The Crown Prince’s Bride RELEASE DAY BLITZ!!

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The Crown Prince’s Bride is out TODAY (January 9th)!! This was a quick read with a sweet story and I enjoyed it! You’ll also see my review of this book later today so make sure to check back. See below for more information about the book, a short bio for the author and an excerpt from the book as well!  

SUMMARY

A Crown Prince gets a second chance at love with the woman who’s always been there – in the next book in the prince duology from Donna Alward!

The Crown Prince of Marazur is suffering from a broken heart. After losing his wife and future queen, he knows he’ll never find love again with a partner as wonderful as her. He’s thrown himself into his duties and is trying to be a better father to his two children, but he’s lonely. Even though falling in love seems impossible, so does spending the rest of his life alone.

Stephani has been Raoul’s assistant for years. Smart, loyal, and discreet, Stephani is fantastic at her job. Except for the fact that she’s been in love with her boss since her first week of employment, not that she would ever act on it. Besides, Raoul is first in line to the throne and she’s his assistant. If Raoul ever marries again, it’ll be with someone who can be a future queen. Not someone like Stephani.

When Raoul’s date for a state dinner is unable to attend, he invites Stephani. She’s well-versed on the issues and castle protocol, and Raoul’s always been comfortable with her. But when Stephani arrives, Raoul hardly recognizes her. Is this stunning woman the same one who’s run his office for years?

The Crown Prince’s Bride
is the ultimate fairytale for readers looking for Cinderella to get her prince—and be able to keep him past midnight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love.

Copy of Crown Prince Whim 4 (2) (1).png

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EXCERPT

51rLBEd6MTLLate August

Stephani surveyed the ballroom, ensuring everything was running smoothly and to her satisfaction. As the executive assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur, it was her job to make sure that Raoul Navarro’s birthday party went off without a hitch.

So far the dinner had been delicious, the traditional almond cake devoured, and the music and dancing had begun. She started to breathe a bit easier now.

“Señorita Savalas? Champagne?”

She turned to the footman who carried several full glasses on his silver tray. “Sí, gracias.” She smiled and took a flute from the tray,then sipped gratefully. The dry, fizzy liquid delighted her tongue. By royal standards, the party was small, but no expense had been spared. Including this particularly fine vintage.

Raoul deserved a wonderful party after the year he’d had.Considering this was the first real event at the palace since his wife,Princess Cecilia, had tragically died, Stephani had pulled out all the stops.

It was her job. And it was more than just a job, too.Because for the last seven years, she’d been in love with her boss.

Her boss, who had been married to her cousin.

Her boss, who was now a widower with two small children.

Right now Raoul was mingling with a group that included the finance minister and the gentleman’s twenty-something daughter. The girl looked up at Raoul with something like hero worship, and Stephani smiled to herself.He was at least ten years too old for her, but he was extraordinarily handsome with his black hair and dark, soulful eyes. New lines had appeared at either side of his lips, but Stephani thought they only added to his allure.

She joined the group and smiled at everyone, then spoke briefly before turning her attention to the Italian attaché. There was also a representative from the French tourism ministry and she switched languages effortlessly.

“You’re exceptionally good at that.”

Raoul’s deep voice vibrated at her ear and she suppressed adelighted shiver. She pasted a platonic smile on her face and turned around.“Oh, hello. Having a good time?”

“More than I expected. And what about you? Are you enjoying yourself? Or just working the room?” He lifted an eyebrow.

“Just making everyone feel welcome.”

“And showing off the fact you can speak . . .” He counted silently on his fingers. “Five languages? Six?”

“Five,” she confirmed. “My Russian and German are more of a danger than an asset. I could ruin diplomatic relations in two sentences.”

He chuckled, and she let herself enjoy the sound. Raoul didn’t laugh much at all recently, but the wine pairings at dinner and the open bar had loosened him up considerably.

She hadn’t seen him this relaxed since . . .

A confusing wave of grief swept over her. Maybe she’d had a secret thing for Raoul for ages, but she’d also loved her cousin deeply.Everyone had loved Ceci. And Stephani missed her. Ceci would have loved a party like this. She would have sparkled like the diamond she was. Stephani was far better behind the scenes. It had always been that way, even when they were kids.

“It’s good to hear you laugh, Raoul.”

His eyes met hers. “It’s good to laugh again. It’s been awhile.”

“Of course.” She didn’t want to dampen the mood of the evening, so she smiled instead and nodded toward a woman skirting the dancefloor. “Look. Rose has come back. The children were lovely at dinner, don’t you think?”

His gaze followed the new nanny. “You helped with her dress for the evening?”

“I did.”

“My brother can’t take his eyes off of her.”

“I think Diego has finally met his match. Do you approve?”

“Yes and no?” He shrugged. “My first priority is the children, and they seem to adore her.”

“Of course.”

“But she is also a lovely person.” He sent her a sideways smile. “Better than Diego deserves.”

She laughed a little. “You don’t really believe that.”

“No, I don’t. He’s been . . . different. Especially the last few months. Since . . .”

His voice trailed off, but she knew what he’d meant. Since Ceci died.

Everything was different since Ceci had died.

He nudged her elbow. “I don’t want to drag down the party.Do you want to dance, Steph?”

Did she? She’d only imagined it a million times.Particularly at every palace function when she’d stood on the sidelines with her clipboard while Ceci held Raoul in her arms. The perfect couple, a prince and princess, utterly in love.

She hesitated long enough that he stepped back. “Lo siento.I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“You didn’t,” she hurried to assure him. “I’d love to dance.” It might be her one and only chance. She put her champagne down on a nearby table and smiled up at him. “Shall we?”

The band had switched to a slower song, and he led her to the polished parquet and took her in his arms. She swallowed tightly . . . ohmy. He was smooth, effortless, and his hand was warm against the hollow of her back. His fingers tightened over hers and she bit down on her lip. Raoul, she thought, wondering why on earth she insisted on torturing herself day in and day out. Why couldn’t she manage to shake this silly attraction? Besides, he only ever saw her as his assistant. If he had any idea of her feelings . . .Ugh. Work would be unbearably awkward.

“You look lovely tonight,” he said, his lips only inches from her ear. “The little black dress was a good choice.”

“It’s Versace.” She strangled out the words.

Their feet kept moving, and their bodies seemed to drift closer, until the lapels of his jacket brushed against her breasts. She could feel his heat, smell his cologne.

She should resign. Find another position somewhere, away from the longing for what she could never have. Except this was the perfect job. Wonderful pay, wonderful perks, and . . . well, the family relied on her.She knew that. It was more than a job, and more than just Raoul. She cared about them all. King Alexander, Diego, the children . . . they were her family now that Ceci was gone. She had no immediate family of her own. What remained of the Savalas family was spread out over Greece and Spain. She didn’t even know half of them. Ceci had been her anchor, and in her absence, the Navarros had become her surrogate family.

The song ended and Raoul stood back, but his face had lost the relaxed easiness of before, and a small furrow had appeared between his brows. “Is everything okay?” she asked, suddenly panicked that maybe she’d been the one to drift closer and inadvertently created an awkward moment between them.

“Diego danced with Rose, and she’s just left him standing in the middle of the floor,” he said quietly.

“Maybe there’s trouble in paradise.”

“You should talk to him.”

“I know. It’s never been easy, though. We’re so different.We always seem to cross swords.”

“That’s because you’re more alike than you think. You have to start giving him a chance. He’s more reliable than you give him credit for.”

Back to business. She felt on solid ground when she could focus on business.

She patted his arm. “I’m going to check on the kitchen staff. Señora Ortiz is planning a smaller buffet close to midnight.”

She went to leave and he reached for her hand. “Stephani?”

She focused on his face, because the fact that he was holding her hand was doing funny things to her insides. “Yes?”

“Thank you, for all this. I know I’ve been difficult the last few months. Tonight, having people and music in the house again . . .”

The butterflies in her belly grew heavy. “It must be difficult.”

“Yes. No. I mean, it’s been good. I can’t live my life being gloomy and unhappy all the time. This wouldn’t have happened without you.”

She smiled. “The people need to see that you’re still okay.”

He squeezed her fingers. “I need to know I’m okay. Thishelped. Thank you.”

And he leaned forward and kissed her cheek.

His breath was warm against her skin, and she might be mistaken but she would swear his mouth lingered there just a moment longer than necessary. Heat rushed to her face and she muttered a hasty “you’re welcome”before darting away. She didn’t want him to see her blush. Or the fact that his casual touch had the power to make her normal unflappable reserve desert her completely.

* * *

Raoul downed his fourth—or was it fifth?—Scotch and put the cut crystal glass down on a table. The midnight buffet had been set out, a light meal for those partygoers working up an appetite on the dance floor.Diego had disappeared ages ago, chasing after Rose.

His brother was in love. The real thing. And Raoul had congratulated him and wished him well, when all he could think of was how horrible it felt to have his heart ripped out of his chest in the actions of a moment. That perhaps love wasn’t worth it. He might actually believe that if it weren’t for Emilia and Max. The children were all he had left of Ceci, and he wouldn’t trade his marriage with her for anything.

Not even the pain of losing her.

They hadn’t let him go to the scene of the accident, but he didn’t have to. The news had shown the mangled wreck in full detail. A leaked phone video had shown the paramedics taking Emilia and Max from the car, and their driver, Marco, sitting with a white bandage on his uncommonly pale face.And there’d been a glimpse of the body bags, too—Ceci’s, and Mariana’s, the royal family’s nanny.

He went to the bar and got another Scotch. He was a year older, and life did go on. He even had moments of happiness. Tonight had been fun, but now that the evening was winding down, he was missing Ceci more than ever.

Would it be very bad form for him to leave the party before his guests? He suspected it would.

As he took a drink of his Scotch, he spotted Stephani across the room. She didn’t look tired at all, even though he knew she’d been here since about seven this morning and hadn’t stopped all day. He wasn’t sure where she got her stamina, but she was the best assistant he’d ever had. She’d been working for him long enough that she anticipated his needs. Hiring Ceci’s cousin had started out as a favor to his wife. Stephani had graduated from university but was working as an event server at a resort in Barcelona to make ends meet. She hadn’t had the resources Ceci did—she’d been the poor cousin who’d had to work her way through. Ceci had known Stephani wouldn’t take a handout, and Raoul had reluctantly agreed to give her a chance. It turned out to be a brilliant business decision.

He sipped again. Didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous, either.Her silky hair was the same inky color as her black dress and she wore heels that showed off her very fine legs. Stephani worked the room like the greatest of ambassadors and hostesses rolled into one. She was so like Ceci in that regard,warm and generous. But different, too. Focused, sharp. Ceci’s biggest quality had been her capacity for love and kindness. Stephani’s was to take that warmth and use it to its best advantage—while staying out of the spotlight.

She laughed and he swore he heard it across the room, above the music and the chatter. His body tightened in response, an uncomfortable and yet somehow welcome experience. He was thirty-seven, for God’s sake, and heir to the throne. Unlike his brother, he didn’t have the luxury—or the inclination—to play the field. But he was still a man. A young man, really.What was he going to do, stay a widower for the rest of his life? Stay celibate? It was utterly unrealistic.

Maybe he shouldn’t have had so much Scotch. He should go. No one would miss him now, would they? Particularly not Steph. He’d thanked her and kissed her cheek, and she’d literally run off. What had he been thinking?

He left the ballroom and headed for the stairs, then reconsidered. He’d rather get some fresh air and clear his head after all the alcohol.

The hall to the back entrance of the castle was narrow and once he descended the steps, he reached a stone-encased alcove. Fresh air filtered in, moist and balmy in the summer heat, and he shrugged off his jacket and dropped it in a corner. It would be dusty but he didn’t care. Instead he leaned back against the cool stone and closed his eyes. His head swam instantly and he opened them again, seeking equilibrium.

And there she was.

“I brought you a bottle of water,” Stephani said softly. She uncapped it and held it out. “You need to rehydrate.”

He took it and drank deeply. “How did you know I was here?”

She met his gaze evenly. “Your Highness, it’s my job to know where you are at all times. Even more than your security.”

“Thass right. You’re my right hand.” He heard the slur andwas mortified. He never got drunk. Never. But he had tonight. It was definitely a good thing he’d left the party.

She smiled at him. “Oh my. You did hit the Scotch ratherhard, didn’t you?”

He didn’t answer. Didn’t know how to answer.

“Slurring in front of the finance minister wouldn’t be a smart move.”

He looked over at her. “Really? I doubt he’d notice.”

“Oh, he’d notice. Rumor has it he addressed his own alcohol issues a few months ago and has been dry ever since. I watched. He didn’t take any wine at dinner.”

And this was one of the reasons Steph was so valuable. She always had her ear to the ground. Always seemed to know what was going on and with whom.

Which made him look at her a little more closely. “So, Miss Observant, how long did you know about Diego and Rose?”

She laughed. “Almost from day one.”

“I like it when you laugh.”

Her smile faded. “Sir?”

“Don’t ‘sir’ me, Steph. We’ve been past that for years.You’re family.”

A strange look passed over her face and he wondered what it meant, but then she was smiling again and he thought he might have imagined it.“I’m Ceci’s cousin, that’s all. We’re not blood relatives.”

“No,” he said quietly. “We’re not.”

And the strange feeling he’d had while dancing with her returned. Like his skin was somehow shrinking, taut with . . . damn, he couldn’t be feeling attraction. That would just be wrong.

And yet . . . he dropped his gaze to her lips. They were plump and red, fuller than Ceci’s had been, and right now they opened just a little as Stephani inhaled sharply.

“Raoul,” she cautioned.

He dragged his gaze back up to her eyes, expecting to see disapproval, but instead they were wide with what he could only figure was equal awareness. He stepped closer, testing her, and watched as her pupils dilated.

“Raoul,” she repeated, an edge of desperation in her voice.But not fear. He was clear-headed enough to recognize that wistful sound of longing, and when he lifted his hand and placed it along her cheek, her breath came out in a rush against the pad of his thumb.

And then he kissed her.

She tasted like dry champagne and a trace of almonds and citrus from the cake earlier, plus a darker flavor that was sultry, sexy woman.The little dress she wore was utterly appropriate, even conservative, but the woman inside it was so very alive and responsive. Her tongue met his as he deepened the kiss, and with a sigh of surrender she curled her arms around his shoulders and melted into him.

His body responded, and he was just man enough—just drunk enough—to be grateful. For the first time since Ceci’s death, he was happy he hadn’t died with her.

Ceci.

He stepped back from Stephani, breaking the kiss and putting a few feet between them. Her chest rose and fell rapidly, her lips were slightly swollen and parted. It would be so easy to step forward and take her in his arms. Press her against the stone wall, feel her body beneath his.

But she was Ceci’s cousin.

And she was too valuable . . . no, too important for him to treat her in such a cavalier, self-indulgent way. She was Stephani. The person he counted on most.

“I’m so sorry,” he murmured, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Steph, I . . . I have no excuse. That was so wrong of me.”

Her lips closed and she lifted her chin, though he thought,for just a fleeting second, that her lower lip quivered a bit. “Think nothing of it, sir,” she said firmly. “It was the Scotch talking, that’s all.”

“Yes, the Scotch . . .” His voice trailed off for a moment.“Forgive me, Steph.”

“There’s nothing to forgive.” Her voice sounded oddly thick,but he thought maybe it was because they were still ensconced within the stonewalls of the alcove.

“You put together this wonderful party. You always have my back. You must know how I appreciate all you do.”

She met his gaze and smiled a little. Was she sad? Why wasn’t she angry? He took a breath, then remembered the little sound of acquiescence she’d made as she wrapped her arms around his neck and the word she had been going to say stuck in his throat.

She had welcomed the contact. Wholeheartedly. What the hell did this mean?

He wasn’t sure how to ask, and after too long of a hesitation, she put her hand on his arm and gave a little squeeze. “It’s my job,” she said softly. “Try to sober up. I’ll see you in the office tomorrow.”

Then she slipped away, her footsteps echoing on the stone steps.

Raoul had no desire to go back to the party. Instead he picked up his dusty jacket, made his way into the garden—Ceci’s garden—and found a vacant bench.

Then he took the little silver flask from his jacket pocket,unscrewed the cap, and took a big swig.

Stephani was off-limits. Tomorrow he’d reset the boundaries and they’d go back to normal. And if he ever did decide to . . . have a romance again, it wouldn’t be with his assistant.

No matter how alluring she’d turned out to be.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Donna Alward in The Crown Prince’s Bride and reprinted by permission of Swerve.

 

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2017 Book #96 – Deja New by MaryJanice Davidson

517ZtT8pyKLTitle: Deja New
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 11/29/17
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Insighters series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Leah Nazir lives in a world where the past can and will come back to bite you in the ass. No, not teething ghosts—reincarnation! As an Insighter, it’s Leah’s job to delve into the murky and (often) deadly former lives of her patients. And she knows a thing or two about danger after killing her mother’s murderer with the help of new beau, Archer Drake.

Isn’t he the best?

Now, it’s time to take their relationship to the next level, but not in any way Leah could have predicted. She and Archer head to Chicago to meet his parents—and try to figure out why Archer’s dad killed his brother decades ago. When someone tries to sabotage their investigation, Leah must decide if the Drake family past is a deal breaker…

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book continues the story of Leah Nazir and Archer Drake, whose relationship began in the last book in the series, Deja Who. It’s hard to pin down exactly but it sounds like this book picks up a few months to a year after the last book left off. Leah and Archer are visiting Archer’s family, hoping that Leah’s Insighter ability will be  what makes the difference in solving a years old mystery: why Archer’s father (Dennis) killed his brother (Donald – Archer’s uncle). Angela Drake is Archer’s cousin and is thrilled that he’s bringing Leah home to meet the family. An Insighter herself (but with far less strength to her abilities than Leah’s) Angela is having a bit of celebrity shock over meeting one of her heroes. It’s this and the new detective on the case, Jason Chambers, that Angela hopes will finally help settle the family’s questions once and for all. But Dennis does not want to cooperate. He’s serving what he feels is a just sentence and has no interest in being freed. The family is quite convinced that he didn’t kill his brother though, so why is he so determined to stay in jail? And why is Angela’s mom been a ghost ever since that fateful day so many years ago?

Overall I liked this book a good amount. Similar to the last book in the series this book has a really creative plot, and this book has a great twist ending! Also similar to the last book, the conversations can get a bit confusing since they’re so fast paced and there’s usually multiple people involved. But that’s part of the charm of the book, I think, is that there is so much going on in it. And the characters are all really funny too, and the situations they all get into are pretty comical as well. I liked that we got to hear more about Leah and Archer, while also seeing a relationship develop between Angela and Jason in this book. I thought this was a great continuation of the story line and I love meeting the different members of the Drake family. I would be interested to see what happens with Leah and Archer’s situation in the future or to hear more about one of the brothers/cousins, I hope for the possibility of more books in the series! I’d recommend giving this one too try, it’s fun and light and I think very interesting.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was funny and fast-paced and has a very interesting plot. I would recommend giving this one a try!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Romancing the Scot BLOG TOUR!!

RomancingtheScot_Banner

Romancing the Scot was released TODAY Tuesday, November 14th, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book under Book Reviews on my site (hopefully within the next day!). See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt! This was a good read and I would recommend checking it out!

SUMMARY

Hugh Pennington—Viscount Greysteil, Lord Justice of the Scottish Courts, hero of the Napoleonic wars—is a grieving widower with a death wish. When he receives an expected crate from the continent, he is shocked to find a nearly dead woman inside. Her identity is unknown, and the handful of American coins and the precious diamond sown into her dress only deepen the mystery.

Grace Ware is an enemy to the English crown. Her father, an Irish military commander of Napoleon’s defeated army. Her mother, an exiled Scottish Jacobite. When Grace took shelter in a warehouse, running from her father’s murderers through the harbor alleyways of Antwerp, she never anticipated bad luck to deposit her at the home of an aristocrat in the Scottish Borders. Baronsford is the last place she could expect to find safety, and Grace feigns a loss of memory to buy herself time while she recovers.

Hugh is taken by her beauty, passion, and courage to challenge his beliefs and open his mind. Grace finds in him a wounded man of honor, proud but compassionate. When their duel of wits quickly turns to passion and romance, Grace’s fears begin to dissolve…until danger follows her to the very doors of Baronsford. For, unknown to either of them, Grace has in her possession a secret that will wreak havoc within the British government. Friend and foe are indistinguishable as lethal forces converge to tear the two lovers apart or destroy them both.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

May McGoldrick author pic.jpgAuthors Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick (writing as May McGoldrick) weave emotionally satisfying tales of love and danger. Publishing under the names of May McGoldrick and Jan Coffey, these authors have written more than thirty novels and works of nonfiction for Penguin Random House, Mira, HarperCollins, Entangled, and Heinemann. Nikoo, an engineer, also conducts frequent workshops on writing and publishing and serves as a Resident Author. Jim holds a Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance literature and teaches English in northwestern Connecticut. They are the authors of Much Ado About Highlanders, Taming the Highlander, and Tempest in the Highlands with SMP Swerve.

BUY IT HERE! 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0746MLYFZ
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/romancing-the-scot-may-mcgoldrick/1126839723
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781250166906
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/romancing-the-scot
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=7v8tDwAAQBAJ

EXCERPT

51HC8Rw+H2LExcerpt: Romancing the Scot by May McGoldrick

Looking the shipping crate over for damage and seeing none, he retrieved an iron crow from a workbench. Jo was standing inside the doors, eyeing the box doubtfully from a safe distance.

“Come closer. It won’t bite.”

“Not a chance. From the smell of that thing, a person would think you’re importing cadavers. Have you also taken up being a Resurrectionist as a hobby?”

He patted the crate affectionately. “This sweet thing has been sitting in the bowels of a ship from Antwerp. You know what the hold of a ship smells like?”

“Actually, I don’t.” She held a handkerchief to her nose and drew closer. “But I think you’re correct with the reference to ‘bowels.’”

Hugh took the first nail out. “Well, stand back, since you’ve become so prissy. Though I recall a younger version of you leading the rest of us through bogs and marshes that smelled no better.”

“Of course! But as I recall, we had frogs and turtles and the occasional dragon that needed hunting,” she replied with a smile. “Very well. Open it and let’s see this treasure of yours.”

Prying off the top took him only a moment. Throwing it to the side, he pulled back the tarp that covered the basket and then stared curiously at the dark green rags bundled at the bottom.

Leaning in, Hugh’s enthusiasm evaporated as a horrid realization settled in. This was no pile of old clothing. A shock of blond hair. A shoe. A hand. The body of a dead woman lay curled up in the gondola.

“Bloody hell.”

“What is it?” Immediately, Jo was at his side. “Good God!”

Hugh climbed in and crouched beside the body. He took her hand. She was cold to the touch. His heart sank. The crate had been shipped from Antwerp. To be trapped for so many days with no water, no food, in the cold and damp of the ship’s hold. He had no idea who this woman was or how she came to be in here.

The thought struck him. Perhaps it wasn’t an inadvertent act. Perhaps she was murdered and her body had been dumped into the crate.

Dismay and alarm clawed at him as he pushed away the matted ringlets of golden hair. She was young. He lifted her chin. The body had none of the stiffness of postmortem. He stared at her lips. He may have imagined it but they seemed to have moved.

“Bright . . .” The whisper was a mere rustle of leaves in a breeze.

The fingers jerked and came to life, clutching at his hand.

“She’s not dead,” he called to Jo, relieved. “Send for the doctor. I’ll take her to the house.”

His sister ran out, calling for help, and he lifted the woman. She emitted a low groan. Her limbs had been locked in the same cramped position for so many days. Hugh propped her over the side of the gondola.

“Stay with me,” he encouraged. “Talk to me.”

Holding the woman in place, he clambered from the basket and then gently lifted her out, cradling her in his arms. She weighed next to nothing.

As they went out into the rain, he feared she was about to die. The exertion of trying to breathe showed on her face. He’d seen this on the battlefield. The final effort before death.

Starting up the path, he stumbled, not realizing the woman’s skirts were dragging on the ground. He staggered but caught himself before they went down. Her head lolled against his chest, her face gray and mask-like. She appeared to be slipping away. It would be a shame that she’d survived the crossing only to perish now.

A dagger point of anger pierced Hugh’s brain as he recalled another dismal day when he’d lifted two other bodies, wrapped in burial shrouds, from a wooden box.

“Talk to me,” he ordered. “Say something.”

As he made his way up the hill toward the house, a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky above Baronsford. Thunder shook the ground and the sky opened, unleashing fierce torrents of rain on them.

His wife. His son. Hugh hadn’t been there for them. They’d died as he and the British army were being chased by the French across Spain. He’d been trying to save his men’s lives, not knowing that those most precious to him were suffering.

“You’ve survived a horrifying ordeal. Give me the chance to save you.”

The woman struggled weakly in Hugh’s arms, and her head tipped back. He watched as her lips parted, welcoming the wetness of the falling rain.

“We’re almost there.”

“Bright . . .” she murmured.

He looked into her face and saw she was trying hard to open her eyes.

“Yes, brighter than that crate,” he said, encouraged by her effort. Any movement, however small, gave him hope. “And you’ve been in there for Lord knows how long.”

2017 Book #88 – Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

51kCQ5EhneLTitle: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Date finished: 10/17/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Pages in book: 231
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

My rating:  1.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Darcy Fitzwilliam, of Pemberley, Ohio. This information may sound familiar but that’s only because of the Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (who **spoiler** doesn’t live in Ohio). The Darcy in this story though is a woman, currently residing in New York City, but is currently home to visit her mother, who recently had a heart attack. While home she keeps running into Luke Bennet, a guy who made her life hell in high school. Add in some ups and downs, some misunderstandings, and a best friend named Bingley Charles and we’ve got a story!

Overall I didn’t like this book. I wanted to so very badly because the idea for the story line was such a great one. And I loved how creatively the author started out and how the story came together as its own story while also having so many fun parallels to the classic Pride and Prejudice story. I just had so much trouble with the character development in this novel, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The conversations were awkward and I thought that Darcy was wildly immature for such a successful 29-year old woman. I couldn’t picture a woman like that obsessing over whether a guy liked her or not. Overall the book felt more teen angst-y to me than I would have expected for an adult novel, but this may work for some readers. It wasn’t for me but it was a creative story and I can see how it would appeal to many.

The bottom line: I didn’t particularly care for this book. The premise behind the story I thought was really creative and I liked how the story line went overall. I just didn’t like the character development much and I thought the characters were all really unrealistic and in many areas immature. Interesting story but overall this wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #74 – The Other Girl by Erica Spindler

51EoaKhZDyLTitle: The Other Girl
Author: Erica Spindler
Date finished: 9/1/17
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Pages in book: 247
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A horrific crime. One witness—a fifteen year old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one known for lying and her own brushes with the law.
Is it any surprise no one believed her?

Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community.

When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist.

Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop—the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Miranda Roder, a cop in harmony, Louisiana. She’s called into work late at night on a murder case, the son of the President for the local college was murdered in a brutal way. While searching his house though, she discovers a news article about her arrest from twenty years ago when she was 15. And then her fingerprints are found at the crime scene even though she wore her gloves the whole time. And the Police Chief, her boss, suspects her of killing the guy. Miranda gets taken off the case but she can’t let it go and so decides to do some investigating of her own. Along the way, her new relationship with her partner Jake and her friendship with local bartender Summer lend Miranda the resources she needs to look into who might be framing her. And as more bodies start to pile up, she needs all the help she can get to solve this case.

Overall I liked this book a lot. The story line was interesting and original and kept me on my toes. The plot twists were really good but I thought Miranda could’ve put the pieces together a little quicker. The conversations between characters at a couple points were stilted or lacked depth but it wasn’t so bad. And I felt like the plot was inventive enough that it was easier to look past some of the smaller downfalls. This was a pretty quick read and I didn’t want to put it down. I liked that the author tried to throw off the reader a little but at the same time they felt a tiny bit off within the story line at a couple points. Like with Jake’s sister towards the end and Jake’s cryptic message it made me start to think things but it never explained really why it ended up being included in the story. Overall though it was good, ending was a little sad but I really liked it.

The bottom line: This book was awesome! I loved the mystery and all the surprise twists, I thought the plot was really well done. Some of the conversations were awkward but other than that this was really good, I would recommend.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #69 – Ready to Run by Lauren Layne

519Qgtj62YLTitle: Ready to Run
Author: Lauren Layne
Date finished: 8/15/17
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Loveswept
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Pages in book: 203
Stand alone or series: I Do, I Don’t series Book #1
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: firefighter Luke Elliott, a known player who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan, but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.

Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Jordan Carpenter, a tv producer from New York City, and Luke Elliott, a firefighter from a small town in Montana. Normally these two might never have crossed paths but luckily Jordan is trying to cast the star of a new tv show called Jilted (The Bachelor but for guys with commitment problems) and Luke has left three women at the altar, and by all accounts seems perfect to be the star of the show. And so Jordan travels (*cough*stalks*cough*) to Montana to convince him in person. Only problem is once she gets there she finds herself distracted by.. well by Luke himself. While he sure is surly he also has a heart of gold. But while Jordan’s career rests on Luke’s answer, can she really throw her life away and open herself up to this new opportunity with Luke?
Overall this was a really good book. I really got hooked into the story and I didn’t want to put it down. There was some great chemistry between the main characters and I thought the author did a great job of really developing their relationship, especially considering how short the book was. This was a fairly quick and easy read, and it would be just perfect for reading on your summer vacation. My only warning is don’t think too hard in like a feminist mentality, Jordan seemed genuinely happy with her decisions and I like that the author accurately portrays how much her character likes the small town life. My only real complaint with this one is that I thought it would’ve been really fun to read about Luke actually being on the show but it sounds like we’ll get a glimpse of that with the second book in the series, Runaway Groom. I liked this one a lot and I can’t wait for the next one in the series!!

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was a sweet story and it was a good read. I really got hooked into the story, I didn’t want to put it down! I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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2017 Book #68 – Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

41WS6IgGCGLTitle: Seeing Red
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 8/14/17
Genre: Fiction, romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Kerra Bailey is a TV journalist hot on the trail of a story guaranteed to skyrocket her career to new heights. Twenty-five years ago, Major Franklin Trapper became a national icon when he was photographed leading a handful of survivors to safety after the bombing of a Dallas hotel. For years, he gave frequent speeches and interviews but then suddenly dropped out of the public eye, shunning all media. Now Kerra is willing to use any means necessary to get an exclusive with the Major–even if she has to secure an introduction from his estranged son, former ATF agent John Trapper.

Still seething over his break with both the ATF and his father, Trapper wants no association with the bombing or the Major. Yet Kerra’s hints that there’s more to the story rouse Trapper’s interest despite himself. And when the interview goes catastrophically awry–with unknown assailants targeting not only the Major, but also Kerra–Trapper realizes he needs her under wraps if he’s going to track down the gunmen . . . and finally discover who was responsible for the Dallas bombing.

Kerra is wary of a man so charming one moment and dangerous the next, and she knows Trapper is withholding evidence from his ATF investigation into the bombing. But having no one else to trust and enemies lurking closer than they know, Kerra and Trapper join forces to expose a sinuous network of lies and conspiracy–and uncover who would want a national hero dead.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Kerra Bailey, a local TV reporter in Dallas, Texas, and John Trapper, a surly private investigator who used to work for the ATF. John came up with what seemed like a conspiracy theory about the Pegasus Hotel bombing from years ago, and got fired because of it. But now that Kerra has interviewed John’s father (the hero of the Pegasus bombing) John’s theories don’t seem all that crazy now that Kerra and his father’s lives are threatened. Kerra and John team up to try and get to the bottom of it, but along the way John begins to develop feelings for her.
Overall I did really like this book. One of my favorite parts about it was that the first plot twist/surprise happened pretty early on in the book, which is why I can’t write too much about what happened without giving it away. The character development in this was good but not what I would call on par with some of Brown’s previous books. That being said, there were some great twists and turns in the plot of this novel, I definitely didn’t expect the ending to work out the way it did. Once we got to the big standoff scene, things happened kind of quickly and the ending (which was a little sad) wrapped up fast. There were some pieces of the plot that didn’t exactly fit for me, it seemed like it was a bit of a reach for the reasoning behind the twist to fit into the story. I still really liked the plot overall though and the book. I always love Sandra Brown’s books and while this book wasn’t my all-time favorite of hers (for the record that would be Deadline) it was still a great read!

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, there were some great twists and turns in the story line, some of which I didn’t see coming. And the relationship between the two main characters had great tension and good development. There were some pieces of the story that didn’t fit quite right for me but overall I still really liked it. I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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