Tag Archives: contemporary romance

The Lone Leopard by Sharifullah Dorani Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Politics, religion, and culture clash as one man must return to his home decades after civil war and a question of his cowardice threatened to upend his standing in society in author Sharifullah Dorani’s “The Lone Leopard”.

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The Synopsis

THE LONE LEOPARD is a heart-wrenching, yet hopeful story of family, friendship and love set against the nationalistic and religious conflicts of Afghanistan’s last four decades. 15-year-old Ahmad finds it hard to live by tradition among Russians and ‘Communist Afghans’ in the liberal Makroryan, known as the ‘Little Moscow of Kabul’. It becomes harder with the arrival in the neighbourhood of the 16-year-old Frishta. Naturally, their conflicting outlooks on tradition clash. Frishta calls Ahmad a shameful coward, and Ahmad accuses Frishta of being a ‘bad woman’ who has picked a war with half of the population and their way of life.

Does Ahmad really lack courage and loyalty? Is Frishta really dishonourable? It is 1990s Afghanistan, where a man is stripped of character if he is proved a coward, and where a woman is merely seen as valuable goods, and even a perception of unchastity will lose her all her worth. And, worse, is what Ahmad does to Frishta justifiable? By the time Ahmad and Frishta have answers to these questions, it is too late, and their lives will never be the same. The mujahedeen run over Kabul, and the civil war begins, compelling Ahmad to flee to Russia and then to England.

But Ahmad does not realize that one day he will be forced to return to the homeland where his past catches up with him and puts him in a situation in which he has to choose to either live like a coward, by killing a once-loyal friend, or die with courage.

The Review

The author did an incredible job of crafting a story that both brought to life and examined the history and culture of Afghanistan and infused complex character dynamics with rich storytelling. The contemporary drama explored the historical fiction genres and Middle Eastern history expertly, and the tragedy that often comes to those caught in the crossfire of war and conflict. The exploration of Afghanistan’s somewhat troubled past with women’s rights and the conflict that emerges when faith and belief systems come into play clashes well with the exploration of outside influences bringing innocent civilians and villages into the list of casualties of a war they had nothing to do with.

Yet it was the emphasis on relationships and their impact on the cast of characters that really captured my attention. At the root and heart of this grand narrative of culture and history stands the story of a young man who along with his friends and family witnesses heartbreak, violence, and tragedy and how it impacts his relationships moving forward. The relationship between the protagonist Ahmad and his mother Mourr held a special place in my heart, as it speaks to the strength and resilience that many mothers have as they sacrifice everything for their children. This also lends to the protagonist’s future relationships with others down the road, and the complex questions of morality and culture that play into his development as a character.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and engaging, author Sharifullah Dorani’s “The Lone Leopard” is a must-read historical fiction Middle Eastern and contemporary romance drama novel. The author’s thoughtful and brilliant writing style compliments the volume of history and culture that he brings into the narrative, and the mesmerizing and emotional story that rests at the heart of this novel will have readers hanging onto the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

SHARIFULLAH DORANI was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claimed asylum in the UK in 1999. He has undergraduate and master’s degrees in Law from The University of Northampton and UCL, respectively. He completed his PhD on the US War in Afghanistan at Durham University and authored the acclaimed America in Afghanistan. Sharifullah frequently returns to Afghanistan to carry out research. He is currently South Asia and the Middle Eastern Editor at The Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN International) and has written nearly two dozen articles on Afghanistan (and the broader region), international relations and law. He lives with his family in Bedford, England.

The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad by Natasha Deen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman fully immersed in her Caribbean ancestor’s traditions seeks to find love for herself while also dealing with an overbearing older brother who has just become a widower in author Natasha Deen’s “The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad”.

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The Synopsis

From award-winning, #OwnVoices author Natasha Deen comes a new funny, honest, YA novel following one girl as she tries to win over her crush before she leaves for college.

Let’s be clear. No matter what her older brother, Robby, says, aspiring screenwriter Tuna Rashad is not “stupidstitious.” She is, however, cool with her Caribbean heritage, which means she is always on the lookout for messages from loved ones who have passed on. But ever since Robby became a widower, all he does is hang out at the house, mock Tuna for following in their ancestors’ traditions, and meddle in her life. 

Tuna needs to break free from her brother’s loving but over-bearing ways and get him a life (or at least, get him out of hers!). Based on the signs, her ancestors are on board. They also seem to be on board with helping Tuna win over her crush, Tristan Dangerfield. The only hiccup? She has to do it before leaving for college in the fall. A ticking clock, a grief-stricken brother, and a crush who doesn’t believe in signs. What could possibly go wrong? 

The Review

This was a heartwarming and emotional YA read. The balance of drama and contemporary romance that makes its way into this YA novel was great to see, as the narrative left plenty of room for both humorous dialogues between the cast of characters and profound, meaningful moments that defined the themes of grief, respect for one’s ancestors and culture, and romance and love in all its forms. Including LGBTQ-driven romance in the narrative with one of the characters added another level of depth to the emotional backstory and journey one character underwent. 

The novel was definitely a character-driven narrative. The heart and unique character traits that protagonist Tuna gave the reader were fun to read, as she infused her unique brand of humor and wit into her relationships, showcasing her desire to define her own life while respecting and caring for those around her. The importance that her Caribbean culture had on her character development was so interesting and made for such a memorable reading experience.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Natasha Deen’s “The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad” is a must-read YA contemporary romance of 2022. With a diverse cast of characters and truly emotional narrative beats that will keep the reader invested throughout this narrative, readers are going to both love and care for the protagonist and this cast of characters deeply, making this one book you won’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

NATASHA DEEN writes for kids, teens, and adults, and believes the world is changed one story at a time. As a Guyanese-Canadian and a child of immigrants, she’s seen first-hand how stories have the power to shape the world. When she’s not writing, Natasha enjoys visiting schools, libraries and other organizations to help people to find and tell the stories that live inside of them. She also spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Natasha is the author of the Lark Ba series, the Guardian series, and In the Key of Nira Ghani. Visit Natasha at www.natashadeen.com.

To Render a Raven (Hollystone Mysteries Book 3) by W.L. Hawkin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A vengeful vampire steals a powerful High Priest’s daughter and forces a coven to work together to bring the child home in author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Render a Raven”, the third book in the Hollystone Mysteries series. 

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The Synopsis

Estrada is High Priest of Hollystone Coven, a shaman and magician. But is he a match for a vengeful vampire? When Diego steals his daughter from her crib on the eve of her first birthday, the Hollystone witches converge. The same night, a woman is murdered and another abducted. All three scenes are marked by roses that point to Michael Stryker, Estrada’s lover and best friend—a man with a strange dark “virus” brewing inside him. As the witches journey up the Pacific coast, emotions run raw as the close confines of a yacht heighten the tension between his jealous lovers. And then they meet the ravens . . .

Diego wants blood. Estrada wants his baby back. What will the high priest sacrifice to bring his daughter home?

A sexy Hitchcockian thriller that demystifies Vampire and illustrates the power of Love.

The Review

By far the most action-packed and yet most emotional of the Hollystone Mysteries series. The author did such an incredible job of building upon the mythos and cultures of the supernatural and paranormal. From unique changes to the vampire mythos and lore to the infusion of Celtic practices and explorations of high strangeness, the author brilliantly captures the magic and wonder of the world in which these characters inhabit.

Yet what stands out to me is the way the author was able to bring real human connection and emotion into this very supernatural world. The emotional connection the protagonist Estrada has with both the mother of his child and his current love interest really pulls at the heartstrings, and the heart-pounding terror that the abduction of Estrada’s child brings to mind is sure to play on the frayed nerves of any parent reading this story. The theme of facing our own inner darkness and learning to sacrifice our needs to protect those we love came through strongly thanks to these relationships and helped elevate the overall dangers the narrative brought to life.

The Verdict

Harrowing, engaging, and captivating, author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Render a Raven” is a must-read contemporary romance and fantasy novel and the perfect addition to the Hollystone Mysteries series. The intensity and passion the characters hold onto one another and the elevated danger that that intensity brings to the narrative were an instant draw for readers, and the heartbreaking twists and turns will have readers hanging off of the author’s every word until the climactic final chapter. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes edgy urban fantasy with a twist of murder. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of local witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, a regular reviewer with the Ottawa Review of Books, Indie publisher and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself. Wendy completed a BA in Indigenous Studies at Trent University, and later, Post-Baccalaureate Diplomas in Humanities and a Teaching Certificate at Simon Fraser University, Canada. Fascinated by her Celtic and Tuscarora ancestry, she explores history, myth, and spirituality in her work. Born in Toronto, Canada, she currently lives in British Columbia.

The Bookshop Rescue (Furever Yours Book 9) by Rochelle Alers Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two people hurt by the past and brought together by a shared love for animals find themselves drawn together and forced to face the past in order to have a future in author Rochelle Alers’s “The Bookshop Rescue”, the ninth book in the Furever Yours series.

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The Synopsis

Bookshop owner—and recently heartbroken—Lucy Tucker never imagined how dramatically life would change once she started fostering Buttercup, a pregnant golden retriever. The biggest change? Growing a lot closer to the businessman next door, Calum Ramsey, especially after the two of them help Buttercup welcome her five puppies into the world. One romantic night later, and they’re expecting a baby of their own! Stunned at first, steadfastly single Calum is now dutifully offering marriage. But Lucy doesn’t need rescuing. She wants the true-blue happy ending they both deserve.

The Review

The emotional growth these two people shared with one another and their own tragic pasts really made this story shine so brightly. The instant attraction they feel for one another and their hesitancy after a painful past and the fears they brought made this story feel real and alive on the page. The small-town setting and intimate setting really allowed the intimacy of the characters and their relationship to thrive and grow in this narrative.

As a pet owner and pet parent, the shared love for the pregnant Golden Retriever and how they took care of the golden retriever together was so amazing to read. It served as a great metaphor for their circumstances later on, as a surprise pregnancy will put these two on a wild and insane journey of romance and responsibility. The balance found between the whirlwind romance of their narrative and the realities of life beyond the initial romance were great to see portrayed here.

The Verdict

Captivating, engaging, and heartwarming, author Rochelle Alers’s “The Bookshop Rescue” is a must-read modern-day romance and an emotional story overall. The intimate nature of this romance and the realism and honesty with which their relationship was examined made this story so entertaining, and the natural progression of their romance will have readers hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

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

https://rochellealers.org/

Olympian Love (Olympian Love Trilogy Book 3) by Andrya Bailey Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A heartbreaking end to her whirlwind romance comes back full circle after a chance encounter with her former flame’s rival brings back her true love, and the agonizing reality of what happened between them in author Andrya Bailey’s “Olympian Love”, the third book in the Olympian Love Trilogy.

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The Synopsis

The third book in the Olympian Love trilogy – not a stand-alone volume.

When she returns to Houston after leaving Nikos in Greece during one of the most troublesome times of his life, Sabrina is miserable and heartbroken. She promised Maggie she would never talk to him again – that was part of their deal which resulted in her ultimate sacrifice.

Her graduation is upon her, but she can’t get Nikos out of her mind. A chance encounter with Aleksy, Nikos’s rival, reopens her wounds, and when she learns Nikos will be back in town, she’s beside herself. Would he ever forgive her? Tormented between breaking her promise to Maggie, which could have dire consequences, and afraid of losing Nikos forever, she faces an agonizing reality. Will she ever have the courage to answer him ‘why’ and reconquer the man she loves?

The Review

The delicate balance of heated passion and heartbreaking romance is powerfully explored early on in this read. The author brilliantly explores the tragedy and painful experience of love lost and the experience of having to sacrifice one’s love for a powerful cause. The imagery and tone the author strikes with this narrative are so vivid in detail and make the scenes come to life in the reader’s mind. I will say that while the book can be read as a stand-alone for newcomers like me to the series, having read the previous books in this trilogy will definitely add more depth and emotional connection to these amazing characters.

The character growth and the heat in the main character’s interactions are definitely the heart of this story. The raw emotions that Sabrina experiences as she returns to her home and struggles with the sacrifices she had to make are heartbreaking to read, and feel so real that readers want to reach out and comfort the young woman. Yet the balance to that emotion comes with the raw heat and passion that strikes between her and Nikos once more in this story, and as the complexity of their relationship is explored, so too are the depths of their need for one another, creating a very heated and adult narrative.

The Verdict

Passionate, entertaining, and captivating, author Andrya Bailey’s “Olympian Love” is the perfect final chapter of this enrapturing Greek romance. The highs and lows of Sabrina’s journey and the exhilarating backdrop of Greek history and mythos were extremely engaging to read about, and fans will be eager to dive deep into her entanglements with Nikos once more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Andrya Bailey is an award-winning contemporary romance writer. She enjoys traveling and visiting museums and historical landmarks where she can learn about art and history, which she usually incorporates into her stories. She loves to write love stories with strong alpha males and exotic scenarios – after all, what better romance fantasy is there?

Olympian Passion, the first book in the Olympian Love trilogy, has received the 5-star seal from Readers’ Favorite and is the 2016 New Apple Literary e-book Contemporary Romance – Solo Medalist winner. Olympian Heartbreak, the second book, is a 2018 New Apple Literary “official selection” in the romance category.

Follow her Facebook page to find out more at facebook.com/andryabailey and on Twitter: @andyb0810.

Sign up for her newsletter: eepurl.com/dgdaqD

Website: andryabailey.com

Forever Home by Elysia Whisler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A retired Marine hoping to see her dreams of owning a motorcycle repair and sales garage finds her late father’s motorcycle stolen from her shop, and the detective who has found himself enamored with her goes to work to solve the crime in author Elysia Whisler’s “Forever Home”.

The Synopsis

If home is where the heart is, Dogwood County may have just what Delaney Monroe needs.

Newly retired from the Marine Corps, Delaney is looking for somewhere to start over. It’s not going to be easy, but when she finds the perfect place to open her dream motorcycle shop, she goes for it. What she doesn’t expect is an abandoned pit bull to come with the building. The shy pup is slow to trust, but Delaney is determined to win it over.

Detective Sean Callahan is smitten from the moment he sees Delaney, but her cool demeanor throws him off his game. When her late father’s vintage motorcycle is stolen from Delaney’s shop, Sean gets to turn up in his element: chasing the bad guy and showing his best self to a woman who’s gotten under his skin in a bad way.

Delaney isn’t used to lasting relationships, but letting love in – both human and canine – helps her see that she may have found a place she belongs, forever.

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The Review

This is such a well-balanced and engaging story. The way the author is able to weave themes of PTSD, how military service impacts those who come home, loss and opening ourselves up to the possibility of love into this narrative set against the backdrop of a crime mystery and a slow-burn romance was truly entertaining. The vibrant yet muted imagery of the story’s setting really felt cinematic in its delivery, making this such an incredible read.

What was so mesmerizing was the character’s arcs in this narrative. The heavy exploration of romance between the two protagonists felt so realistic to real life. I’ve always felt there is a time and place for both magical-inspired fairytale romances and real-world, gritty romances that take time to build, and that’s what makes this novel shine so brightly. The strength and courage these two find in one another, both in challenging each other and then in working together, was inspired to see, and how each helped the other overcome past pains were so fun to watch come together in this novel.

The Verdict

A memorable, emotional, and gripping romance, author Elysia Whisler’s “Forever Home” is such a unique and entertaining women’s fiction and contemporary romance read. A true one-of-a-kind read that shows romance in an entirely new setting and creates a love that feels very real and relatable all at once, this is one novel you will not want to miss. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Virginia, in true military fashion. If she’s not writing she’s probably working out, coaching, or massaging at her CrossFit gym. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @ElysiaWhisler

Facebook: @ElysiaWhisler

Instagram: @Elysiawhisler

Goodreads

Here is an Excerpt From Forever Home

ONE

Three Rebels Street.

Delaney should’ve known that this was where she’d end up. This was the kind of street a woman went down when all the big changes in her life were happening at once. You simply couldn’t hit a retirement ceremony, the road and a funeral all in one week and not end up on Three Rebels Street.

Small is not the right word. I prefer quaint.” The real estate agent, Ronnie, gazed around the studio apartment situated on Three Rebels Street, and nodded her head in approval. “You said it was just for you, right? Which means it’s the perfect size.”

Stop trying to sell me on the apartment. Ronnie had described it as an “alcove studio”—not just a studio—because even though the living room and kitchen were all in one large space, the bedroom was situated in a little nook, with its own door. Delaney didn’t care. The living quarters didn’t really matter. Right now the place was dumpy. Dust everywhere, the ceiling fan hanging crooked with exposed wires, and debris in the corners, like the previous tenants hadn’t taken care of the place and then left in a hurry.

“We didn’t have a chance to get this cleaned before your showing,” Ronnie said, following Delaney’s gaze. “Remember, I suggested waiting until Friday.”

But Delaney hadn’t been able to wait.

Ronnie lowered her voice to a near whisper. “They were evicted. But this place cleans up nice, I promise.”

“Can we go back down to the shop?” Delaney ran her hands through her hair, rubbing the weariness from her scalp. Ronnie had whisked them through the front bay door and up the stairs, like the apartment was the prize inside the cereal box. And Delaney supposed it was—small, an add-on, not really the point. For Delaney, the shop downstairs was the entire point.

“Of course.” Ronnie’s voice was bright, forced, like she didn’t give two shits. This was probably her last showing of the day and she wanted to get home, into a hot bath with a glass of red as soon as possible. She clacked down the stairs in her high heels.

Delaney followed, the earthy clunk of her motorcycle boots the bass drum in the cacophony of their feet.

“The shop.” Ronnie swept out her arm. “Look how much space.” There was no enthusiasm in her voice. Ronnie, who probably did mostly living spaces, had no idea how to sell the garage.

Didn’t matter. Delaney sized up the shop herself: concrete floor, perfect for working on bikes. It was kind of dinged up, but that was okay, she was already envisioning painting it beige with nonslip floor paint. Modern fluorescent lighting. Large bay door, wide-open to the cool air, excellent for ventilation. A countertop with a register. Empty shelves on one side for parts and motor clothes. Showroom space for custom bikes, and enough room for at least two workspaces out front. The rest, Delaney would provide. Hydraulic lifts. Workbench. Parts tank. Tools. Parts. Bikes.

She wanted to pinch herself, but chose a poker face. Ronnie stood in the center of the floor, like she was trying to avoid touching anything, to avoid getting any grease or oil on her smart red suit. The shop was in better condition than the apartment, but it still looked like the last occupants had left quickly—or, if they’d truly been evicted, perhaps reluctantly was a better word. Nothing important remained, but the place hadn’t been swept or washed or readied for sale in any manner.

“I’ll consider this.” Delaney rubbed her chin as she strode through the shop. “It’s a little small.” It was actually larger than she’d expected. “Light’s good, but might get a little cold in the winter.” It was winter now, technically. Mid-March. Delaney loved this time of year, when winter and spring intersected, like lovers making up after a nasty fight, the weather edgy and unpredictable.

“There’s a lot of interest in this space.” Ronnie clutched her clipboard to her chest as she looked around. She could be looking at the inside of a spaceship and hold that same expression.

Motorcycle shops were going out of business, all over the place, including the one that had recently vacated. After suddenly finding herself on Three Rebels Street last week, in front of a shop-apartment combo for sale, Delaney had done her research. The previous tenants, who she now knew had been evicted, were brothers who ran a shop by day and lived upstairs by night. They sold mostly new bikes and motorcycle gear. Repairs and maintenance were basic. Their website was still up, despite the fact that Dude’s Bikes had closed. Dude’s appeared to focus mostly on male riders, leaving Delaney to wonder if Dude’s was just about dudes or if one of the owners was, indeed, named Dude. 

“What’s the story on this place?”

Ronnie glanced at her clipboard. “The owner wants to sell. After the last renters’ lease ran out, they were given the option of buying or moving. I don’t think their shop was doing well, because they couldn’t afford to buy. They weren’t even paying their rent. And they weren’t quick about moving. The rest, as they say, is history.”

If the last motorcycle shop had failed, buying would be a gamble. But any business venture was a gamble.

Life was a gamble.

“There are a couple of people looking, after you.” Ronnie continued, “About five.”

Delaney could respect white lies in the sales biz but seriously? Five? Five or so people were waiting to check out the bike shop with an overhead apartment suitable for one small, low-maintenance tenant? She had no idea how two brothers had managed up there.

She strolled through the space, wanting a good feel. She needed to touch things, inhale the shop, draw its molecules into her lungs and taste its history before she could decide on the symbiosis of her dream space. Triple M Classics—short for Martin Monroe’s Motorcycles, named after her father—would own her as much as she would it, so this relationship was going to be deep and mutual. Through the front window, she could see the parkway that ran the length of the county. At just past eighteen-hundred hours, rush hour was a jam of red taillights in the waning daylight. No amount of time would erase Delaney’s memory of her last tour here, when she had to commute to work every day. Pure hell. It would be nice to go right upstairs to her cozy little apartment after closing, rather than having to sit in that mess.

Across the street was a row of shops, including a grocery story and an Italian restaurant. Food. Check. 

On the south side, the shop butted up to the woods, which had a downward slope of grass and weeds that led to the trees. Privacy. Double check. Plus, Delaney figured if there was a tornado, that slope could count as a ditch, and would probably be the safest place to run. She laughed at herself. This wasn’t Omaha. Virginia tornado season consisted of a few warnings that rarely panned out.

Delaney withdrew the listing, printed from the internet, from her back pocket, crammed together with a grocery receipt for extra firm tofu, Tater Tots and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. “This is the price, right?” She handed over the paper. Money would be tight, but Delaney should be able to manage for a little while until things got going.

That is, if she was going to do this.

Was she really going to do this?

All her adult life Delaney had moved around, from station to station. Forts, camps, bases. Not shops. Not homes. She’d never put down roots. Never had anything permanent other than her childhood home with Dad. Never owned a thing she couldn’t cram into a duffel bag.

Ronnie looked at the paper. “No.” She sniffed. “There’s a newer listing.” She flipped through her clipboard, laid it on the counter and pointed. “Here we go.”

Delaney looked at the asking price, choked a little bit, almost thanked Ronnie for her time and left. That would be the smart thing to do. Sometimes childhood dreams just needed to stay dreams.

She strode around once more, mentally saying goodbye to everything that she’d never even made hers. Even though all of this had been a panster move, it felt like all the blood in her veins had been replaced with disappointment. She stopped by the far wall, where a ratty piece of paper hung by a sliver 

of tape. Delaney smoothed out the curled edges and read the flyer.

Fiftieth Annual Classic Motorcycle Show.

Dogwood County Fairgrounds.

The event was in July. There was a contest, including prizes. The grand prize for the winning classic cycle was five grand plus a feature article in Ride magazine.

The disappointment started to drain away. Five grand wouldn’t pay all the bills, but exposure in a major motorcycle magazine would be a boon for business. Plus, there was something about that poster, just hanging there like that.

It seemed like a sign.

Excerpted from Forever Home by Elysia Whisler, Copyright © 2021 by Elysia Whisler. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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Q&A with Elysia Whisler

Q: This is the second book in a series? Do you have plans to write more books in this series?

A: Yes! “Becoming Family” is Book 3 in the Dogwood County series. It will be out in August of 2022. I have hopes for a couple more books in the series after that, too!

Q: What should the reader know if they have not read the first book in the series?

A: So far, the early readers think Forever Home does really well as a standalone if you have not read Book 1. The only thing I’d add, if you have not read Book 1, be prepared that I always have 3 points of view. Some traditional romance readers like to see the POV go between two love interests but I always have a third POV that typically sets up the next book. This third POV does not get as much space as the other two but just be prepared for it. I know it’s unusual but I’m okay with that. 

Q: Where do you get your story ideas from?

A: My stories usually start with a single scene or idea that I build around. With Rescue You I worked around the idea of how everyone (human or animal, male or female)  can be either the hero or the saved in life, depending on the situation. With Forever Home, I wanted a super strong female lead to match up for my detective character from Book 1. My teen daughter had just finished getting her motorcycle license and it hit me … my heroine was going to be a badass biker chick. We see so many guys on motorcycles in romance and the women are always on the back. I wanted a heroine who drove her own bike and a man strong enough to love that.

Q: Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing?

A: Mostly a pantster. I usually have a broad concept of the story, have a beginning and an end and usually a midpoint idea. Then I start writing and once I’ve got the opening (first 30-50) I’ll go back and outline a little more. Then write. Then outline. Etc.

Q: What is a fun fact about you?

A: I love to read horror, especially literary horror. I read everything — I don’t care about genre, only good storytelling and solid writing — but 75% of my TBR pile is horror/thriller/mystery. 

Q: You grew up in the military and moved around quite a bit. Did you enjoy this? How do you think it has affected the stories you write?

A: Moving around was a mixed bag. I loved getting to travel and go to new places. I actually adored the traveling part — by plane, train, car. I made up stories in my head about being a fugitive running off to new lands. I’d spend a lot of plane/car time writing by hand. The hard part was getting to the new places and having to establish all new friendships and schools. I barely ever got to see extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins). I never had that community of people I grew up with. That said, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. I got to experience so many different lands, cultures, climates. Living in Alaska at a young age in particular instilled in me a great love for the natural world that I’m grateful for to this day. All of that informed my writing in a big way. There’s definitely something to be said for seeing the world, getting outside your bubble and having that experience. The best compliments I get are on my characters being complex and real and I credit that directly to all the moving around I did. When you’re always new you have to be quiet, pay attention, watch and understand. You learn a lot that way.

The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two sisters, one facing past loves, another facing motherhood, each return home for the holidays to celebrate their parent’s vow renewal, and in the process find the promise of romance in author Susan Mallery’s “The Christmas Wedding Guest”. 

The Synopsis

The last thing Reggie Sommerville wants is to come back home for Christmas. It’s only been a year and a half since her boyfriend, Jake, proposed and then broke up with her, all in one weekend, and the prospect of facing the entire town is humiliating. But when her parents reveal that they’re renewing their vows in the lavish wedding they always wanted and her mother asks her to be a bridesmaid, Reggie knows she can’t say no. No matter how much she wants to. She expected the town would be gossiping about her relationship with Jake, but she never expected to run into Toby, her first love that broke her heart all those years ago, living in town and raising his son. She always thought things between them were long over…but this Christmas is full of surprises.

Dena Sommerville has only ever wanted one thing: to have a child. But motherhood has been alluding her because she never met the right man…until she took the bull by the horns and decided to have a baby as a single mom. She knew it would be difficult and the morning sickness alone is knocking her down for the count, but she’s determined to do this on her own. So when a handsome musician checks into the inn where she works, Dena is surprised when a friendship develops. He has his own issues to work through—that much is clear. But she can’t deny there’s something between them

This Christmas, guilted into being bridesmaids at their parents’ vow renewal ceremony, Reggie and Dena Sommerville just might find the most unexpected gift of all—love.

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The Review

This was a beautiful and heartfelt romance novel for the holiday season. I’m a sucker for a good holiday romance, and the author’s perfect world-building in this little fictitious Washington town and the holiday setting really brought a certain level of man-made magic and wonder to the narrative. The exploration of how the past defines our present, overcoming our insecurities and fears, and allowing room for love in our lives were very present themes in this novel, and the imagery that this small-town setting brought along with the holiday wedding storyline made this story really shine.

What was amazing to watch unfold was the personal character growth that this amazing cast of characters showcased. The protagonists, Reggie and Dena, really were special, as their bond as a family and their very positive outlook on romance as a whole was a nice change of pace for the typical characterizations that protagonists in a romance novel will have. Toby’s very emotional background and experiences really showcased the journey he went on as well, and his struggle with his childhood and past relationship and his desire to do what’s best for his son above himself really elevated the romance that bloomed between himself and Reggie. 

The Verdict

An emotional, heartwarming, and entertaining read, author Susan Mallery’s “The Christmas Wedding Guest” is a must-read novel of the 2021 holiday season! An engaging story of romance, heartbreak, and letting go of the past to find a brighter tomorrow, this novel really will keep readers invested and add the perfect jumping-off point for the holiday romance season for readers everywhere. If you haven’t yet, grab your own copy of this spectacular read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

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Social Links:

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Twitter: @SusanMallery

Facebook: @SusanMallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

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An Impossible Promise (Providence Falls #2) by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A man out of time must choose between a moment of happiness with the woman he loves or his soul and his true love’s own true love in authors Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets’s “An Impossible Promise”, the second book in the Providence Falls series. 

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The Synopsis 

Book 2 in the Providence Falls Trilogy. Outlander meets The Lake House (movie) in this epic love story that crosses continents and centuries. Master storyteller Jude Deveraux joins forces with up and coming author Tara Sheets to create a series that will appeal to women’s fiction and romance readers alike. A rogue thief in 1840s Ireland is sent by angels to a contemporary small town in America to make amends for his crimes in the past. Forbidden to tell anyone why he is there he must convince the woman he loves to marry another man or be damned for eternity.

In one century she loved him madly, and in another she wants nothing to do with him

In this second book of a trilogy, the story of Liam O’Connor and Cora McLeod continues. While they were lovers in the past, things are very different in the present. Liam and Cora are both police officers and roommates in Providence Falls, North Carolina. Liam is trying to do as the angels have commanded–make sure Cora falls in love with another man—but Cora is not the impressionable innocent girl Liam remembers. She’s strong and smart and not easily manipulated. Liam is forced to face the truth about himself as he comes to realize that he truly isn’t the right man for Cora. But, as Liam is coming to that conclusion, Cora is starting to see him in a new light.

Liam wants Cora for himself, but with his soul hanging in the balance, he must choose between a stolen moment in time or an eternity of damnation.

An Impossible Promise is romantic, fun and pure escape.

The Review

What a fascinating and engaging read! The author brilliantly finds a balance between passionate romance and mystery, drawing in a multitude of readers who can find a connection to it. The history, the more supernatural elements to the past-lives and destiny aspect of the narrative, and even the romance all sang in perfect harmony with one another as the story progressed, creating a perfect fusion of genres that many fans of contemporary women’s fiction and romance will love. 

The characters really were the heart of this narrative. The growth that each of these characters saw and the torn feelings of the protagonists really tugged at the heartstrings as the question of whether passion and love could matter more than destiny and romance took center stage. Getting to see Liam find his reflection in newcomer Magnus and seeing Liam’s evolution as a result of this was amazing character writing on the author’s part, and really drew me into the narrative further.

The Verdict

A heartfelt, engaging, and soulful read, author Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets’s “An Impossible Promise” is a must-read contemporary romance of 2021. The perfect follow-up to the first book in this series, the authors did a great job of crafting a story that could stand on its own while providing fans of the series a new series of twists and turns in the growing mystery and leaves a massive cliffhanger that will leave fans and Liam both shocked at the importance of Cora’s destiny. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Jude Deveraux is the author of forty-three New York Times bestsellers, including For All Time, Moonlight in the Morning and A Knight in Shining Armor. She was honored with a Romantic Times Pioneer Award in 2013 for her distinguished career. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide. Jude lives in Kansas City, Missouri

Tara Sheets is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Her work has earned first place recognition in literary contests nationwide, and her debut novel, DON’T CALL ME CUPCAKE, won the 2016 Golden Heart® award sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Tara lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/an-impossible-promise/9780778332084

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/077833208X/thebookreport01 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-impossible-promise-jude-deveraux/1138489641?ean=9780778332084

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Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/an-impossible-promise

SOCIAL LINKS:

JUDE DEVERAUX:

Author website: https://judedeveraux.com/

Twitter: @JudeDeveraux1      

Facebook: https://facebook.com/224518397561073 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/judedeveraux/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/28574.Jude_Deveraux 

TARA SHEETS:

Author website: https://tarasheets.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraSheetsBooks/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarasheets/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17082616.Tara_Sheets 

Here is an Exclusive Excerpt from “An Impossible Promise”

PROLOGUE

THE CELESTIAL CHAMBER OF JUDGMENT WAS not cozy by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the time it appeared to be nothing more than white roiling walls of mist, which the angel Agon found downright dreary. But his associate Samael deemed it necessary, believing that human souls facing judgment were better off with no distractions. This was probably why Samael’s face was now scrunched in open disapproval—an expression Agon had grown used to over the centuries.

“What,” Samael demanded, pointing an elegant finger at the object against the chamber wall, “is that?” With his blond ringlets and cherub cheeks, he looked like a Renaissance painting of a frazzled choir boy.

It made Agon want to smile, but he refrained. For an angel as old as himself, he’d learned a thing or two. Instead, he drew up to his full height, impressive even by angelic standards, and stretched his snowy wings wide. “It’s called a recliner,” he said cheerfully. “For sitting and resting. Very comforting to humans, from what I gather.”

Samael looked incredulous. “I’ve told you before, this is no place of solace. Human souls are summoned here to face judgment, and not all of them are headed to a comfortable destination.”

“True.” Agon sat on the edge of the overstuffed chair, swiveling left, then right. “But I see no harm in offering them a place to rest while we review their lives. If nothing else, it will provide an alternative to their usual pacing and wringing of hands and stumbling about in distress. It is pitiable when they do that, you must admit.”

Samael sighed, shook his head and turned toward the wall of mist. A good sign, Agon decided. For now, it seemed the new chair could stay. Perhaps later he could bring in a few other earthly things to liven up the place, but what was that human expression? Ah, yes. Baby steps.

“We haven’t time for your antics,” Samael muttered, waving a hand at the wall of mist. “Our wayward rogue is about to learn a valuable lesson.” 

The mist cleared, revealing a city street at night. A swarthy stranger in a black leather jacket and designer jeans pulled his motorcycle to a stop outside a sports bar.

Agon rose from the chair and went to stand beside Samael as they watched the scene unfold. “You’re sure this man is just like Liam O’Connor?”

“He has all the same traits as the rogue,” Samael said. “The arrogance, the selfish motives, the questionable morals. He wasn’t originally scheduled to cross paths with Liam, but it was easy enough to arrange.” 

Agon tilted his dark head, studying the man who was now sauntering toward the entrance of the bar. A neon sign that read ROOKIES blinked above the door. “And you’re certain introducing this man to Liam will serve a useful purpose?”

Samael crossed his arms. “It will be good for Liam to see his own personality traits reflected in someone else. Perhaps then, through serious introspection, the rogue will realize his many faults and be at peace with the task we’ve given him.”

“Perhaps,” Agon said, though he wasn’t so sure. Liam O’Connor and peace did not seem to mix. The man was hell-bent on winning Cora McLeod for himself, no matter how much he assured the angels he was trying to help Cora achieve her true destiny by marrying Finley Walsh. Agon knew what desperation looked like in a man’s eyes, and paired with determination, it could be a dangerous combination. Liam had both in abundance. “I hope it works. He only has two months left to achieve his task.”

Samael let out a huff. “It has to work. We can’t interfere with his free will, and this is the last thing I could think of to help steer him in the right direction. We’ve already agreed to some of the ‘boosts’ he’s asked for. Rudimentary computer knowledge. Fair warning when we plan to visit. We’ve even made it so he’d no longer feel pain whenever he and Cora touch.” He gave Agon a stern look. “That last one was only because you advocated so strongly on his behalf.”

“I think we can trust him to make the right decisions,” Agon said. “I know he seems like a lost cause, but let us have faith that he will prevail.”

“Mmm, faith,” Samael said as they watched the tall man disappear into the bar. “In a rogue. What could possibly go wrong?”

Excerpted from An Impossible Promise by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets. Copyright © 2021 by Deveraux Inc. Published by MIRA Books. 

Jeep Tour by Gail Ward Olmsted Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A woman struggling after several setbacks in her life takes to the road, heading west in hopes of healing her broken heart and finding a new lease on life in author Gail Ward Olmsted’s “Jeep Tour”.

The Synopsis

Attention from a younger guy is definitely good for her ego. But can she find the life she seeks this far from home?

There’s not enough cappuccino in the world to fix Jackie Sullivan’s streak of disasters. Divorced and pushing forty, the final straw comes when she’s denied tenure and fired. With nothing else to lose, she heads west in search of a fresh start and a hot helping of hanky panky…

Settling in Sedona, she struggles to find her balance and to stop putting her foot in her mouth. And her hands are soon full when she hooks up with a buff blonde tour guide. But a call from her ex forces her to reconsider what she left behind…

Will Jackie discover a new lease on life among the red rocks and heal her heart?

Jeep Tour is a fresh and funny contemporary women’s fiction novel. If you like journeys of self-discovery, beautiful desert settings, and sexy second chances, then you’ll love Gail Ward Olmsted’s lighthearted tale.

Buy Jeep Tour for an unforgettable off-road fling today!

The Review

I absolutely loved the sense of realism that the author brought to this contemporary women’s fiction read. The author perfectly portrayed the relationships and struggles of the characters in a very real sense. Allowing the reader to focus on the character development rather than some overtly whirlwind romance with a steamy new man was a great direction to take the narrative, focusing instead on the protagonist’s push to grow and change herself through a new adventure and new life. 

The balance of emotional storytelling and character development was perfect in this narrative. The author also managed to craft a great sense of setting in this story, allowing the Arizona desert and sense of wilderness to become a character all on its own. The theme of growth and change in the face of adversity was perfectly layered within this narrative, allowing the novel’s story to shine brightly without hitting readers over the head with the theme. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, engaging, and brilliant women’s fiction novel, author Gail Ward Olmsted’s “Jeep Tour” is a must-read novel for fans of the genre. Treasured for amazing characters that feel very realistic and seem to come off the page, the author tells a compelling story that will draw readers in immediately. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Gail Ward Olmsted was a marketing executive and a college professor before she began writing fiction on a fulltime basis. A trip to Sedona, AZ inspired her first novel Jeep Tour. Three more novels followed before she began Landscape of a Marriage, a biographical work of fiction featuring landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, a distant cousin of her husband’s, and his wife Mary.

For more information, please visit her on Facebook and at GailOlmsted.com.

http://www.gailolmsted.com