Wednesday, July 15, 2020

BLOG TOUR - A Sweet Mess


DESCRIPTION:

Korean-American author Jayci Lee delights with A Sweet Mess, a delicious and light-hearted romantic comedy that readers will devour and ask for more.

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see the gorgeous Korean hunk again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible...by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

Buy this book: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250621108

MY THOUGHTS:

Title:   A Sweet Mess
Author:  Jayci Lee
Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   320
Date of Publication:   July 14, 2020
My Rating:   5 Stars

Aubrey Choi struck out on her own, leaving her strict Korean parents to make something of her life. She has pride in the fact that she has created a very successful bakery. However, one incredibly harsh review from a food critic could very well be enough to cost her business to plummet. Any success she has gained could go down the drain. Meanwhile,Aubrey enjoyed a delicious one night stand with a very sexy stranger she met one night. What are the odds that the man she slept with and the food critic are one and the same?

Landon Kim feels like he will never be the same after an incredible night with a beautiful woman. When he discovers the cake he was to criticize for his column was not intended for him - and baked by the woman he met just the one time - he seeks to make things right for Aubrey in order to help her save her business. He has an idea that just might work for the both of them. By so doing, he will not only help her, but he will be able to save the respect and reputation he has worked to achieve. Now the question is whether or not his plans for working together for several weeks will work considering the intense attraction they both share.

The plan Landon has in mind? Three weeks at a villa in wine country to help Aubrey prepare as a guest star on a famous show on television. Can the pair spend three weeks pretty much alone and leave their hormones at the door?

With likable characters, witty dialogue, a romance that made me swoon, as well as the most wonderful ending, all worked together to make A Sweet Mess a thoroughly delightful story. I also enjoyed reading a book that was part of Korean culture.

Many thanks to St. Martin's Griffin and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion. 

Please enjoy the following excerpt:

Excerpt from A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee. Copyright 2020 by the author and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Griffin.

“How’s this?” He’d chosen a small table at the back corner. When Aubrey nodded, he pulled out her chair and took a seat across from her.

Their proximity and relative privacy made the air between them hum with electricity. Their knees brushed every time either of them shifted in their seat, sending bolts of desire through him. A sharp intake of breath and a parting of her lips revealed Aubrey wasn’t immune to their magnetic attraction.

Landon had dated his fair share of beautiful women. There was no reason to act like a gawky teenager, but his roaring heart and churning stomach said otherwise. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt nervous around a woman. Her hand was resting less than four inches away from his, but he broke out in a cold sweat working up the nerve to brush his knuckles against it.

He started when Aubrey traced her fingers across the back of his hand with a shy smile. “So, Landon from out of town, what’s your dream?”

His blood had gone south at her touch, leaving nothing for his brain, but he was even more dumbstruck by her question. The woman threw him off balance on all fronts.

“Not big on making small talk, are you?” He managed to keep his voice steady despite his spinning head and hardening body.

“If I’m going to have a chat with a complete stranger, I might as well have an interesting one.” A deep blush stained her cheeks, and her lashes fluttered to hide her eyes. “Besides, you’re leaving tomorrow. I was hoping we could pack a lot into tonight.”

Landon sucked in a sharp breath. Her shy and earnest declaration moved him, and he fought the urge to pull her across the table to kiss her senseless. Instead, he lifted Aubrey’s hand and brushed a kiss on her pale inner wrist. A wolfish grin spread across his face when she gasped at his touch.

“My dream was to open my own restaurant.” To his shock, the truth stumbled out of him. A truth he’d refused to face for the past decade. Maybe he was desperate to give her an interesting conversation. A memorable one. “Someplace spacious and comfortable where people can enjoy a delicious meal without pretense or a six-figure salary.”

“That sounds amazing. What kind of food are we talking about?”

“Whatever inspiration strikes me. If I had to label it, New American–slash–Korean fusion will have to do.”

“I love Korean food. I would totally eat there.” Aubrey sat forward, her eyes round and sparkling. “So you’re Korean? I am, too.”

“Yes, I’m Korean, and you would be more than welcome to eat at my restaurant.”

“Are you a chef?”

“No, but I trained to be one. Have you heard of the CIA?”

“The Central Intelligence Agency? You learned to cook for undercover agents while dodging bullets and jumping out of airplanes?” She cocked her head to the side and gazed at him with solemn interest.

“I . . . um.” Landon was fairly certain she was messing with him, but insulting her wouldn’t be the best way to seduce her. “It’s . . .”

Aubrey’s pale skin turned from pink to crimson before she erupted into laughter, her frame trembling like a 6.8 earthquake. She held up a finger, gripping her side, pantomiming she needed a minute. He crossed his arms over his chest and leveled her with a steely glare, which wasn’t an easy feat considering her infectious mirth.

“I’m s-sorry, but you had to see your face. You couldn’t decide whether a small-town girl like me knew about the Culinary Institute of America or whether I was pulling your leg.”

Mischievous little fox. He needed to get her back for that. “Actually, that’s incorrect.” He drew closer to her, his lips close to her ear, and lowered his voice to a deep, gritty whisper. “I was debating whether or not I should tell you the truth, because if I did, I’d have to terminate you.”

Aubrey stared at him in silence for a second, and then a delighted grin spread across her face. “This is fun.”

“Yeah, it is.” Landon was surprised to find he meant it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had fun. He certainly had pleasant and interesting times, but fun times? No, this felt alien.

His earlier hesitation forgotten, he ran his knuckles down the side of her face, relishing the feel of her warm, silky skin. Aubrey leaned lightly into his hand, and her eyes slid shut. She was so responsive to his touch. Landon’s mouth went dry, and all he could think was more. He wanted to make her laugh again. He ached to make her fall apart in his arms with her swollen lips calling out his name.

“You’re beautiful,” Landon murmured, unable to look away from her.

“So are you.” Aubrey’s lips curved into a barely there smile that squeezed his heart.

He’d gone to the brewery for a pint to wash away the bitter taste of his sorry day, but he’d discovered something far more intoxicating—something potent enough to tip him off-balance. Aubrey made his blood sing and his rational thoughts melt away. The floor seemed to grow solid and strong, and his body settled heavily into his seat like he’d dropped anchor across from her—as though she had a gravitational pull all her own and he was helpless against it.

He’d led a nomadic life for a decade. He didn’t know how to stay still for long. The smart thing to do would be to run the hell away from this woman, whose mere proximity made it unimaginable to even leave the table.

But smart wasn’t part of his vocabulary at the moment. Greedy, feral, and desperate passion overwhelmed all else. He stood abruptly from his seat, and Aubrey’s mouth parted in surprise. Then he grasped her hand and raised her to her feet.

“Do you want to get out of here?” His eyes bored into hers, his desire and urgency displayed for her to see.

“Yes.”



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JAYCI LEE writes poignant, sexy, and laugh-out-loud romance every free second she can scavenge and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Jayci lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. She is the author of A Sweet Mess.

Author website: https://jaycilee.com/
Author Twitter: @authorjaycilee

Monday, July 13, 2020

SPOTLIGHT TOUR - Puppy Kisses

Title:  Puppy Kisses
Author:  Lucy Gilmore
Series:  Forever Home #3
Genre:   Romance
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:  384
Date of Publication:  June 30, 2020
My Rating:  5 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

These adorable service puppies are matchmakers in the making…


Dawn Vasquez never takes life too seriously. But when she rescues a golden retriever named Gigi, Dawn begins to imagine what it’d be like to settle down and let someone rely on her for a change. Unfortunately, Adam Dearborn—a handsome, hopelessly buttoned-up cattle rancher in need of a guide dog—has also fallen in love with the little ball of fluff and stubbornly insists that no other animal will do.

Adam isn’t sure what drives him to fight to keep Gigi for himself, but he suspects it has something to do with his growing—and unfortunate—attachment to Dawn. Her whirlwind spirit and sunny disposition might make her a delight to be around, but they also make her unsuited for the difficult life of a rancher. He should be able to put her out of his head. But what’s a love-struck cowboy to do when what he wants and what he needs have never seemed so far apart? And can he allow himself to take a chance on everything Dawn has to offer: puppy kisses, puppy love...and her.

BUY LINKS:
Amazon | B & N | Apple
Kobo | BAM | Bookshop

MY THOUGHTS:

Readers of this delightful Forever Home series by Lucy Gilmore no doubt have enjoyed meeting the Vasquez sisters and the wonderful service dogs they train and match with ideal owners. In this book we have Dawn's story as she is in the process of rescuing a golden retriever, even though the only way she can do this is by stealing her, whom she immediately names Gigi. 


Dawn has her next client, Adam Dearborn, due to a near comedy of errors when she rescued Gigi. What Adam hadn't realized at first, is that Dawn has gotten herself in a bit of a pickle, and Gigi has become a pawn in order for Dawn to be kept out of trouble. Having asked Adam's brother Zeke for help to grab the dog, once they get her, they are stopped for speeding. Things began to become clearer when Zeke informs the sheriff who stopped them that the dog was for Adam as he needed a service dog to help him on his ranch. This certainly comes to a surprise to Adam and now his life will never be the same again.

So Adam now has a dog, one in need of care as the neglectful situation she was in has left her injured and malnourished. There is a hitch, however. Gigi is in no way trained to be a service dog. What is more is that Dawn has already fallen for the puppy. Adam was just a way for Dawn not to get into trouble. That is hardly enough for Adam to consider. Nope. He already loves the pup and now decides she might be just what he needs for the ranch. 

Dawn reluctantly agrees to train Gigi to work with Adam on his ranch. This itself will be problematic. The trio will have to spend quite a bit of time together. Considering the fact that Dawn and Adam are more than drawn to one another just might get in the way of them working together in behalf of the dog. Dawn ponders her future from time to time? The fact that her sisters have found love. Is Adam the one for Dawn? Will she find that chance at happiness? 

This was an enjoyable story. One filled with give and take as the relationship between Dawn and Adam grew. Sensuality and sexuality, along with the growing friendship that develops, the fact that the stories in this series revolve around dogs, all work together when it comes to Puppy Kisses being a wonderful addition to the series. The previous two books in the series are Puppy Love and Puppy Christmas

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca and to NetGalley for this ARC to review. This is my honest opinion.



Please enjoy the following excerpt:


Mentioning her lips had to have been some kind of tactic. Just the word—lips—had him remembering their shape and size, the way the bottom one was so much plumper than the top, how good they felt when pressed against his bare skin. She always warned him to scrub hard before he met up with any other women, since she left a trail of lipstick all over his body.

He wasn’t seeing any other women, but there was no way he was telling her that. She already had him under her spell. He didn’t need to be under her power as well.

“Thank you for the offer,” he said tightly. “But I already like—”

“—the one you can’t have,” Dawn finished for him. She was definitely closer now, the unmistakable nonscent of her mixing with the hay and dirt to whirl his senses. “That seems to be a sort of thing with you, doesn’t it?”

He ran his hands through his hair, since it seemed suddenly important that he do something with them. It was also important to do something with this situation. If he let her continue like this, unchecked and uninhibited, there was good chance neither one of them was getting any work done today.

“As I recall, I’ve had you plenty of times already,” he said, a challenge in his voice. “In fact, I bet I could have you right here and now.”

Adam didn’t know if he was the one who’d drawn closer to her or if she’d stepped up to him, but there was no longer anything between them. Not a puppy, not air, definitely not common sense. The jut of her breasts pressed softly against his chest, the toes of her shoes touching the tips of his work boots.

His hands suddenly decided they had minds of their own. Moving forward to clasp her around the waist, they touched silky fabric and heat and a patch of skin where her shirt didn’t quite reach her waistband. That alone should have been enough to stop him—what kind of a person wore a tiny, silken shirt to a working ranch?—but of course he didn’t. That touch of skin set off something inexplicable inside him.

It always did. That was the problem. Words could be ignored and the sound of her laughter pressed deep down inside him, but one graze of his fingertips on her body and he was lost.

“I’ve always wanted to have sex on a pile of hay,” Dawn said, calling his bluff. She arched into his touch, allowing his hand to slide up her back. He encountered nothing but soft skin and the gentle curve of her spine, both of which promised more of the same, should he give in and really cop a feel. Which was tempting for a lot of reasons, including the fact that Dawn was stacked in ways that seemed wholly against nature. “Surely there must be one or two of those in the barn we could try?”

“There are.” He brought his lips close to her ear, though he was careful not to press against the gently pounding pulse below it. The moment the kissing started, all other bets were off—including the one that had a Great Dane puppy at their feet and a golden retriever puppy napping under Phoebe’s desk. That was the one thing he knew for sure. Dawn had come out here with the sole intention of luring him into lowering his defenses, in using her incredible body and the promise of what it could do to get her own way. She wanted Methuselah, and she’d stop at nothing to get her.

Well, two could play that way. In fact, he was becoming something of an expert at this particular game.

“We could slip in there right now, and no one would know where we are,” he murmured. Dawn arched her neck to give him better access, but he didn’t kiss, didn’t touch. Only teased. “I could throw you into the biggest stack of hay and rip this tiny scrap of a shirt from your body.”

A slight, guttural sound indicated how much she liked the direction this conversation was going. Typical. With Dawn, the anticipation, the clandestine nature of their meetings, was half the fun.

Who was he kidding? Where that woman was concerned, it was probably all the fun.

“No one will think to look for us for hours,” he added, still in that low, crooning voice. “It’ll just be me and you, our bodies slick with sweat.”

Dawn’s hips pressed against his, her arms coiling around his neck so that her entire body could melt against him. This was how she always struck, coiled and soft and yielding.

So he struck back.

“Well, that and the snakes.”

Instead of pulling back, Dawn only laughed and clasped her hands tighter around his neck. “Good thing I happen to like snakes,” she said. Her mouth brushed lightly against his, fluttering like a pair of butterfly wings. “Like the alligators, they make such nice shoes. Purses too.”

Even though Adam’s body thrummed with anticipation, burning hot in all the places it touched hers, he kept his tone level. “We also get the occasional badger, even though they’re pretty rare in these parts. Rats are almost a certainty.”

“Why, Adam Dearborn, are you trying to sweet-talk me?”

No, dammit. He was trying to do the exact opposite. Why did this woman refuse to act like a normal human being? She should run at the mention of rats, not press her hips against his until he ached.

“I’m just making sure you know what you’re getting into, that’s all,” he said. His voice sounded strained to his own ears. “Things can get pretty nasty out here in the wilderness.”

“That’s funny,” she purred. “So can I.”

***

Excerpted from Puppy Kisses by Lucy Gilmore. © 2020 by Lucy Gilmore. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lucy Gilmore is a contemporary romance author with a love of puppies, rainbows, and happily ever afters. She began her reading (and writing) career as an English literature major and ended as a die-hard fan of romance in all forms. When she's not rolling around with her two Akitas, she can be found hiking, biking, or with her nose buried in a book.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

BLOG TOUR - Guarded by the Soldier



DESCRIPTION:

He’ll put his life on the line…

If it means protecting a little boy and his pregnant mom.

After months of searching, security expert Ryker Tillman finally finds Olivia Habush and her young son—just as they are attacked by armed mercenaries. Now safeguarding Olivia, her unborn child and little Aaron is the former special ops soldier’s new mission. But to save the family burrowing into his heart, Ryker must figure out why someone wants them dead…

BUY LINKS:
B&N | Amazon | Google


Title
:   Guarded by the Soldier
Author:  Laura Scott
Series:   Justice Seekers #2
Publisher:  Love Inspired Suspense
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   224
Date of Publication:   July 1, 2020
My Rating:   5 Stars

MY THOUGHTS:

Ryker Tillman is a security expert who has his own reasons for spending months trying to locate Olivia Habush and her young son Aaron. Right when he finds them they are facing an assailant. Not only is Ryker prepared to do whatever he can to protect Olivia and Aaron, his concern is increased tenfold due the fact that she is pregnant with another child.

Olivia lost her husband and brother when they took on the lives of criminals. Their deaths do not seem to be enough as it seems someone would rather see her dead as well. When Ryker steps in there is no doubt that Olivia is not sure that she can trust him. After all, who is he really? How was he able to find them? 

Although this book is just a little over two hundred pages, the author manages to fit in an excellent storyline that is packed with intensity, danger and romance. I loved Ryker and Olivia together. While their tension was palpable so was their attraction to one another. I hadn't read the first book in this series, but had no problems at all following this story. I am, however, hoping that this series has more to offer. 

Many thanks to Love Inspired Suspense and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.


Please enjoy the following excerpt:
A thud woke Olivia from a sound sleep. Had someone fallen? She pried open her eyes and peered at the cheap alarm clock on the nightstand.

Two in the morning. She glanced down at Aaron who was curled next to her. The noise hadn’t woken him.

Another thud and a muffled shout sent fear spiking through her body. What in the world was going on?

She slid out of bed, steadying herself with a hand on the wall. Her bladder urged her toward the bathroom, but before she could take a step, she heard a sharp report.

A gunshot?

No! Please, Lord, help us! She bent over and scooped Aaron into her arms, although she wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. Where was Ryker? Duncan? Mike?

She had no weapon of any sort. Not that she’d know what to do with one anyway. There was a bathroom within the suite, so she went inside, locked the door and glanced around, her thoughts whirling.

The Blake-Moore Group must have found her. Again. She wanted to cry, to rant and scream in frustration, but forced herself to swallow the cries burning the back of her throat.

Think. Think! Her gaze landed on the toilet. The motel hadn’t been updated in years, and the toilet tank was similar to the one she had at home, with a heavy ceramic cover on it.

“Mommy?” Aaron raised his head, rubbing at his eyes. “Shh. We have to be quiet.” Olivia set him down in the bathtub, the safest place she could think of. “Stay here, okay?”

“I don’t wanna.” His lower lip trembled and she was very much afraid that he’d begin wailing at any moment.

She lifted her heart in prayer. God, please protect us! “Mommy?” Her son lifted his arms toward her, his gaze begging.

“Shh. Please, Aaron. I need you to be quiet. We don’t want the bad guys to find us.” She hated scaring him but was more worried about what would happen if he cried loud enough to draw attention. She quickly lifted the heavy porcelain cover off the tank and held it over her head, positioning herself behind the door.

If anyone came inside, she’d whack him over the head, hopefully with enough force to knock him unconscious.

Time passed in slow motion. The noises coming from the main suite area concerned her. What if something happened to Mike and Duncan?

To Ryker?

Her heart squeezed painfully in her chest and her arm muscles quivered beneath the weight of the toilet tank lid. She blinked back tears, trying to convince herself that Ryker would survive.

That they would all survive.

“Olivia? Are you in there?” Ryker’s familiar voice made her knees go weak.

Thank You, God!

“Yes, we’re in the bathroom.” She lowered the lid of the toilet tank and moved out from behind the door. After getting the tank cover back in place, she opened the door, grateful beyond belief to see Ryker standing there. “What happened? Is everyone all right?”

“Yeah, but we need to hit the road.” His face was drawn into tight lines, his gaze grim. “Now.”

“They found us?” Silly question, since she knew they must have. “How?”

Ryker slowly shook his head. “They must have followed us. I didn’t see them, but they must have had a line on our vehicle. Get your things together.”

“Okay.” She didn’t need to be told twice. She quickly used the bathroom, then carried Aaron back into the bed-room. Her zebra bag was in the main living space, and she only had the one set of clothes, so there wasn’t any-thing to grab other than Aaron’s plastic lion and toy plane.

When she stepped into the suite, she stopped abruptly, her gaze landing on the two men dressed in black lying on the floor. One of them was bleeding badly; the other didn’t show any signs of blood.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Scott is honored to write for the Love Inspired Suspense line, where a reader can find a heartwarming journey of faith amid the thrilling danger. She lives with her husband of twenty-five years and has two children, a daughter and a son, who are both in college. She works as a critical-care nurse during the day at a large level-one trauma center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and spends her spare time writing romance. Visit Laura at 
www.laurascottbooks.com

Saturday, July 11, 2020

SPOTLIGHT TOUR - A Cowboy State of Mind

Title:   A Cowboy State of Mind
Author:   Jennie Mars
Series:  Creedence
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre:   Romance
Format:   Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   416
Date of Publication:   June 30, 2020
My Rating:   4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

The town of Creedence, Colorado, gets involved in horse rescue in bestseller Jennie Marts’ brilliant new series.

Zane Taylor has a gift for communicating with animals, particularly horses, but he’s at a loss when it comes to women. He’s a scarred and battered loner who has sworn off love—except he can’t seem to stay away from Bryn Callahan.

Bryn Callahan has a heart for strays, as evidenced by the assembly of abandoned animals that have found their way to her doorstep. But she is through trying to save damaged men. She vows to date only nice guys, which is a category that does not include Zane Taylor. Too bad he’s the one who sets her pulse racing every time she’s around him.

A chance encounter with a horse headed for slaughter brings Zane and Bryn together. Although starting a horse rescue ranch wasn’t in the plan, now Zane and Bryn have a chance to save not just the animals, but maybe each other…

BUY LINKS:

MY THOUGHTS:

Let me start this review by saying that I absolutely loved this couple! Zane Taylor and Bryn Callahan had a wonderful story. Zane is quite gifted when it comes to animals, but the fact that he is badly scarred (as to how is revealed as the book develops) makes him feel rather uncomfortable around many people, so the last thing Zane expects is to find love. Bryn is a sweetheart, a person who would give the shirt off her back to anyone in need.

Zane assists Bryn when her car acts up, causing Bryn to be late at her waitress job, which she subsequently loses. When they see a badly neglected horse outside of the diner where she works, Bryn feels she must find a way to take the animal in. The horse is only one of many strays that Bryn and Zane take in and soon they start a horse rescue ranch. All the while, the pair are more than drawn to one another, even though it is the last thing either wants or expects. 

Both Bryn and Zane carry a lot of baggage. With Bryn she was taken advantage of by her ex, and with Zane, the very reason he is scarred proves that his scars are not just on the outside, but lie very deep within his soul. The pair are opposites in more than one way, and the journey they travel to find love is mixed with both joy and pain. 

A Cowboy State of Mind is a very promising first book in the Creedence Horse Rescue series. I loved the story, their shared love of animals, even the slow burn romance. All of this worked together to keep my interest throughout, and makes me really look forward to the next book in the series. Actually, I hope Brody, the vet who had a frequent role in this book, gets his own story.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
The still-nameless dog jumped into the cab as Zane Taylor opened the door of his pickup, and he absently patted its head and rubbed behind its ears. The dog leaned into him and got that blissed-out look on its face, and Zane’s tension eased a little as it always did when he interacted with an animal. The late spring sun warmed Zane’s back, and as soon as he turned his attention away from the dog, he felt the weight of the decision he bore on his shoulders. His former boss, Maggie, had been nagging him to come back to his old job on her Montana ranch. She’d taken in a herd of wild stallions, and she needed him. He’d gotten by so far with vague replies, but it was time to give her an answer. Time to get back on the road and out of Creedence. Except the reason he was so fired up to leave was also the reason he wasn’t ready to walk away.

He shrugged the soreness from his shoulders. He’d had a good morning with Rebel, the headstrong black stallion he’d been working with for weeks now. Maybe the horse could feel the warmth in the air as well. Although it was Colorado, so they could still get a snowstorm or two before spring reluctantly slid into summer.

“Nice job today, horse whisperer,” Logan Rivers, his current boss, and friend, hollered from the corral where he was putting another horse through the paces.

Zane waved a hand in his direction, ignoring the comment, as he turned the engine over and pulled the door shut. He wasn’t fond of the nickname, even though Logan had been using it since they were in high school and working summers at Logan’s family’s ranch.

Zane could admit grudgingly that he did have a gift with horses, especially the dangerous or wild ones, somehow connecting with the animals better than he ever did with people.

The black-and-white border collie mix rested her head on Zane’s leg, and he stroked her neck as he drove toward Creedence, where no one was a stranger and everyone knew not just your business, but your cousin’s as well.

He lowered the windows and turned on the radio, contemplating the errands he needed to run after he grabbed a plate of biscuits and gravy at the diner. The thought made his mouth water. So did the thought of hopefully seeing a certain blond waitress who had been taking up way too many of his thoughts these last few months.

He slowed, his brow furrowing, as he recognized that same waitress’s car sitting empty on the side of the road. The car was an old nondescript blue sedan, but there was no mistaking the colorful bumper stickers stuck to the trunk. A bright blue one read “What if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about?” and the hot-pink one above the back taillight read “It was me. I let the dogs out.”

His heart rate quickened as his gaze went from the empty vehicle to a hundred yards up the road, where a woman walked along the side of the highway, her ponytail bouncing with each step and a light-colored dog keeping pace at her heels. Which was pretty impressive, in and of itself, since the dog had only three legs.

But then, everything about Bryn Callahan was kind of bouncy, and she was just as impressive as her dog. The woman was always upbeat and positive. Even now, with her car sitting busted on the side of the road, her steps still seemed to spring, and the bright sunlight glinted off her blond hair.

He drove past the abandoned car and onto the dirt shoulder as he slowed to a stop beside her. “Need a ride?”

She turned, her expression wary, then her face broke into a grin, and it was like the sun shining through the clouds after a rainstorm.

“Hey, Zane,” she said, the smile reaching all the way into her voice as she grasped the door handle. She looked steadily into his eyes, her gaze never wavering, never sliding sideways to stare at the three-inch, jagged scar starting at the corner of his eye and slicing down his cheek. Most people couldn’t keep their eyes off it, but Bryn acted as if it wasn’t there at all. “I sure do. I was supposed to start my shift at the diner ten minutes ago.”

She opened the door, and the dog bounded in, hitting the floorboards, then springing onto the seat to wiggle and sniff noses with the border collie. They could have powered a wind farm, the way their tails were wagging and their little butts were shaking.

“Hey, Lucky.” He leaned in as the dog leapt over the collie’s back and into Zane’s lap, where it proceeded to drench his face in fevered licks and puppy kisses. Lucky was like a hyper three-legged Tigger as he bounced from Zane’s lap back to the collie, over to Bryn, and back to Zane.

“Lucky, get off him,” Bryn scolded. She tried to push her way into the truck as she got her own slobbery reception from the collie.

Zane chuckled and grabbed her hand to help her into the cab. But his laugh stuck in his throat as heat shot down his spine and his mouth went dry. He swallowed and tried to focus on assisting her, instead of staring at the area of bare skin he glimpsed as the top of her dress buckled and gaped from her movement. It was just the side of her neck, but it was the exact spot he’d spent too much time thinking about kissing.

“Silly mutts.” She laughed as she tossed her backpack on the floor and plopped into the seat. Her hand was soft, but her grip was solid, and for a moment, he wondered what would happen if he didn’t let go. “Wow, what a greeting,” she said, as she released his hand to buckle herself in.

Zane’s eyes were drawn to her legs like bees to honey. The woman had great legs, already tan, and muscular and shapely from her work at the diner. Her white cross-trainers were scuffed with the red dirt from the road, and she had a smudge of dust across one ankle that Zane was severely tempted to reach down and brush away so he could let his fingers linger on her skin.

Bryn wore a pink waitress dress, the kind that zips up the front, with a white collar and a little breast pocket, and the fabric hugged her curvy figure in all the right spots. For just a moment, Zane imagined pulling down that zipper—with his teeth. His back started to sweat just thinking about it.

Simmer down, man. He took a deep breath, utilizing the stress-reducing exercise he’d learned in the military, and tried to think of something witty to say. He didn’t usually let himself get carried away with those kinds of fantasies. But he didn’t usually have Bryn in his truck, filling his cab with the sound of her easy laughter and the scent of her skin—traces of honeysuckle and vanilla and the smell of fresh sheets off the line on a warm summer day.

“That dog is serious about kissing. I haven’t had that much action in months.” He winked, then laughed with her, pulling his hand back to ruffle Lucky’s ears as the dog settled into the seat next to the collie. He tried to play it off like a joke, to settle his pounding heart, when what he really wanted to do was pull her into his lap and kiss her face and throat the way Lucky had done to him. Well, not exactly the same way.

Bryn snorted and scratched the ears of the collie, who was softly whining as she pressed into Bryn’s shoulder. “He’s just happy to see you. It’s been a while, ya know?”

“Yeah, I know.” It had, in fact, been months since he’d seen her.

“Well, Lucky has noticed you haven’t been around much.” She dropped her gaze and her voice as she focused on petting the dog. “We both have.”

Both?

“Are you saying you missed me?”

“I didn’t say missed. I said noticed.”

His shoulders slumped. Of course she hadn’t missed him.

She playfully nudged his elbow, and he felt the heat of her skin against his arm.

“Of course I missed you. You all but disappeared after the great Christmas pie bake-off in December.”

He chuckled as he shook his head. “I still can’t believe we made fifteen pies in four hours.”

“I still can’t believe you wore a frilly apron with a glittery cupcake on the front.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What other kind of cupcake is there? And I liked that glittery color. I’m thinking of having it added to the paint job on my truck.”

A laugh burst from her. “I dare you to.”

He let his voice drop and offered her what he hoped was a flirtatious grin. “I do enjoy a good dare.”

She chuckled, then lowered her gaze to the dog’s shoulder, where she scratched its fur. “So, why didn’t I hear from you? Was it something I said or did?”

Yeah, it was everything you did—everything that made me want and hope and wish for something more. “Nah. I was going to call you, but we got real busy at the ranch. Then I heard you started dating some rough-stock cowboy, and I didn’t want to overstep.”

“Is it overstepping to be my friend?”

He cocked his head, eyeing her. “Is that what you want me to be? Your friend?”

“Of course. I didn’t give you my number for you to not call me.”

Wrong question, dumbass. Should have asked her if all she wanted was to be his friend. He offered her a shrug. “I’m not much of a talker.”

“That’s perfect. Because I can talk up a blue streak, and I’m always on the lookout for a good listener.”

He chuckled. “I can do that. I can probably even throw in an occasional grunt of agreement just so you know I’m paying attention.”

She giggled softly, and the sound swirled in his chest, melting into him like molasses on a warm pancake. “That sounds great.”

***

Excerpted from Cowboy State of Mind by Jennie Marts. © 2020 by Jennie Marts. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennie Marts
is the USA Today bestselling author of award-winning books filled with love, laughter, and always a happily ever after. She is living her own happily ever after with her husband, two dogs, and a parakeet that loves to tweet to the oldies, in the mountains of Colorado.


Author Website: https://jenniemarts.com/



Friday, July 10, 2020

BLOG TOUR - Somebody's Daughter


Today I am quite pleased to be a part of the Blog Tour for Somebody's Daughter by Carol Wyer. 

DESCRIPTION:

One by one the girls disappeared…

When the frail body of a teenage girl is discovered strangled in a parking lot, shards of ice form in Detective Natalie Ward’s veins. As Natalie looks at the freckles scattered on her cheeks and the pale pink lips tinged with blue, she remembers that this innocent girl is somebody’s daughter…

The girl is identified as missing teenager Amelia Saunders, who has run away from home and her controlling father. Natalie’s heart sinks further when it becomes clear that Amelia has been working on the streets, manipulated by her violent new boyfriend Tommy.

A day later, another vulnerable girl is found strangled on a park bench. Like Amelia, Katie Bray was a runaway with connections to Tommy, and Natalie is determined to find him and track down the monster attacking these scared and lonely girls.

But when a wealthy young woman is found murdered the next morning, the word ‘guilty’ scrawled on her forehead, Natalie realises that the case is more complex than she first thought. Determined to establish a connection between her three victims, Natalie wastes no time in chasing down the evidence, tracing everyone who crossed their paths. Then, a key suspect’s body turns up in the canal, a mole in Natalie’s department leaks vital information and everything seems to be against her. Can Natalie stop this clever and manipulative killer before they strike again?

An unputdownable crime thriller from an Amazon bestselling author that will have you sleeping with the light on. This gripping rollercoaster ride is perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Rachel Caine. Prepare to be totally hooked!


MY THOUGHTS:

Title:   Somebody's Daughter
Author:  Carol Wyer
Series:  DI Natalie Ward #7
Genre:   Mystery/Thriller
Publisher:   Bookouture
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   
Date of Publication:  April 2, 2020
My Rating:  5 Stars

Natalie Ward's life has had a lot of changes, including a tragedy that causes her grief and pain more often than not. She has been promoted to DCI and has moved in with Mike Sullivan, who his head of Forensics. Though she might spend more time behind her desk, when she gets a call about the body of a teenage girl being found, she immediately goes to the scene.

Oh how this reminds her of her daughter Leigh...but, no, she cannot think of Leigh at this time, she must begin looking for any clues that will lead to the killer. As per usual, the family of a murdered victim is always questioned, and so when Natalie talks to the girl's father, she begins to see that the pain of the girl's death goes even deeper when it is quickly discovered where the girl had been living and the activities that she was involved in, which no doubt led to her murder.

When another girl is found murdered, Natalie and her team immediately see an undeniable connection. But then another woman is found murdered, and the MO is different. Meanwhile, Lucy Carmichael has also been promoted and she is Natalie's DI, and plays a huge role in helping to solve the murders. 
.
Throughout this engaging story by Carol Wyer, readers are given interest to Natalie's private life, including her relationship with Mark, while trying to get close to his daughter, Natalie's teenage son Josh and also how she feels about her promotion. In addition, there is another hidden element to Natalie's life that has become revealed, and no doubt readers will see more of that in the next book in the series. Again, this is another thrilling book in the DI Natalie Ward series. Book 8 cannot come soon enough! 

Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 
Winner of The People's Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer is a best-selling author and stand up comedian who writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction.

A move to the 'dark side' in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in LITTLE GIRL LOST, the #2 best-selling book on Amazon, #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible and Top 150 USA Today best-seller.

A second series featuring DI Natalie Ward quickly followed and to date her novels have sold over 750,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets, including into Norwegian, Italian, Turkish, Hungarian Slovak, Czech and Polish.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ''Irritable Male Syndrome' and 'Ageing Disgracefully' and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines 'Woman's Weekly' featured in 'Take A Break', 'Choice', 'Yours' and 'Woman's Own' magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy... who is very, very grumpy.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

SPOTLIGHT TOUR - Relentless in Texas



Title:   Relentless in Texas
AuthorKari Lynn Dell
Series:  Texas Rodeo #6
PublisherSourcebooks Casablanca
Genre:   Romance
FormatKindle ARC
No. of Pages:   448
Date of Publication:   June 30, 2020
My Rating:   4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:


There’s a reason they call this cowboy relentless


Gil Sanchez was once rodeo’s biggest and baddest hotshot. Now he's thirteen years sober and finally free of the pain that ended his skyrocketing career. Given one last, near-miraculous shot to claw his way back to rodeo glory, he can't let fantasies of happily-ever-after dull his razor edge...but Carmelita White Fox is every dream he’s never let himself have. 

And from the moment he saw the spark of challenge in her eyes, he hasn't been able to look away. 


Carma may come from a Blackfeet family noted for its healing abilities, but even she knows better than to try to fix this scarred, cynical, and incredibly sexy cowboy. Yet she’s the only one who can reach past Gil’s jaded armor, and the fiercely loyal heart buried beneath the biting cynicism is impossible to resist. Gil needs Carma just as much as she needs him, but as the pressure builds and the spotlight intensifies, they’ll have to fight like hell to save the one thing neither can live without.


BUY LINKS:
Amazon | B & N | AppleKobo
BAM | Bookshop
MY THOUGHTS:

After a devastating injury and reconstructive hip surgery, former rodeo star Gil Sanchez developed an addiction to opiates. It is now thirteen years later and Gil in sober and has developed a successful trucking business, although he misses his days in the rodeo. That is not the only thing Gil misses. He craves a woman named Carmelita White Fox. The pair shared a passionate night together, but then parted ways. There is just something about Carma and Gil can't get her out of his mind.

Carma is an impressive and proud member of a Blackfeet tribe, gifted with healing abilities. Gil has become a part of her life once again, especially after she was mugged and he came to her rescue. Carma can see that Gil is a broken man, but no matter how wonderful her gifts are, she feels she can never heal his spirit, although he is a strong, powerful man in many respects. Even with the powerful visceral attraction that simply cannot be denied, they must work through some challenging situations.

Not only does Gil need to see what could be between him and Carma, he is now playing the primary role in his teen son's life. Can he juggle his parenthood, love life and career in a way that will bring everyone involved joy and contentment?

Relentless in Texas is the 6th book in the Texas Rodeo series. Having not read the previous books in the series, this book did perfectly well as a standalone, although I do wish I had the opportunity to read the previous titles. I found this book to be a wonderful read, and could sense the connection of characters that no doubt were in previous books. I love how this book dealt with both ranch and rodeo life. Usually when I read cowboy romances, it is one or the other. Kari Lynn Dell did a remarkable job including both in this book, as well as a wonderful romance that built between the protagonists. 

Gil's addictions were not swept under the rug in this book, so I felt a strong sense of healing while reading this, because it proves that people can grow and succeed. With Carma, I loved the peek into her Native history and how she became a strong person in her own right. One facet of their relationship was summed up (for me anyway) in how Gil enjoyed her rich laugh. When I got to that point, I just knew I would love their romance - no matter their conflicts - as they worked to find a wonderful and happy future together. Ms. Dell is a new name for me and I do hope to get a chance to read the previous books in this series, as well as to see what else this series has to offer.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:

If following Carmelita was a bad idea, it was going to be one of the more interesting mistakes Gil had made. He didn’t just want her. He craved her…and that rarely boded well for him. But just this one time…

When the back door of the bar thumped shut behind them, Carmelita stopped and dragged in a long, deep breath. Her words came out in puffs of vapor. “God, that was suffocating.”

The closeness of the overcrowded bar? The argument with her cousin? The attention? “Why did you come?”

“My grandmother volunteered my services. Fund-raisers are the worst, though. Everyone is so…” Her hands fluttered in a broad circle, encompassing the tearful outpourings of gratitude that marked benefits.

“You’re used to being in the spotlight.”

“I prefer an audience to a crowd,” she said flatly. And the difference was in the separation. She could walk off a stage without interacting with the masses.

She tipped her head back to gaze into the heavens and her body language slowly shifted, as if she was drawing in the stillness. When she started off through the parking lot, she once again moved with fluid grace. Gil matched her stride, closing the space between them so his coat sleeve swished against hers.

“Bing told me about you, and introduced me to your… friend,” she said.

With that slight hesitation, she summed up Gil’s uncertainty about his relationship with Hank, past and future. “I’m his sponsor,” he corrected stiffly.

“Mmm.” A sound that translated to if that’s what you want to tell yourself. “We lack many things up here on the rez, but we do not have a shortage of recovering addicts.”

“I watched Hank grow up. I understand him.”

She angled a searching glance beneath lowered lashes. “I see.”

Yes, she did. There was something in the way she looked at him—through him—that made him want to both hide and move closer. He did neither. The breeze caught her hair, sending a strand fluttering and carrying the scent of pine needles and snow down from the mountains. He swung around to face her as they stopped beside the door to his truck, and when he looked into her eyes, he felt as if he was losing his balance, falling into one of the bottomless mountain lakes—only much warmer. He could just keep sinking and sinking…

She caught him, pressing her hands flat against his chest, but her smile was tinged with regret. “I wish I could stay. You and I would be very good together, I think.”

The image of Carmelita naked and lush under his hands sent heat shuddering through him. Then he registered what she was saying.

“You’re leaving?” Gil frowned at her in disbelief.

The hitch of her shoulder set the moonlight shimmering through her hair. “I can’t leave my grandparents with a sick baby.” “His mother didn’t seem overly concerned.” Gil’s voice was harsh, along with his judgment of her charming cousin. Even when he’d been regularly popping Vicodin like breath mints, he’d managed to stay clean on the weekends he’d had his son.

Carmelita smoothed her palms over the front of his jacket. “Next time?”

“I won’t be back.”

She angled her head to give him another searching look, then nodded. “You’re taking Hank home. That explains it.”

“What?”

“This.” Her hand moved down, pressing with unerring accuracy over the clutch in his gut. She reached up with the other to brush cool fingers over the knot of tension in his forehead. “And this.”

He wanted to lean into that touch—into her—and let her wipe his mind clean for a few hours.

“I’m sorry I can’t do more.” She stroked a blissful circle on his temple. “But I can give you something for that headache.”

“A fistful of ibuprofen?”

“A promise.” Her eyes were steady, her tone certain. “Hank will be fine. He’s stronger than you think, and whatever you’re keeping from him, he’ll understand it was for the best. So will the others.”

Gil jerked his head back. “I never said anything to Bing about that.”

Her hands fell away and she angled her gaze upward, eyes going distant. In the Panhandle the stars were painted on the sky. Here it seemed as if they were standing among them.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just feel it. But I’m almost always right.”

Without warning, she tipped onto her toes and pressed her mouth to his. Her lips were cool, but at the touch of her tongue the glowing embers they’d been gathering between them burst into flame, whooshing through him like a prairie fire. His thoughts, the last of his reservations, the ability to think at all were consumed by a wall of heat. He gripped the lapels of her coat to drag her hard against him, and she fisted her hands in the sides of his jacket, pressing even closer. Her tongue slid over his, the friction setting off more sparks.

A palpable shudder ran through her. She braced her hands on his shoulders, slowly, inexorably separating her mouth from his. Then she smiled, a copper-skinned Madonna with fathomless eyes, and pressed a palm over his thundering heart. “You should get some rest, Gil Sanchez. You’ve got a long drive tomorrow.”

*** Excerpted from Relentless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell. © 2020 by Kari Lynn Dell. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

KARI LYNN DELL brings a lifetime of personal experience to writing western romance. She is a third generation rancher and rodeo competitor existing in a perpetual state of horse-induced poverty on the Blackfeet Nation of northern Montana, along with her husband, son and Max the Cowdog.