, ferociously loving mother and serial cheater—and Asha, an overprotective mom who suspects her husband of having an affair. Their fates are bound by the handsome assistant athletic director Nicholas, whom Natalie loves, Brooke wants and Asha needs.

But when two bodies are carried out of the school one morning, it seems the tension between mothers and daughters, rival lovers, and the haves and have-nots has shattered the surface of this isolated, affluent town—where people stop at nothing to get what they want.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The way this book sounded I was thinking it might be along the lines of housewives type of drama but it ended up being far more than that. It does have a slow beginning and takes a while for the story to truly unfold, but that isn’t to say it is a hard read at all, just a slower pace. It’s the kind of book where you don’t really like anyone, but you’re still trying to figure out who might be good or bad and when everything truly came together it suddenly really picked up. If you’re looking for a book that is full of tons of twists and turns, this is definitely a thriller that would fit the bill.

Annie Ward is the author of Beautiful Bad. She has a BA in English literature from UCLA and an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starring Adam Scott, was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award winner at the Aspen Film Festival. She has received a Fulbright scholarship and an Escape to Create artist residency. She lives in Kansas with her family.

Social Links | Author Website | Twitter: @_annie_ward | Facebook: @anniewardbooks | Goodreads

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Blog Tour | Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell by Taj McCoy

A debut rom-com about a plus-size heroine who gets a full-life makeover after a brutal breakup, with the help of an irresistible cast of friends and family, a kitchen reno, and a devastatingly handsome contractor.Savvy Sheldon spends a lot of time tiptoeing around various aspects of her life: her high-stress and low-thanks job, her clueless boyfriend, and the falling-apart kitchen she inherited from her beloved grandma who taught her how to cook and how to love people by feeding them. When Savvy’s complacency (and her sexy new lingerie) reaches a breaking point, she knows it’s time for some renovations.

Starting from the outside in, Savvy tackles her crumbling kitchen, her waistline, her work/life balance (or lack thereof,) and last (but not least): her love life. The only thing that doesn’t seem to require effort is her ride-or-die squad of close female friends. But as any HGTV junkie can tell you, something always falls apart during renovations. First, Savvy passes out during hot yoga. Then, it turns out that the contractor she hires is the same sexy stranger she unintentionally offended by judging based on appearances. Worst of all, Savvy can’t seem to go anywhere without tripping over her ex and his latest ‘upgrade.’ Savvy begins to realize that maybe she should’ve started her renovations the other way around, beginning with how she sees herself (and loves herself,) before she can build a love that lasts.

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | BookShop.org |  Google Play

Rating: 3 out of 5.

When I originally heard about this book I felt like it was going to be a fun book that tackled some very current issues. There was great pacing which made it easy to fly through and the writing style was really easy to consume. Initially though I did have some issues with how Savvy reacted to the feedback of others, even though her reaction was a very reasonable and common one. That being said I was happy for her as she decided to turn the negatives into positives and better herself. One thing I will say is this book will likely be very triggering to any one with body issues as there is definitely fat shaming and lots of diet culture talks that I know can be hard for some to read. Overall, Savvy’s journey was entertaining and full of reflection and learning how to love yourself.

Oakland native and attorney Taj McCoy is committed to writing stories championing black and biracial women of color, plus-sized protagonists, and characters with a strong sense of sisterhood and familial bonds. When she’s not writing, she may be on Twitter boosting other marginalized writers, trying to zen out in yoga, sharing recipes on her website, or cooking private supper club meals for close friends.

Social Links | Author website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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Blog Tour | Christmas at the Chateau by Rochelle Alers

The halls are decked for holiday romance in nationally bestselling author Rochelle Alers’s latest book in the Bainbridge House series! Christmas dinner’s on the table, and it’s being served with a side of romance! Executive chef Viola Williamson has to have the kitchen up and running by the time the Bainbridge House restoration is complete. Working closely with Dom Shaw, Viola is struck by her hotter-than-mulled-cider attraction to her family estate’s handsome caretaker. It’s obvious that he feels it, too—yet Dom keeps his distance. Can Viola convince him that with all this cooking going on, he’s the only one stirring her heart? 

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & NobleHarlequin

I’m excited to show you guys an excerpt for this book today, enjoy!

Dom turned his head, successfully hiding the smile struggling to emerge. He didn’t know why, but he hadn’t expected to overhear the ribald curse that had flowed so effortlessly from Viola. “That’s good to know because that would definitely negate us becoming friends.”

Viola narrowed her eyes, reminding him of a cat ready to attack. “Do you always test your friends?”

“Most times I do.”

“Why, Dom?”

“Because I have trust issues.” The admission had come out unbidden. But if he were completely forthcoming with Viola, then he would’ve said his distrust was with women. It didn’t matter whether they were platonic or intimate, he’d made it a practice to keep their relationships at a distance.

“Bad breakup with a girlfriend?”

“No,” he said truthfully. “It was a marriage that ended with irreconcilable differences.”

She blinked slowly. “Well, you’re not the only one with trust issues. And mine are not with an ex-husband but with the men I’ve dated. They say one thing and do something entirely different.”

This time Dom did smile. She’d just given him the opening he’d needed to discover more about her. “Are you saying you’re not currently involved with anyone?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m not involved and don’t want to become involved. Right now, my sole focus is getting these kitchens renovated so that I can be ready once the hotel opens for business.”

It appeared as if they were on the same page when it came to relationships. Neither wanted one. And for him, it would make her presence on the property a win-win. Although he’d found Viola attractive, just knowing she didn’t want anything more than friendship would make it easy for Dom to relate to her as a friend.

“Do you have an idea as to what you want to offer your guests?” he asked, deftly changing the topic of conversation.

“That all depends on the clientele. If it’s a wedding, then that would be at the discretion of the bride and groom. However, for guests coming for a business conference, the food would be different from what would be served at a wedding reception. Then there are folks that may just want to stop by to hang out at the lounge for drinks and to watch sports. For them, I would have a special bar menu.”

“It sounds as if you have everything planned out in advance.”

Viola flashed a dreamy smile. “I would have to. I can’t afford to wait until we’re ready to open for business to begin creating menus without taste testing every item beforehand.”

Dom grinned from ear to ear. “I wouldn’t mind becoming one of your taste testers.”

She laughed. “I’ll definitely keep that in mind.”

Dom sobered. “When do you intend to come back here again?”

Viola also sobered. “Why?”

Hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today’s most popular African-American authors of women’s fiction, Ms. Alers is a regular on bestsellers list, and has been a recipient of numerous awards, including the Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing and a Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award.  Visit her Web site www.rochellealers.com

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan | Excerpt

New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s suspenseful new mass market original about a college senior’s podcast that delves into an unsolved campus murder of a sorority girl three years earlier, as individual callers explode every fact previously thought to be true.

Lucas Vega is obsessed with the death of Candace Swain, who left a sorority party one night and never came back. Her body was found two weeks later, and the case has grown cold. Three years later while interning at the Medical Examiner’s, Lucas discovers new information, but the police are not interested.

Lucas knows he has several credible pieces of the puzzle, he just isn’t sure how they fit together. So he creates a podcast to revisit Candace’s last hours. He asks listeners to crowdsource what they remember and invites guest lecturer, former US Marshal Regan Merritt, to come on and share her expertise.

New tips come in that convince Lucas and Regan they are onto something. Then shockingly one of the podcast callers turns up dead. Another hints at Candace’s secret life…a much darker picture than Lucas imagined—and one that implicates other sorority sisters. Regan uses her own resources to bolster their theory and learns that Lucas is hiding his own dark secret. The pressure is to solve the murder, but first Lucas must come clean about his real motives in pursuing this podcast – before the killer silences him forever.

Buy Links | Bookshop.org | Indie Bound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |
Books A Million | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Google PlayApple books

I’m thrilled to be able to include an excerpt in today’s post from this book. Enjoy!

One

Three Years Ago

Friday, April 10

 Candace Swain forced a smile as she walked out of her dorm room.

Smiling was the last thing she wanted to do, but Candace had an image to uphold.

She was going to be late for the Sigma Rho Spring Fling—the last big party before the end-of-year crunch. Studying for finals, capstones and senior projects, stress and more stress, and—for some of them—graduation.

The mild April weather was perfect for an outdoor gathering. Candace had led the sorority’s social-events committee with setup, and they’d included heat lamps along the perimeter. The Mountain View dorm—which housed all campus sororities, each with their own wing—was on the northeast corner of campus, adjacent to the football field. The Spring Fling was held on the large lawn that framed the north entrance, where they had the most room. It was open to all students for a five-dollar admission, and was one of the biggest moneymakers for the sorority, more than charities. Candace had fought for—and won—giving the profits to a rescue mission that helped people get back on their feet. She volunteered weekly for Sunrise Center, and it had changed how she viewed herself and her future. She now planned to be a nurse in the inner city, working for a clinic or public hospital, where people deserved quality health care, even if they were struggling. She even considered specializing in drug and alcohol issues, which were unfortunately prevalent among the homeless community.

She used to think of her volunteerism as penance for her failings. She wasn’t religious but had had enough preaching from her devout grandmother to have absorbed things like guilt, penance, sacrifice. Now, she looked forward to Tuesdays when she gave six hours of her time to those who were far worse off than she. It reminded her to be grateful for what she had, that things could be worse.

Candace exited through the north doors and stood at the top of the short flight of stairs that led to the main lawn. Though still early in the evening, the party was already hopping. Music played from all corners of the yard, the din of voices and laughter mingling with a popular song. In the dusk, the towering mountains to the north were etched in fading light. She breathed deeply. She loved everything about Flagstaff. The green mountains filled with pine and juniper. The crisp, fresh air. The sense of community and belonging felt so natural here, something she’d never had growing up in Colorado Springs. With graduation on the horizon, she had been feeling a sense of loss, knowing she was going to miss this special place.

She wasn’t close to her parents, who divorced right before she started high school and still fought as much as they did when they were married. She desperately missed her younger sister, Chrissy, a freshman at the University of South Carolina. She’d wanted Chrissy to come here for college, but Chrissy was a champion swimmer and had received a full scholarship to study practically a world away. Candace had no plans to return to Colorado Springs, but she didn’t know if she wanted to follow her sister to the East Coast or head down to Phoenix where they had some of the best job opportunities for what she wanted to do.

Vicky Ryan, a first year student who had aspirations of leadership, ran up to her.

“That weirdo is back,” Vicky said quietly. “Near the west steps. Just loitering there, freaking people out. Should I call campus police?”

Candace frowned. The man Vicky was referring to was Joseph, and he wasn’t really a weirdo. He was an alcoholic, and mostly homeless, who sometimes wandered onto campus and wouldn’t accept the help he had been repeatedly offered. He wasn’t violent, just confused, and sometimes got lost in his own head, largely from how alcohol had messed with his mind and body. But his problems understandably made her sorority sisters uncomfortable. He’d twice been caught urinating against the wall outside their dorm; both times, he’d been cited by campus police. He wasn’t supposed to be on campus at all anymore, and Candace knew they’d arrest him if he was caught.

“I’ll take care of it,” Candace said and made her way around the edge of the party.

She found Joseph on the narrow grassy knoll that separated the football field from the dorms. A small group of students approached her, but one in their group turned toward the grass, likely to confront Joseph.

Candace walked faster, caught up with the student, and smiled brightly. “I got this.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll handle him.”

“I said I will take care of this. I know him. But thank you anyway.”

Mr. Macho didn’t want to walk away, yet Candace stood firm. She didn’t want anyone to harass Joseph, and she knew he would listen to her. While he wasn’t violent, he could be belligerent, and being confronted by a jerk wanting to impress his girlfriend was a surefire way to trigger Joseph and have him dig in his heels. It would only lead to an arrest, and that wasn’t going to help him in the long run.

The group walked off, grumbling; Candace ignored them. She approached Joseph cautiously, so as not to startle him. “Joseph, it’s Candace,” she said. “Remember me? From Sunrise Center?”

He turned slowly at the sound of her voice. A tall man, nearly six foot four, he could intimidate people. But he was also skinny and hunched over from years of walking the streets and looking down, rummaging through garbage, with his hangdog face, ragged salt-and-pepper beard, and watery blue eyes. He was the kind of guy her grandmother would have called a bum—dressed in multiple layers of dirty, mismatched clothes, and smelling of dirt and stale beer. He looked about sixty, but she knew that he was only in his early forties. She’d heard he’d been living along Route 66 for the better part of ten years. The people who ran Sunrise Center didn’t know much about his personal life, only that when he was sober (which was rare), he would talk about home being east, at the “end of the line.” But no one knew if that meant Chicago or any of the stops in between.

Candace wanted to know more about his story, how he came to be in these circumstances, why he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—accept help. Many of the homeless who came to Sunrise for shelter or food would talk to her freely. But not Joseph. When she’d pried once, he disappeared for a while, so she stopped asking. She would rather him be safe than riding the rails, which was dangerous.

“Candace,” he said slowly after several moments.

“You can’t be here, Joseph. The campus police told you that. Don’t you remember?”

He didn’t say anything or acknowledge that he understood what she said.

“Would you like me to take you over to Sunrise Center? You can get a hot meal there, maybe a cot for the night.”

Again, silence. He turned away from her but didn’t leave.

She really didn’t want to call campus police, but if she didn’t do something, someone else would.

“Is there a reason you are here?” she asked.

“Leave me alone,” he said.

“I will, but you have to leave. Otherwise someone is going to call the police.” If they haven’t already.

He abruptly turned toward her, staggered on the slope of the lawn. His sudden movement startled her; she stepped back.

“No cops!” he shouted.

“You have to leave, Joseph,” she said, emphatic. Her heart pounded in her chest, not so much from fear but uncertainty. “Please go.”

Again, he turned abruptly, this time staggering down the short slope toward the stadium fence. She held her breath, watching him. He almost ran into the fence, put his arms out to stop himself, then just stood there. A minute later, he shuffled along the field perimeter, shoulders hunched, without looking back.

She breathed easier, relieved that he was heading off campus. She would talk to the director of Sunrise on Tuesday, when she went in to volunteer. Joseph couldn’t keep coming here, but she didn’t really want to call the authorities on him. He needed help, not more trouble, and definitely not incarceration.

Candace was about to return to the party when she heard someone call her name. She turned and saw one of her former tutoring students, Lucas Vega, running toward her. She didn’t want to talk to Lucas tonight. How many times did she have to tell him to leave her alone?

She stopped anyway and waited.

“Candace,” he said, catching his breath. “Thanks.”

“What do you want?” she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry,” she said bluntly.

“I didn’t mean to upset you the other day. I am sorry about that.”

She blinked. He sounded so sincere. And truth be told, something he’d said to her a few days earlier made her think long and hard about herself, her life, and the time she’d spent as a student at Northern Arizona University.

A lie for a good reason is still a lie.

Lucas and his wide-eyed, good-natured innocence, his innocuous questions had her feeling guilty for no reason. He had picked up on that. And pushed.

No reason? Ha. Plenty of reasons. All these doubts and worries she’d been having this semester, the sleepless nights, all came from something she’d done as a freshman that she now had good reason to regret. But what could she do about it? What would come of the truth now?

Maybe there was no good reason to lie.

“All right,” she said. “Thank you.” It was easier to forgive Lucas than to hold on to this anger. None of what happened was Lucas’s fault.

“So will you tutor me again, for finals?”

“No. Afraid not.” She could forgive him for prying, but she really needed first to forgive herself. And she didn’t know if she could do that with Lucas around, reminding her of her failures and mistakes. He didn’t even know what she’d done, but seeing him now was like reliving the past, and her chest tightened. “I’m sorry, but I have too much studying of my own, too many tests. And I’m not working at the writing lab anymore.”

Because of you.

Was that even fair? Was it because of Lucas…or because of her own guilt?

He was disappointed, but that wasn’t her problem.

“Okay, I understand,” he said.

“Besides, you’re smart. You’ll be fine.”

He shrugged. “Thanks.”

“Uh, you want to come to the party?” She gestured over her shoulder. They could hear the music from where they stood. “I’ll get you a pass. Won’t even cost you the five bucks.”

He shook his head. “I’m fine. I’m not really one for parties. But thanks anyway.”

He turned to leave.

“Lucas,” she said. He looked at her over his shoulder. “I’m really sorry.”

Then she left him there, waiting for something she couldn’t give him.

It took Candace several minutes before she could work up the courage to return to the party. An idea she’d been thinking about for the last few months was now fully developed, as if something inside clicked after her brief conversation with Lucas. Everything shifted into place, and she knew what she needed to do; it was the only thing she could do.

No one was going to like her decision.

When she realized she no longer cared what anyone thought, a burden lifted from her heart. She was certain then that she was doing the right thing.

Everyone at the party was asking for Candace, and Vicky had become worried when her friend and mentor hadn’t returned after thirty minutes. She sought out Taylor James, the Sigma Rho president, and told her about the homeless guy. “I don’t know where Candace is,” she said. “I should have just called campus police.”

“Candace says he’s harmless,” Taylor said, frowning. “Sometimes she’s so naive. I’ll go look for her.”

“Thanks. The party is great by the way. Everyone seems to be having fun. How does it compare to previous years?” This was the first party Vicky had helped put together for the sorority, so she was eager to know how well she’d done.

“As good or better,” Taylor said with a wide smile.

Vicky tried not to gloat as she practically floated over to her friends chatting near one of the heat lamps. It wasn’t cold, but the warmth of the heat lamp and the glow from the string lights added terrific ambience to the place.

“Oh my God, Vicky, this is a blast,” her roommate, Nicole Bergamo, said. Nicole was a half-Black, half-Italian math major who could have easily been a model she was so tall and stunning. “Everyone is talking about how great it is.”

Vicky smiled, talked for a bit, then moved around, being social, doing all the things that she’d seen Sigma Rho board members do. Hundreds of people were dancing, talking, mingling, eating, drinking, playing games. Mostly, they were having fun, which was the whole purpose. When the new Sigma Rho advisor, Rachel Wagner, told her it was the best Sigma Rho party she’d been to ever, Vicky thought she’d never come down from cloud nine.

“I agree,” said the gorgeous woman who was with Rachel. “I’m Kimberly Foster, by the way,” she introduced herself. “I’m a sorority alum, and I’m so happy I came up this weekend. You’ve done a fantastic job. Rachel said you’re part of the social-events committee. Isn’t Candace leading the committee? I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Yes, she’s around,” Vicky said. “This is all her vision. We just implemented it.”

“I love Candace. Oh! I see her over there.”

Vicky looked to where Kimberly was gesturing. Candace was talking in a small group.

“I’m going to catch up with her,” Kimberly said. “Nice to meet you, Vicky.”

The two women walked away, and Vicky continued her rounds. She was having a blast as her worries that the party might flop were replaced with pride and satisfaction over its success.

Hours later it was midnight, and per city ordinance—because their dorm bordered a public street—they had to cut off the music. That put a damper on things, but it was fine with Vicky—she was exhausted after working all day prepping and all night making sure everything was running smoothly. She was a little miffed that Candace was hardly there: Vicky had only caught a glimpse of her twice. But whatever, she’d seemed preoccupied, and that would have been a party downer.

Vicky ran into the dorm to get extra trash bags—they had to clean up tonight so wild animals wouldn’t get into the garbage and create a bigger mess in the morning. She came back out and heard voices arguing near where the DJ had been set up. He’d already packed up and left. She couldn’t hear exactly what was being said. It seemed like a quiet, intense exchange between Taylor and Candace though Rachel and her guest Kimberly were there, too. Everyone, especially Taylor, seemed angry.

About sixty people were still milling around, mostly Sigma Rho sisters helping with the cleanup. Nicole came up to Vicky and said, “What are Candace and Taylor fighting about?”

“I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”

“It’s not nothing,” Nicole said. “I heard Taylor call Candace a selfish bitch.”

“Ouch. Well, Rachel is there. She’ll mediate.”

But Rachel looked angry as well; it seemed that Candace was on one side, and the other three women were yelling at her.

“You’re wrong!” Candace screamed, and Vicky jumped. She glanced at Nicole, who looked perplexed as well. Vicky handed her a garbage bag, and they both started picking up trash. She didn’t want anyone to think she was eavesdropping.

But she was. As she inched closer to the group, she heard Kimberly say, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow, okay? When everyone has had a good night’s sleep and we can all think more clearly.”

“I am thinking clearly,” Candace said. “I’m done. Just…done.”

She left, walked right past Vicky without even seeing her. There were tears in Candace’s eyes, and Vicky didn’t know if she was angry or upset, but probably both. Vicky thought about going after her to make sure she was okay, then felt a hand on her shoulder.

She jumped, then laughed nervously when she saw Rachel. Taylor and Kim had walked away in the other direction.

“Sorry. You startled me.”

“I’m sorry you had to witness that,” Rachel said.

“I didn’t, really. Just saw that Taylor and Candace were arguing about something. I didn’t want to intrude.”

“It’s going to be fine. Just a little disagreement that Candace took personally.”

“About the party?” Vicky asked, her insecurities rising that she’d messed up something.

“Oh, no, the party was perfect. Don’t worry about that.”

Relieved, she said, “Maybe I should go talk to Candace.”

“No, let her be. I’ve known her since she was a freshman and took my Intro to Bio class. She has a big heart, and sometimes you can’t help everyone.”

Now Vicky understood, or thought she did. Taylor had been the most vocal about the creepy homeless guy hanging around the dorms, and she’d been the one who’d called campus police last time, after Candace said not to.

“Let me help,” Rachel said and took a garbage bag from Vicky’s stash.

Rachel chatted with Vicky, who felt lucky to be able to spend so much one-on-one time with her sorority advisor. Rachel was so smart, an associate professor at just thirty-two, an alum of the University of Arizona Sigma Rho chapter. Plus she had such interesting stories to share. By the time they were done with the cleanup—it didn’t take long with so many people working together—Vicky had forgotten all about the argument between Candace and Taylor.

It was the last time anyone saw Candace alive.

Excerpted from The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan, Copyright © 2021 by Allison Brennan. Published by MIRA Books.

ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets. The Sorority Murder is the first of a new mass market series.

Social Links | Author website | Facebook: @AllisonBrennan | Twitter: @Allison_Brennan |
Instagram: @abwrites | Goodreads

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Blog Tour | Christmas in Rose Bend by Naima Simone | Review

The holidays have never been her thing. But Christmas in Rose Bend has more than one surprise in store…

Grieving ER nurse Nessa Hunt is on a road trip with her sullen teen half sister, Ivy, and still reeling from her mother’s deathbed confession: Nessa’s dad wasn’t really her dad. Seeking answers, they arrive in Rose Bend to find a small town teeming with the kind of Christmas cheer Nessa usually avoids. But then she meets the innkeeper’s ruggedly sexy son, Wolfgang Dennison.

Wolf’s big, boisterous family is like a picture-perfect holiday card. Nessa has too much weighing on her to feel like she fits—even though the heat between her and Wolf is undeniable. And the merriment bringing an overdue smile to Ivy’s face is almost enough to make Nessa believe in the Christmas spirit. But with all her parental baggage, including lingering questions about her birth father, is there room in Nessa’s life for happy holidays and happily-ever-after?

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost I really enjoy Naima Simone’s writing style,, it instantly sucks me into the story and she always seems to create a great setting. I haven’t read the first book in this series, but after having picked this one up I definitely want to. The characters are well crafted and I really liked the relationship between Nessa and Wolf. What did detract a bit from the romance and kept it from simply being a cute Christmas romance was the drama created by the relationship issues with Nessa and her sister as well as her search for her birth father. Still, it was a great romance and a wonderful Christmas story that hit the spot!

USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey and Nora Roberts years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Published since 2009, she spends her days writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark.  She is wife to Superman–or his non-Kryptonian equivalent–and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern US.

Social Links | Author Website | Facebook: @naimasimoneauthor   | Instagram: @naimasimoneauthor | Twitter: @Naima_Simone | Goodreads

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Blog Tour | Secrets of a One Night Stand by Naima Simone | Review

She said yes to one night with a stranger… Now she’s pregnant and that stranger is her boss! Only in this Billionaires of Boston romance from USA TODAY bestselling author Naima Simone.

She told herself it was one night. Nothing more.

But her heart knew the truth…

Finding out her previous one-night fling is her new boss is the shock of Mycah Hill’s lifetime. She can’t say no to being VP for software CEO Achilles Farrell—she’s finally made her career dream come true. But knowing he’s so close… It’s only a matter of time before she’s back in his arms. It can’t end well. Achilles’s tortured family history means he’s not up for sticking around long-term. But Mycah’s surprise pregnancy is about to change everything…

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m fairly new to Naima Simone’s writing, having only read one other book by her so far, but I’m thoroughly enjoying her writing. The way she crafts and describes her characters no only gives you a full image of them in your mind, but it makes you feel emotionally for them as well. As a pair I really enjoyed Mycah and Achilles – both of them have their own struggles independently but also some struggles that they have to work through together. There are a fair number of tropes in this one but not to the point that I minded them. I don’t always like those that use surprise baby situations, but I felt this one was both realistic and understandable. Overall I really enjoyed their story and liked the experience of their relationship.

USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey and Nora Roberts years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Published since 2009, she spends her days writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. 

She is wife to Superman–or his non-Kryptonian equivalent–and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern US.

Connect with the Author | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Blog Tour | The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross | Review

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born from a different mother and unknown to each other, discover that they’re now part owners of Maison de Madelaine, the family’s Oregon vineyard—a once famous business struggling to recover from a worldwide economic collapse.

After a successful career as a child TV star, a disastrous time as a teen pop star, and now a successful author, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious case of writer’s block and identity crisis.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, has given up her own career goals to support her husband while having spent the past year struggling to conceive a child to create a more perfect marriage. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she’d never been told about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s long-time mistress, has always known about both half-sisters. Still mourning the loss of her mother, the death of her father a year later is a devastating blow. And she can’t help feeling that both her sisters may resent her for being the daughter their father decided to keep.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the family vineyard, they’re enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the love she found with a wounded American soldier who brought her to Oregon where they started Maison de Madelaine.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was a good mix of women’s fiction, historical fiction and a little bit of romance. It was interesting to get to know the sisters in the wake of their father’s passing and all of their different personalities and struggles. It was a good story as it unfolded, especially with the historical fiction aspect with their grandmother. I really enjoyed JoAnn Ross’ writing, as I have before, which made the read fly by – but in some aspects it did feel like things were a little rushed or not fully fleshed out. I did enjoy a lot of the character development that happens and where everyone ended up but would have liked a little more depths to some parts.

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author JoAnn Ross has been published in twenty-seven countries. The author of over 100 novels, JoAnn lives with her husband and many rescue pets — who pretty much rule the house — in the Pacific Northwest.

Social Links | Author Website | Facebook: @JoAnnRossbooks | Instagram: @JoAnnRossBooks | Goodreads

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Blog Tour | The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meister | Review

A Host of Trouble…

In this witty and engaging novel, Dana Barry, the Shopping Channel’s star host, stops by the company’s rooftop party to pitch the new CEO her brilliant idea that just might save the flagging business, her job and possibly her love life.

As she chats with the smarmy executive, he backs her into a dark corner. For Dana, it’s a quid pro oh-hell-no. She escapes his lecherous grasp and grabs her drink on her way to the dance floor. Woozy, she blacks out.

When she comes to, the CEO is dead, fallen from the roof. Or was he pushed? And if so, by whom? It’s hard to know, but one thing is certain: Dana was close enough to be suspect.

Sure, she loathed how the creep moved in on her, but she’s no killer. Or is she? Truth is, Dana can’t remember much about those minutes. Now she has to use all her skills to prove her innocence to everyone, including her police detective boyfriend—and herself.

Meister’s latest is fun and breezy, a compelling, suspenseful read that entertains and keeps you guessing.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I had never read any books by Ellen Meister before but as soon as I read the blurb and the murder mystery aspect of it – I was excited to get my hands on it. This was such a fun read and could easily be great for a summer beach read as it could be seen as both a mystery and rom-com in some ways. I felt that the interactions between Dana and Ari were handled really well and done in a very realistic manner, which made their relationship super easy to root for. I did realize part of the way in (and checked) that this is a sequel, but I don’t think having not read that book impacted my reading or experience at all – and I’m not sure if I would go back to read the previous book as I really enjoyed this one on its own. The plot moved along really fast and I loved Meister’s writing, it just made it one of those books that I had a hard time putting down since I was really enjoying it and wanted to know what was going to happen.

Ellen Meister is the author of  several novels including LOVE SOLD SEPARATELY,  DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE; FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER; THE OTHER LIFE and others. Ellen is also an editor, book coach, ghostwriter, and frequent contributor to Long Island Woman Magazine. She teaches creative writing at Long Island University Hutton House Lectures and previously at Hofstra University. Her latest novel is THE ROOFTOP PARTY. For more info visit ellenmeister.com.

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

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Blog Tour | Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley | Review

Kara Sullivan is definitely not avoiding her deadline. After all, it’s the week of her best friend’s wedding and she’s the maid of honor, so she’s got lots of responsibilities. As a bestselling romance novelist with seven novels under her belt, she’s a pro and looming deadlines and writer’s block (which she definitely doesn’t have) don’t scare her. She’s just eager to support Cristina as she ties the knot with Jason.

But who should show up at Cristina and Jason’s rehearsal dinner but Kara’s college ex-boyfriend, (the gorgeous and infuriating) Ryan? Apparently, he’s one of Jason’s childhood friends, and he’s in the wedding party, too. Considering neither Kara nor Ryan were prepared to see each other again, it’s decidedly a meet-NOT-cute. There is nothing cute about this situation, and a bit of notice to mentally prepare would’ve been nice, Cristina! However, when Kara sits down to write again the next day, her writers’ block is suddenly gone. She has to wonder what’s changed. Are muses real…? And is Kara’s muse…Ryan?

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this fun rom com and the second chance romance that it featured. I wanted to read this book as soon as I read the blurb for it and it gave me exactly what I was looking for. It did start off a little slow, but then really got going and ended up being quite a page turner for me. The writing is witty and the banter between the main characters was one of the best parts of the book. There were certainly some situations that seemed a little unrealistic in some ways, but it’s meant to be a fun romance and it definitely meets that criteria. If you’re looking for a fun romance that is definitely a bookish book, then this one is one for you.

KATE BROMLEY lives in New York City with her husband, son, and her somewhat excessive collection of romance novels (It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right?). She was a preschool teacher for seven years and is now focusing full-time on combining her two great passions – writing swoon-worthy love stories and making people laugh. Talk Bookish to Me is her first novel.

Social Links | Author Website | Twitter: @kbromleywrites | Instagram: @katebromleywrites | Facebook: @katebromleywrites | Goodreads

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