Tag Archives: romance book

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 Heartbreak (Olympian Love Book 2) 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 young woman grapples with the passion and emotions of a whirlwind romance as mystery and intrigue force her to make a choice in author Andrya Bailey’s “Olympian Heartbreak”, the second book in the Olympian Love series.

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The Synopsis

This is the sequel to Olympian Passion and not a stand-alone book.

Sabrina found out that Nikos returned to Greece with Maggie and is heartbroken until a surprising invitation to go to Athens gives her hope. Once she reconnects with him, their passion grows stronger.

Nikos takes her to the most romantic places around Athens and even invites her to travel to a newly-discovered archaeological site. Her insecurities increase when she learns he’s hiding a secret from his past, but his friends advise her to be patient if she really loves him.

Their passionate week is suddenly interrupted when Nikos is faced with a tragic situation. Will she make the ultimate sacrifice to help him?

The Review

The author crafted a truly passionate and heartfelt read. The audience will definitely benefit from having read the first book in this series, as several plot lines and characters carry over directly from the first book in this series. The intensity and heat that the more adult and romantic scenes play out will instantly hook romance readers, while the history and culture of this book’s setting (Athens) will add more depth and worldliness to the series and the characters as a whole. 

The character development was crucial to this novel’s main thread plotline. The mixture of fear and hope that runs throughout Sabrina is so palpable, as she feels drawn ever closer to this mysterious and tragically closed-off man, all while she struggles with not only his feelings for her, but the interference of Maggie and the mystery of Nikos and his family as the story progresses. The balance this strikes with Nikos and his reluctance to accept love into his heart, and the hints at past heartbreak and betrayal really settle in the emotional side of this male protagonist in a new and illustrious way.

The Verdict

Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, yet passionately written, author Andrya Bailey’s “Olympian Heartbreak” is a fantastic sequel and the perfect addition to the Olympian Love series. The perfect balance of tense atmospheric buildup between romantic partners and detailed and thoughtful story development made this a true standout and a must-read for fans of romance and drama. 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 a 5-star seal from Readers’ Favorite and is the 2016 New Apple Literary-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

Fool Me Once by Ashley Winstead Review

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

An ambitious communications director finds her dreams suddenly in the hands of the man who broke her heart years ago, (or was it vice versa?), and must find a way of mending broken fences and broken hearts while new sparks begin to fly in author Ashley Winstead’s “Fool Me Once”.

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The Synopsis

In this fierce and funny battle of the exes, Ashley Winstead’s FOOL ME ONCE explores the chaos of wanting what you already had.

Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you) and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…

That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust men. Four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school—who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.

Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated—and competitive as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.

The Review

The author did such an incredible job of crafting a modern-day romance that balanced out the complexities of pursuing meaningful careers in politics with the heated tension of the romance between the protagonist and her romantic interest/workplace rival, Ben. The world-building and atmosphere the author crafted throughout this narrative were brilliantly highlighted by the themes of modern-day relationships and the concept of commitment in a relationship. 

This was the perfect adult romance novel thanks to the brilliant character development this narrative had. The personal hang-ups and struggles each character has throughout this novel felt very realistic and spoke to the struggle many feel as they pursue a professional career as well. The chemistry and heat that develops as the narrative progresses will instantly hook romance readers.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, intriguing, and entertaining, author Ashley Winstead’s “Fool Me Once” is a must-read romance this spring! The perfect read for those who enjoy adult romances that explore a professional rivalry and painful past meets heated chemistry in the present day, the novel delivers both emotionally and narratively, showcasing the author’s immense talent to create the perfect amount of imagery to bring these scenes to life. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

ASHLEY WINSTEAD is an academic turned novelist with a Ph.D. in contemporary American literature. She lives in Houston with her husband, two cats, and beloved wine fridge.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @AshleyWinstead

Instagram: @AshleyWinsteadBooks

Goodreads

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Here is an Excerpt from “Fool Me Once”

Chapter 3

Grace under Fire

The Texas State Capitol has always reminded me of Daedalus’s labyrinth, large and elaborate and winding. It could be because I was studying Greek myths the first time I toured it at the tender age of eight, and was also plagued by a truly unfortunate sense of direction. But in my defense, the capitol is made of red granite, an oddly exotic color for a government building—something you  might be more likely to find on, say, the isle of Crete. 

As I grew up, both a feminist and an environmentalist in the staunchly red state of Texas, the idea that the capitol building housed a flesh-eating man with a bull’s head struck me less and less as fictional, and more and more as an apt metaphor.  

But today, there was no doubt Ben Laderman—at this very moment, holed up somewhere inside—was my Minotaur. And for all my wine-induced bravado last night, my hands trembled as we walked up the steps to the capitol. 

The truth was, I’d imagined running into Ben a hundred times since we broke up, picturing exactly how I’d react. There was this one time I’d been sitting with my mom and Alexis in an airport parking shuttle, when a man Ben’s height and coloring lugged his suitcase up the steps. For one dizzying second, thinking it was him, my heart had tried to beat its way out of my chest. Even though the man quickly revealed himself to be a Ben imposter, the buzzing adrenaline hadn’t washed out of my veins until hours later, near the end of our flight. 

How surreal that I was minutes away from actually facing him. 

“The idea for today is to introduce Ben to the bill, since he probably hasn’t had time to review it yet, and secure his buy-in.” Wendy was walking beside me—actually, she was strutting beside me like the steps were a runway. Dakota’s chief of staff was long and lean; everywhere she walked, the world seemed to fold itself into a catwalk just for her. She wore an all-black suit, as sharp and quintessentially no-nonsense as she was. 

“Remember, the most important thing we can walk away with is Ben’s enthusiasm.” She cut a glance at me. “I need charm from you. Is that feasible?” 

“Psshh.” I gave her an affronted look. 

If only Wendy knew the truth about what we were walking into. But there was no way in hell I was going to tell her the project we’d been working on for years, the one with the potential to catapult the company to stardom, could go up in flames thanks to my messy dating life. Somehow, I’d managed to convince everyone at work that I was a talented communications professional, concealing any hint of the Lee Stone that existed outside the hours of nine to five. If Wendy—uptight stickler Wendy—knew what I was really like, I’d be fired before I could count to three. 

Within the monochromatic white walls of Lise, I was Lee, or Ms. Stone to junior employees: a take-no-prisoners messaging maven. Outside of Lise, I was Stoner. And never the twain should meet. 

“Lee’s a pro,” said Dakota, winking from my other side. “She already won over the governor. Besides, this is a good bill. The only reason they wouldn’t go for it is politics.” Dakota said the last word with scorn, and I knew why: she’d been fighting politics her whole life. 

Dakota Young was my hero. She was only ten years older than me, but she’d built Lise from the ground up, thanks to her genius inventor’s brain and business savvy. When I first started as Lise’s comms director, the newspapers had called Dakota “the female Elon Musk”—when they mentioned her at all. My first self-assigned task was to inform them that Dakota had designed and produced her electric vehicle five years before Tesla was a twinkle in Elon’s eye, and the only reason the journalists didn’t know was because our patriarchal society dismissed female inventors. Especially Mexican American female inventors. 

The truth was, Dakota had beat Elon to it and designed a car battery pack with twice the capacity of Tesla’s, meaning our vehicles could go as far as a gas car before needing to recharge. And they took less time to do that, too. There was no reason our cars shouldn’t be the clear winner in the e-vehicle market, but we consistently underperformed. My hypothesis was that it came down to our small profile. 

The disparity in attention between Dakota and Elon had inspired one of my best ideas: changing the name of the company from Unified Electric Vehicles—the yawn-worthy UEV for short—to Lise, pronounced “leez,” in honor of Lise Meitner, a nuclear physicist who’d helped discover nuclear fission, only to be excluded from winning the Nobel Prize for it. The award had gone solely to Otto Hahn, her partner. Her male partner, if I even need to say it. 

I’d gambled on my instincts, telling Dakota we shouldn’t shy away from being known as a female-led tech and auto company, but rather call it out as a strength. She’d gambled on me and agreed; the rest was history. The name change had exploded like a bomb in the press. Dakota was featured in Science, the New York Times, Good Morning America—even Fox News, though that might have been because she’s not only a badass female inventor, but with her long, dark hair and hazel eyes, a gift of her Mexican heritage, she’s a beautiful, badass female inventor. 

Since our rebranding, the whole country had been taken with her, as well they should be. Dakota was the smartest person I’d ever met, managing to toe the line of being a total boss while exuding kindness. She was, to put it mildly, my idol. And also, the older sister I’d never had. My feelings for her were totally healthy. 

I had a good track record at Lise, but passing this bill would seal the deal, establishing that I was a leader. If I was successful, I could ask for a promotion to the position I really wanted: vice president of public affairs.

Ever since reading Silent Spring at the age of ten, I’d grown up obsessed with the fact that we were poisoning our planet, and I’d dreamed of going into politics to do something about it. Being Lise’s comms director was a good position at a great company—nothing a millennial could turn her nose up at—but being in charge of our policy work was what I was really interested in, the goal that got me out of bed each morning. 

And now I was so close. 

Assuming, of course, I didn’t dissolve into a fine mist the minute I set eyes on Ben. 

I turned left toward the meeting room we always used when we came to talk to the governor. It was the biggest room, filled with highly questionable artifacts from Texas history. These artifacts were supposed to paint a picture of Texans as bold, valiant cowboys—framed letters from Mexican presidents pleading to end wars and old-timey weapons in glass cases from the years Texas was “settled” (translation: stolen from indigenous peoples). It was a room that showcased the state’s history without any sense of self-awareness, and being there always put me on edge. Made me question whether we should be working with these people at all, even on something as potentially transformative as the Green Machine bill. 

But Wendy shook her head, tugging my arm. “No Alamo room today. We’re down the hall.” She pointed to the right and I followed her, wondering at the change. 

The three of us halted outside a closed door. Dakota smiled. “Remember, this is bigger than us. We’ve got the health and well-being of the planet on our shoulders. Let’s do this for the people.” 

“No pressure,” I muttered, as Wendy swung open the door.

And there he was, the very first thing I saw. Ben Laderman. Sitting at the right hand of the governor at the conference table. 

Time seemed to freeze as the impact of seeing him in the flesh hit me like a punch to the chest. All the years we’d spent apart were obvious, because he looked different. He wasn’t the Ben from my memories. 

But he was still the easiest person in the world to describe, at least in terms of the basics: Ben Laderman looked exactly like Clark Kent from old comic books. Not Superman, with his perfect, blue-black hair, little forehead curl and confident, square jawline—Clark. 

Don’t get me wrong, Ben had the dark hair and strong jaw and ice-blue eyes, but when I’d known him, he’d kept his hair super short and worn thick-framed black glasses that mostly obscured his eyes. He was well over six feet, but he’d always hunched, like Clark slinking in late to the Daily Planet, trying to creep about unnoticed. 

The Ben Laderman sitting at the table now was…well, there was no way to describe it other than California Ben. He’d grown out his hair and wore it tucked and curling behind his ears. He’d exchanged the thick-framed black glasses for a pair of thin, transparent frames that left no question his eyes were vivid blue. 

And the suit he was sitting ramrod straight in—no more hunch—wasn’t a dark, boxy number like what he’d worn in law school for mock trial. This suit was the same blue as his eyes, a fashion risk that was both startlingly handsome and startlingly playful for someone starting work in the Texas governor’s office. 

He was different. Still knee-wobblingly beautiful, but different.

And he was staring at me.

Excerpted from Fool Me Once by Ashley Winstead, Copyright © 2022 by Ashley Winstead. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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

How To Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan Review

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

After an up-and-coming interior designer moves into her grandmother’s home, she begins clashing with her new neighbor, a wealthy businessman who hopes to acquire her property himself. As they feud, a new kind of bond springs forth in author Sophie Sullivan’s “How to Love Your Neighbor”.

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The Synopsis

Interior Design School? Check. Cute house to fix up? Check.

Sexy, grumpy neighbor who is going to get in the way of your plans? Check. Unfortunately.

Grace Travis has it all figured out. In between finishing school and working a million odd jobs, she’ll get her degree and her dream job. Most importantly, she’ll have a place to belong, something her harsh mother could never make. When an opportunity to fix up—and live in—a little house on the beach comes along, Grace is all in. Until her biggest roadblock moves in next door.

Noah Jansen knows how to make a deal. As a real estate developer, he knows when he’s found something special. Something he could even call home. Provided he can expand by taking over the house next door–the house with the combative and beautiful woman living in it.

With the rules for being neighborly going out the window, Grace and Noah are in an all-out feud. But sometimes, your nemesis can show you that home is always where the heart is.

The Review

This was such a unique and engaging romantic comedy. The chemistry between Noah and Grace is so fun to watch develop and grow over time. The way they butt heads and get under each other’s skin plays so well into that rom-com style narrative, while the way they help each other grow and evolve over time brings the heart and romance that readers are so eagerly looking for. 

The fantastic spin on the rom-com style narrative by featuring an HGTV style story was inspired to say the least. The infusion of humor and wit into the story and the interior designer knowledge that the characters brought to life made the narrative feel unique and special, allowing it to stand out from the crowd of rom-coms that are sure to hit bookstores this year. Yet it was the exploration of each of them dealing with toxic relationships with a parental figure that allowed the protagonists to bond and gave their relationship a depth that readers will instantly connect with.

The Verdict

A memorable, heartfelt, and entertaining read, author Sophie Sullivan’s “How to Love Your Neighbor” is a must-read novel to kick off 2022! The emotional impact of these characters’ stories and their connection to one another is equally matched by the funny commentary each gives to their meetings early on in the narrative, making this such a fun read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

SOPHIE SULLIVAN is a Canadian author as well as a cookie-eating, Diet Pepsi-drinking, Disney enthusiast who loves reading and writing romance in almost equal measure. She writes around her day job as a teacher and spends her spare time with her sweet family watching reruns of Friends. Ten Rules For Faking It is her romcom debut novel, but she’s had plenty of practice writing happily ever after as her alter ego, Jody Holford.

https://www.sophiesullivanauthor.com/

PRESS RELEASE: Harlequin Plus Subscription Service

I am so excited to be able to share this amazing news from Harlequin, that a brand new streaming service for romance readers is now live! Below you will see the official press release, as well as a trailer and more. Enjoy all you romance fans out there!


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Romance Fans, the Subscription Service You Have Been Waiting for Is Here!

New York, NY, January 11, 2022

Harlequin, the world’s leading publisher of romance novels, launches Harlequin Plus, a unique subscription-based service designed for fans of romance. A convenient, high-end app and website, Harlequin Plus subscribers will have access to a curated entertainment experience, where each month, romance experts will select and refresh content across the digital platform. A subscription to Harlequin Plus provides users with four entertainment options, including curated bundles of new book releases, an ebook library, romantic movies, and casual games.

“We’re excited to offer a variety of Harlequin content and complimentary entertainment all in one place,” said Brent Lewis, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Harlequin Brand Group. “Fans of romance looking for an uplifting experience are sure to find it within this relaxing and beautifully designed digital platform.”

Harlequin Plus subscribers will have access to:

  • Book bundles: Each month, subscribers can select either an ebook bundle received instantly or physical copies delivered to their homes. Book bundle themes are curated monthly and they offer titles from bestselling authors, seasonal collections, and TV/movie tie-ins. Book bundles will also include titles from across Harlequin’s nine imprints and eleven category romance lines.
  • Ebook library: Free access to the ebook library, with 10-15 new books refreshed every month.
  • Movies: A selection of romantic movies, updated monthly.
  • Games: Fun games that offer relaxing entertainment, with new additions each month.

“Harlequin is proud to continue our reputation as a digital innovator in publishing,” said Eleanor Elliott, Senior Director of Digital Capabilities. “The release of Harlequin Plus is a major milestone for us, our authors and our entertainment partners, and I’m proud to work with the team to bring joyful entertainment to romance fans.”

Harlequin Plus is available in the U.S. at the cost of $14.99 per month. Subscribe to Harlequin Plus directly on HarlequinPlus.com or through in-app purchase on iOS devices in the Apple App Store and Android devices on Google Play.

For more information about Harlequin Plus and to sign up for a free seven-day trial, please visit HarlequinPlus.com.

Read, watch and play with Harlequin Plus!###

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About Harlequin

Harlequin (Harlequin.com) is a leading publisher of commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction. The company publishes more than 100 titles a month, in both print and digital formats, that are sold around the world. Encompassing highly recognizable imprints that span a broad range of genres, the publisher is home to many award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors. Harlequin is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, the second-largest consumer book publisher globally, with operations in 17 countries and 16 languages. For more information, please visit Harlequin.com. Follow Harlequin on Facebook: @HarlequinBooks, Twitter: @HarlequinBooks, Instagram: @HarlequinBooks and on TikTok: @HarlequinBooks

https://www.harlequinplus.com/shop/index.html

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins Review

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

A mission to get revenge on her cheating ex-fiancee turns into a sudden romance she could have never seen coming as interior designer Dani begins to fall for the architect at her firm while building a spite house in author Anna E. Collins’s “Love at First Spite”.

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The Synopsis

In this delightful, breezy romcom, interior designer Dani decides to get revenge on her cheating ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door.

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

The Review

This was such a charming and witty romance novel. The author struck just the right amount of chords to draw in readers that enjoy narratives that blend equal amounts of romance with humor. Right off the bat, the friendship and bond that Dani shares with characters like Iris and her cousin Mia were so wonderful to see explored not just as a secondary storyline, but as an important aspect of Dani’s character as a whole. 

What stood out to me aside from the amazing chemistry between Wyatt and Dani and their character developments overall was the sheer depth of emotions the author explored with these characters. From the hilarious banter Dani had when dealing with her ex to the vulnerable moments when Wyatt let her see the real struggles he has in his personal life outside of the firm and the way they each evolved over time, this novel gave readers a truly engaging and well-rounded view of what a true romance should look and feel like. 

The Verdict

A beautiful, entertaining, and heartfelt romance, author Anna E. Collins’s “Love at First Spite” is a must-read novel of 2022! This women’s fiction and romance novel were so beautifully crafted, and the author did such a wonderful job of making the reader feel immersed in the novel’s world. From vibrant settings and relatable characters to an emotional connection to the romance brewing between these two protagonists, this is a book romance and women’s fiction fans will not be able to put it down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Anna E. Collins is a Seattle-area author who writes stories about the lives and loves of women. Once upon a time she was a teacher, and she has a master’s degree in educational psychology. LOVE AT FIRST SPITE is her first novel.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Signed Copies through Third Place Books 

Social Links:

Author Website

https://www.instagram.com/aeccreates/

https://www.facebook.com/aecollinsbooks

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Here is a Q&A From Author Anna E. Collins

Q&A with Anna E. Collins

Q: Love at First Spite is your debut novel. Tell us about your journey to get here.

A: I started writing full-length fiction twelve years ago when my kids were little as an escape from the eating/sleeping/changing diapers rut. Initially, it was just a fun experiment, but my perception of my writing as merely a hobby really transformed when I got into PitchWars in 2017. It was a sort of recognition that I had something worth cultivating, and it also introduced that most crucial aspect of a writer’s life – the writing community. I learned so much from that – about the writing and editing process, about querying, about persistence, and about the importance of not going at it alone. I didn’t sign with my agent (Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron & Associates) through PitchWars though, but from a cold query about six months later. 

At that point I was writing exclusively women’s fiction. We went on sub with the book that Kimberley signed me on in 2018 and then with another one in 2019, and for a long time nothing happened. We had lots of rejections – polite and complimentary ones, yes, but still rejections. I think this is something authors don’t often talk about, but it happens to most of us. You have to develop a thick skin and always write the next thing.

So, 2020 arrived, I had two books on long-term sub, I had written yet another WF manuscript, and was considering my next project. With Covid shutting everything down with no end in sight, I needed a change, so I decided to try my hand at writing something more light-hearted. Said and done – with the cheerleading of my writing group (also closest friends) spurring me on, Love at First Spite was born. Turns out some flirty banter and revenge shenanigans were exactly what my writerly quarantine year needed!

As luck would have it, I actually ended up signing my two WF books with a smaller press at the end of 2020, and shortly after that, Graydon House acquired Love at First Spite and set a publication date that would make it my debut. And here we are!

Q: What inspired this story?

A: I keep a running list of ideas for stories that I add to whenever I see or hear something that strikes me as interesting, or when I read about a topic that seems off-beat or unusual. Often, a title relating to the topic will come to me first, so I’ll jot down that and a brief line about it. In this case, I had read an article about spite houses around the world probably a year or so prior, found the lengths some people go to for revenge fascinating, and consequently made a note of it on my list. The exact words were “The Spite House – building a building to get revenge.” That was it – no genre, no characters, nothing. When I decided I wanted to write a romcom, this title stood out to me in my list as I could easily picture the pettiness required for such a build being ripe for comedic situations. It’s over-the-top right away as far as revenge goes, which seemed like a good place to start.

Q: What research did you do for this book?

A: I’m neither an interior designer nor an architect like my two main characters, so I obviously had to do some research into what day-to-day life might look like in those fields. I also researched zoning laws for the city where the story takes place, fence regulations, construction terms, house building processes, common neighbor disputes (there are some pretty colorful ones on the internet), video surveillance systems, and how to tuft figures out of wool. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but that’s at least a general overview of my search history during that period of writing.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Currently, I’m wrapping up a second romcom that I can’t currently talk about, while also finishing copy edits for my first women’s fiction title, These Numbered Days, which will be out some time in spring/summer 2022. And brainstorming my next project, of course. Always brainstorming!

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And now, here is an Excerpt from “Love at First Spite”

Chapter 1

My white dress trails me as we make our way across the small clearing to where the others are waiting. The heavy fabric rustles against the ground, a few leaves catching in the hem, but I ignore them, concentrating instead on what’s ahead. All eyes are on me. 

“Are you sure?” my cousin Mia asks at my elbow. My partner in crime. 

I glance her way. I’m nervous, but I don’t want to be, and the simmering excitement in her expression reassures me. This is the right choice. 

“Hundred percent,” I say. 

She smiles and squeezes my hand. “You’ll rock this, I know it.” She lets go and steps away to assume her position with a wink. “See you on the other side.” 

Then it begins.

I take off at a sprint. The paintball arena is at least a football field in size and strewn with steel drums, crates, and sandbags. A few larger structures in the middle resemble a small-scale Old West town complete with porches and a saloon sign. The guys Mia and I’ve been teamed up with run that way, while she and I head for the trees along the sides. The large pines tower stoically above the fray, and I choose one of the largest trunks for my first cover.

“Did everyone else go the other way?” I call out to Mia but get no response. Wasn’t she behind me? 

I peer around the trunk only to catch the whisp of her braid beneath her helmet as she dives for shelter by a tree trunk twenty yards in front of me. 

“Don’t be a baby, Porter,” I chastise myself, before following her. It’s a thirty-minute game of most-hits-win, so she’s got the right idea: it’s go time. 

As fast as my skirts allow, I jog in the direction of the rapid pops and ka-splats of active battle, paintball gun at the ready. The staff told me I’d be at a disadvantage playing in my wedding dress, and they had a good point. But then again, I didn’t come here expecting to leave in virginal white. 

I barely get my finger on the trigger before two shots in succession hit me squarely in the chest, and a green stain blooms before me. It hurts less than I anticipated, but I still freeze too long and another round easily finds my shoulder. Blue paint drips off the white lace of my sleeve. 

Oh yeah? That’s how it’s going to be? 

Something akin to glee bubbles up my chest and I let out a loud cackle. All righty, then. Shouldering my gun, I aim at the culprit—some kid a full foot shorter than me— and one, two, three splotches of paint hit his belly.

“Yeah!” I shout, as he hightails off. Adrenaline pumps through my arms. 

“Dani, over here!” Mia runs sideways behind me from the cover of a fake building to a stack of boxes. “I’ll shield you.” 

Yeah right. She already looks like she’s wrestled with a rainbow. 

I consider darting the opposite way, to a smattering of hay bales, but Mia sounds increasingly desperate. I hike up my skirts and do my best to make myself small before jumping to safety next to her. 

Back up against the boxes, I peek around the corner. “Two of them,” I say, still breathing hard. “On my mark.” I count down with my fingers and, on three, we spring out, guns leveled at opponents who don’t see us coming. I’m a vengeful angel, gliding through the sky—at least that’s what I picture until my toe catches the hem of my dress and I stumble forward into a mouthful of dirty straw. 

“Take that!” Mia shouts from a distance, accompanied by a fresh round of shots volleying through the air. 

“What the fuck?” a deep voice yells out. 

Another voice: “We’re on the same fucking team.”

I lift my face off the ground. Mia is backing up toward me, pursued by our imagined foe who’s indeed wearing the same beat-up Timberlands I spotted on our teammates earlier. 

It’s fair to say they’re about as excited to be paired with us as my taste buds are about the straw. I spit out the horse fodder and push myself up. 

“We should have never teamed up with them,” the first guy complains. “That one wants to get hit, and this one…” He gestures at Mia. 

She exhales as if he’s punched her.

“What?” I say, moving to stand between him and my cousin. “This one, what?” 

“Dude, come on,” the second guy says. “Let’s just play.” 

“Well she’s not exactly agile, is she?” guy number one sneers. 

“Ha, that’s funny.” I bob my head a few times and train my gun on him. “What do you think, Mia?” 

She appears at my side. “I think someone’s about to get pummeled.” 

His eyebrows jerk behind his protective goggles, but that’s all he manages before we shoot. 

And shoot again. 

Who needs a team? The sight of them running away is totally worth losing for.

Excerpted from Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins, Copyright © 2022 by Anna E. Collins. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

The Wildest Ride by Marcella Bell Review

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

Two rodeo star rivals enter a reality-tv competition for personal reasons, but their rivalry soon turns into something more off-screen in author Marcella Bell’s “The Wildest Ride”. 

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The Synopsis

Marcella Bell delivers a bold, uplifting romantic novel in THE WILDEST RIDE (August 10; $16.99). Rodeo meets reality-TV with this never-before-seen Closed Circuit competition, where an undefeated city-boy champion goes head to head with his world-class, kick-ass female rival. Romance ensues as they battle for the million-dollar prize.

At thirty-six, undefeated rodeo champion AJ Garza is supposed to be retiring, not chasing after an all new Closed Circuit rodeo tour with a million-dollar prize. But with the Houston rodeo program that saved him as a wayward teen on the brink of bankruptcy, he’ll enter. And he’ll win.

Enter, Lilian Sorrow Island. Raised by her grandparents on the family ranch in Muscogee, OK, Lil is more a cowboy than city-boy AJ will ever be. It shows. She’s not about to let him steal the prize that’ll save her ranch, even if he is breathtakingly magnificent, in pretty much every way going.

The world watches on as reality-TV meets rodeo in a competition like no other. In front of the cameras they’re each other’s biggest rivals. Off screen, it’s about to get a whole lot more complicated…

The Review

A wild ride of a romance novel, author Marcella Bell does an excellent job of crafting a memorable reading experience. The balance between the complex characters and their emotional journeys with the unique world of celebrity rodeos and the world of reality television as a whole was inspiring to see unfold. The thrill of the rodeo and the inescapable nature of ratings and what drives television was a great theme to explore. 

The characters were definitely the heart of this narrative. The path that both AJ and Lil took as they wrestled with their own inner demons and their competitiveness with one another was so engaging as a reader. Watching these two not only come closer together while struggling with the inner workings of intimacy but to wrestle with things like abandonment in their lives and hardship was relatable on such a grand scale for so many readers, drawing in more readers than just those who are fans of cowboy/rodeo-style narratives.

The Verdict

A marvelous, emotional, and creative new direction for classic cowboy romance novels, author Marcella Bell’s “The Wildest Ride” is the perfect start to a brand new cowboy romance series. Passionately written and filled with heart and romance, the characters really help drive this narrative forward. The twists and turns their personal stories take and the impact it has on their growing relationship makes this story a great summer romance read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Marcella Bell was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She is a registered yoga teacher, an avid reader, a honeybee enthusiast, and a lover of travel, corvids, and karaoke. A wife, mother, and child of a multicultural household, Marcella is especially interested in writing novels that reflect her family history, as well as the people and places she’s known throughout her life. 

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @MarcellaBell

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An Exclusive Excerpt from “The Wildest Ride”

One

On their own, the sheep weren’t that bad. It was the goats that were the problem. They gave the sheep ideas.

And what the hell sheep needed with ideas, Lilian Island did not know.

The dogs, Oreo and Carrot, had gone in opposite directions, each pulling wide to flank the scattered sheep on the left and right while Lil and her horse harried them from behind. As they picked up speed, her heart caught the rhythm of her horse’s hooves thundering against the ground as they chased the lead ewe together, two beings becoming one in motion.

The wind whipped across the shaved sides of her head, drowning out all other sounds beneath its gusty whoosh. It deposited traces of prairie dust in the loosely braided column of black hair that trailed back along the center of her head to hang down the midpoint of her spine.

Lil transferred the reins to her left hand in order to wrap them around the pommel of her saddle, steadying herself with her thighs as she did.

With her right hand, she reached for the rope coiled at her hip.

Her tornado-gray eyes, both narrowed beneath two thick black eyebrows, locked on the sheep like a missile on target.

Woman and horse flanked the sheep. Lil uncoiled the rope with a snap of her wrist while releasing the pommel with her other hand, letting her body tilt down the side of the horse until she was level with their quarry.

This close, she recognized the sheep as BB, or Bossy Betty, the herd’s matriarch.

It just went to show: a fierce woman could be counted on to keep everybody in line, but watch out when they got wild.

Lil surprised herself by laughing out loud as she leaped from the side of her horse to tackle the sheep. Catching three of its legs in her left hand, she quickly roped them off with her right.

She might not be quite as fast as she once was, but there was no denying she still had it.

After a few half-hearted attempts at resistance, BB heaved a huge sigh and slumped against the ground. To the tune of the occasional disgruntled bleat, Lil freed the defeated but unharmed animal.

She made the rope into a makeshift lead and tied the wayward leader to her saddle, giving her a consolation pat along the way, making a mental note to tell Piper that the herd was coming due for shearing.

Still smiling, Lil said to the sheep, “Inconvenient, BB, but it’s been a long time since I did any mutton bustin’.” With a final pat and chuckle, she added, “A damn long time.”

The lingering rush of the chase was familiar—once it got you, the thrill of the ride never really let go—but the wish to do it again, that was unexpected. She was a grown woman, well past her rodeo days.

Sharp barking approaching from her right signaled that Carrot and Oreo were on their way back with the rest of the flock.

Soon they would have the whole herd of them back in the yard, and then Lil could start her actual workday.

Feeding the barn stock was supposed to be her meditative morning ritual.

One that might need reconsideration, she thought as she hooked a foot into her stirrup and swung onto her horse.

The horse was the same stormy gray color as Lil’s eyes, with a black mane and tail matched to the inky midnight tone of Lil’s hair. Fanciful, Lil had named her Aurora, the most beautiful thing she could think of at the time, but everybody called her Rory.

Rory had been Lil’s twenty-fifth birthday present from her granddad. The last one he ever gave her.

Leaning forward, she pressed the side of her face against Rory’s warm neck, breathing deep that unique-in-all-the-world scent that was horse.

Oreo and Carrot brought in the remaining six sheep, and Lil led the group back toward the yard.

The coyotes could have the goats for all she cared. They had been the ones to open the fence.

She turned to Oreo, on her left, “With my luck, they would just eat the coyotes, and then we’d still have the stupid things, plus an enormous vet bill, to boot.”

Oreo gave a cheerful whuff, and Lil tried not to wonder what it meant that the response satisfied her.

Lil led the sheep and dogs back into the barnyard and tied the gate shut with the backup rope. The broken lock needed replacing—another task she added to her mental list. Once a goat figured out the mechanism, you had to get a whole new style lock. 

Shaking her head, she unsaddled Rory, brushed the horse down, gave her a pat of hay, and tossed her a handful of oats.

Wrapping up her morning routine, Lil spread feed out in the yard for the chickens. They’d eat bugs and other bits around the farmhouse throughout the day, but it was always a good idea to start the day with a hearty breakfast. Besides, there was comfort in the action of spreading feed, especially after the chaotic morning.

The familiar action finally brought her heart some of the calm she typically found in doing the morning chores. She might spend her days chained to a desk running the business end of things, but she was still a hands-on rancher at heart.

The chickens settled into contented clucking and rooting just in time for Lil to hear her grandmother shriek from the kitchen.

Lil was across the yard in four seconds, up the stairs, and into the kitchen in another two.

Her eyes and muscles worked faster than her mind. Before she knew what she was doing, her rope was out, its tail end lashing out to snake around the delicate wrist of the arm raised against the woman who had raised her.

A flick of Lil’s wrist and the stranger—a woman, after a second more processing—flipped into the air before landing hard on her back on the kitchen floor.

“Lil.” Gran’s voice was cross.

Lil crossed the kitchen in three strides, crouched at the stranger’s side, and rolled her over.

The woman’s face had gone pale and sweaty, all the more unfortunate for being paired with a green three-piece skirt suit with a little too much square in the shoulders. She was probably in her midforties and had a tight perm shorn close to her head. Based on the faint traces of grow-out, the woman was a natural sensible brown that she had dyed an even more sensible brown.

Lil considered the woman for a second longer before saying, casually, “I could shoot you, you know.” Granddad had always said calm was scarier. “You’re in my home, uninvited, and this is Oklahoma.”

“Lil.” Gran’s voice turned up a notch, breaking through the cold rage in her mind. “Apologize.”

Lil’s chin angled up, and her heels dug down, “I’m not saying sorry to this stranger. She was about to hit you.”

Gran’s face cracked with a smile that had a hint of bite in it. She patted the front pocket of her apron before pulling out her mace key chain. It was the color of a purple highlighter. “I might have said a few provoking words about her mother… But that’s beside the point. I had the situation under control. I’ve got my mace. Carry it everywhere since Granddad passed.”

Lil groaned, her mind filled with images of Gran spraying innocent fools in the face, all of which were more comfortable than knowing that carrying mace around was just another sign that Gran felt a little less safe in the world without Granddad around.

“Gran. You know that doesn’t make you any safer. And were you planning to wait until after she hit you to use it?”

The woman cleared her throat, the disapproving sound instantly transporting Lil back in time to her second grade teacher’s class, Mrs. Donkin. Students in Mrs. Donkin’s class were guests in her realm and were expected to act accordingly.

Lil hadn’t liked the sound coming from her teacher, and she certainly didn’t like it coming from a stranger in her own kitchen.

“I’m with the Bank of—”

Lil cut her off with a raised hand. “We all know you’re from the bank—” There were certain professions a person couldn’t hide, no matter how hard they tried—cops, bankers, lawyers, teachers, pastors, and cowboys—each one was obvious a mile away. “As modern bankers aren’t known for door-to-door recruitment, it then seems pretty safe to assume you’re from the bank we do business with, the Bank of Muskogee. Now, we don’t have much in our accounts, so we wouldn’t be the kind of clientele they’d send a representative out all this way to for a friendly check-in. That means you’re here about our larger investment, this ranch. I run the books here, so I can think of a whole host of reasons you might be interested in paying us a visit regarding the ranch. What I can’t think of, though, is a single damn reason you would be in my kitchen, in my home, lifting a hand to my grandmother. I find that so stupefying that it seems only natural to assume you’re capable of anything, moving me toward my only recourse—the use of force to protect myself from attempted injury.

The woman huffed at Lil’s words but refrained from commenting until she’d risen to her feet, straightened her skirt, dusted off her suit jacket, and patted her hair.

Then she said, “I am with the Bank of Muskogee, and Miss Lilian—I assume you are the Miss Lilian described in my file—I would be happy to explain myself to the authorities, including how you assaulted me, so go ahead and call them.” She had patted her file when referencing it and now stood tapping her foot on the tile flooring. Lil and Granddad had spent weeks one achingly hot summer installing the incredible discontinued turquoise tile. Gran had gotten them for a steal, importing them direct from a Jamaica-based tile maker she’d met in an online forum about beading. The labor had been hard, the result worth it. No one else in Muscogee had a kitchen floor like Gran’s, which was just how she liked it.

The woman’s tapping was becoming irritating, so Lil smiled her mean smile and said, “Nobody said anything about calling anybody. I rather think I’d drive leisurely down to the station to let everyone know what happened after-the-fact if you understand what I’m saying.”

The woman’s mouth made a little O of outrage, and she clutched her file in front of her. “I assure you, I will make a note of this hostility in my file.”

Lil rolled her eyes before crossing her arms in front of her chest. “What’re you here for?”

The woman lifted her nose in the air. “As I was getting to before your grandmother verbally attacked me—”

Lil let out a low growling noise, and the woman stopped talking to take an audible gulp.

“As. I. Was. Saying. The Bank of Muscogee sent me to deliver the news that your bereavement grace period has ended. I am also to remind you that, as per the terms of the agreement, you, the heirs of Herman Island, may, without a down payment, begin making adjusted mortgage payments beginning November of this year. Alternatively, with a new down payment, an adjusted payment set at a rate equal to that of the average final six payments of the previous mortgage is available to you. If none of those options are feasible, you are free to leave the ranch and all of its associated troubles—my file indicates difficulties securing improvement permit approvals and equipment rentals, as well as challenges with making timely mortgage payments—to the bank.”

“Now, what nonsense are you talking about?” Lil asked, eyebrows and nose screwed up in genuine bewilderment. “That file of yours might paint a part of the picture true, but without a doubt, this ranch has one thing going for it, and that’s the fact that it’s paid for.”

The woman shook her head, the movement mechanical like a clock, her expression a blend of smug and pleased that Lil’s mind immediately coined smleased. “Not for the last six and a half years since your grandfather walked through the doors of the central street branch and applied for a reverse mortgage.”

“What?” Lil’s mouth dropped open this time. “You mean those things sleazy banks use to prey on lonely old folk without kin?”

The woman had the gall to look affronted. “Reverse mortgages are an important mode of financial freedom for seniors without traditional options!”

Lil shook her head, amazed. The woman moved like a clock and spoke with all the heart of a robot. “You’re telling me that the Bank of Muscogee somehow fooled my granddad into signing his land away?” Heat built in her chest, making its way upward toward her neck and face.

“The Bank of Muscogee was merely the facilitator. Your grandfather walked in, submitted the appropriate paperwork, and walked out with 1.2 million dollars.”

Lil laughed. “$1.2 million? Lady, you had me going. You truly did. But you lost me at 1.2 million dollars. I spent nearly every day of the last two years of his life with my granddad. If he’d have had a million dollars, I would have known about it.”

Gran, having been quietly observing the exchange, chose the moment to reenter the conversation. “She’s telling the truth, Lil.”

Lil’s head whipped around to face her gran. “That’s crazy, Gran. Where’d the money go if he did it?”

“I found the money.”

All the heat building inside abandoned Lil as swiftly as it’d arrived, leaving her shivering in the morning warmth of the kitchen.

“He set up a separate account. Most of it’s gone. Spent on the ranch before you go worrying,” Gran said, looking severe and firm. “Your granddad was a good man. I haven’t worked it all out yet, but the secret was his only sin.”

Some of the tightness left Lil’s chest at her gran’s words, but she mumbled, “It’s a big enough sin.”

“Lilian Island, I’ll not have you speaking ill of the dead.”

“How could he have done this?”

For a moment, it was as if the bank representative had disappeared, and it was just the two of them, a bewildered granddaughter trying to understand the world from her weary widowed grandmother.

Gran shook her head, the motion small for all the volumes it spoke. “He must have had a good reason.”

The woman from the bank cleared her throat. “Yes. Well. Your grandfather’s motivations notwithstanding, it is my task to get your signature on this paper, which states I’ve informed you of the terms of the reverse mortgage.” She held up a multipage form, the top few pages folded back to reveal a signature line at the base of a long page, which she jabbed with a finger Lil knew had done more than its fair share of pointing.

Gran’s eyebrow ticked up, and Lil’s stomach tightened on reflex—years spent under the woman’s watchful eye had taught her to be wary of that look.

Gran was irritated and through with the woman’s presence in her kitchen.

Without speaking a word, with barely even a glance in the woman’s direction, Gran’s arm flashed out and signed the paper, the whole motion eerily like the one she had so often reached back and used to smack some sense into her old fool cowboy of a husband.

Lil wondered if the millions of tiny memories she stumbled into each day on the ranch would always hurt. This deep into them with no sign of abating, she’d nearly reconciled herself to the fact that chances were they would. 

On a groan, Lil said, “Gran, you can’t just sign like that. You didn’t even look at the document.”

The bank woman virtually salivated. “Thank you, Mrs. Island. I’m sure the bank will be pleased with your response.”

Gran scoffed, still not looking at the woman. “I’m sure they will be SherriDawn Daniels, but, as I was saying before you so rudely lost your temper after I invited you into my home, it won’t get you any closer to knowing who your real daddy is.”

Lil grimaced, and SherriDawn—old enough to be Lil’s mother and, who had, according to Gran, been one of the wild girls Lil’s mother had palled around with as a teen—actually growled.

Lil’s hand tensed at her side, ready to repeat the scene from earlier if need be.

But this time SherriDawn held her temper, instead, plastering a broad smile on her face, saying through clenched teeth, “I’ll just be on my way, now, Mrs. Island. It was nice seeing you again.”

Gran cackled. “Don’t you lie to me, SherriDawn. I’ve seen right through you since you were fifteen years old, and don’t pretend like it isn’t true.”

The growling sound moved lower down into her throat, but this time SherriDawn took the wise course: she shut her mouth, clasped her briefcase, and swiveled narrowly to the door.

Watching her walk away, so prim and proper that it seemed anally uncomfortable, it was hard to imagine SherriDawn might have been wild enough to ride with her mother. In Lil’s mind, her mother represented all that was wild and dangerous, as well as what happened when you chased after it. She’d been wild enough to run around and have herself a baby by a mystery man she refused to name at sixteen. Wild enough to run off and never come back, leaving that baby to be raised by her grandparents.

SherriDawn didn’t seem like she had the balls for all of that.

After the door slammed shut, the old screen let to fall without care by SherriDawn on her way out, Gran gathered herself with a shuddering breath, which she then let out on a long theatrical sigh.

Lil’s Spidey senses tingled.

Given what Gran already seemed to know about things, the whole scene with SherriDawn now seemed put on. And Gran’s long sigh was telling. That meant that all of it—goading the bank woman, the dramatic reveal, perhaps even the sheep and the goats, now that Lil was thinking about it—was part of one of Gran’s plots then.

If she knew her gran, and she did like the back of her hand, this one would be related to the reverse mortgage but would be no less outrageous for being grounded in their real problems.

Gran put on a sober look before sighing. “Everyone ought to be here—I only want to say this once.” Then she opened her mouth and hollered at the top of her considerable lungs, “PIPER! TOMMY!”

Piper, their petite red-haired farmhand, came running in first, clearly having grabbed the closest thing at hand to use as a weapon if needed—a horseshoe.

Tommy, Lil’s live-in cousin from Granddad’s side, had a rifle.

Steady, dependable, Tommy.

“What’s going on?” they asked in unison.

“You’re all going to want to sit down for this,” Gran said with an arm toward the kitchen table and more weariness in her voice than the unveiling of a scheme usually allowed.

Following her grandmother’s gesture, Lil noticed for the first time the plaid thermos of coffee that sat in the center of the round table.

It wasn’t the new stainless steel one.

Gran had taken out the plaid one. She reserved the plaid thermos for tough conversations.

Four chairs sat around the table, each with an empty coffee mug in front of it.

Lil’s seat, where she sat now that she knew what was going on, was the east point of the compass of their table.

Gran sat in the north, Tommy the south, and Piper the west.

Granddad had always been in the northeast, a steady anchor between Gran and Lil.

Without him, they held each other as best they could, but both had become more prone to drifting.

Gran waited for everyone to pour a cup before she spoke. “I’ll start with the good news. We have each other. We have our stock, and, for the moment, we have the land.”

“Not a promising start, Gran,” Lil observed.

“It is when it might be all we’ve got,” Gran said simply. “Unbeknownst to me, Granddad took a reverse mortgage on the ranch in the years before he died. I received a letter informing me of this in the mail last week.”

Lil frowned. That Gran had sat on information this critical for a week settled about as well as lemon juice in cream.

Gran continued, “After some digging, what I can piece together is this: about five years ago, Granddad lost the Wilson drive contract.”

Lil shook her head. “That’s impossible. He went right up until he died. That’s half the reason he got sick in the first place.”

Gran placed a hand on Lil’s wrist, just below where the hand attached to it had clenched into a fist.

Gran, never one to pull her punches, said: “He didn’t go. He kept a separate bank account for the money, and he tracked his expenses. He spent the time in Tulsa at a hotel renting movies and ordering room service.” A half smile broke through the frustration. “Greedy old cuss.”

But it wasn’t an endearing foible to Lil’s frame of mind. He had lied to them, and, in his own words, like all lies, it had spiraled into an avalanche of deceit.

“In the agreement, he included a provision to give us extra time before we had to make a decision, but that time is up. We have sixty days to come up with a down payment for the ranch, following which the bank will establish monthly mortgage payments. Every way I’ve looked at it, it’s our only option. We would never be able to afford the payment the bank offered without the down payment. But nobody is going to evict us from land my husband’s family has held on to, hardscrabble as it’s been, through hell on earth.” The last she directed specifically to Lil and Tommy. Through their granddad’s line, Tommy and Lil were Muscogee Creek Freedmen, the descendants of enslaved people under the double burden of being property during the relocation and later forced removal of the Muscogee from their homelands in the southeast. And after the tribe disenrolled the freedmen in the seventies, their citizenship revoked in a blow her granddad had never quite recovered from, this land, this dry patch of Oklahoma allotted to their family after the Civil War—insignificant dust mote of a ranch that it was—was the only proof they had left, the only hint as to how their family had ended up in Oklahoma in the first place. Tearing folks from their history was one of the ways to break them, so Lil’s family had held on to theirs through their land—through cultural hostility, the dust bowl, outright deception, attempts to steal, and everything else that time and life had thrown their way.

They had refused to sell even when their neighbors, cousins, and relatives packed up and left, seeking the green of other pastures and the heat of other suns. The Islands had stuck it out, and the reward was being able to say they’d held on to the first and only thing they’d ever been given.

Until now.

Lil was glad she had taken Gran’s advice to sit down. The floor had become somewhat less substantial beneath her boots.

It occurred to her that they were nice boots. She could probably sell them for some quick cash. It wouldn’t be anywhere near enough if what she thought might be true was true.

Sixty days wasn’t enough time at all. Lil frowned. They had a cash reserve of five thousand to keep them and the stock fed through a pinch, and they had the value of their stock itself, which could bring in another eighty thousand in a quick sale at auction, but as far as she knew, they didn’t have any other assets.

Her 1980s Toyota was too beat up to be worth anything, and she didn’t own any personal items of value.

Finally, she found her voice. “But why would Granddad do something like that?”

Gran sighed. “I don’t think that he could admit he was too old to do it all himself anymore. Looking at his paperwork, in addition to withdrawing the amounts it took to look like he’d still been going on the drives, it looks like he’d been dipping in those funds rather liberally.”

“Rory…” Lil grimaced. She had wondered where he’d scrounged up the money for a papered Arabian filly.

Now she knew.

Gran nodded. “And Gorgeous,” she said, referring to the brand new Subaru station wagon that sat in her driveway, souped-up with every safety and luxury feature available.

Lil brought her fingers to her temples and rubbed. “So how much is left in his secret pot then?” she asked. 

Gran shook her head. “Just ten thousand.”

“What?” Lil gasped.

Whining wasn’t her usual way, but, as the woman from the bank had gone, and there was no one left to throttle, it was the only option available.

“Don’t be theatrical.” Gran’s comment was automatic, so much so that Lil wasn’t even sure the woman noticed she’d made it, nor that, as far as statements went, it was the pot calling the kettle. “They want twenty percent for the down payment. We don’t have that.”

Lil groaned. “Nor enough for the mortgage payments after that. We’re barely making it by as is.” Lil couldn’t tell the truth: they weren’t making it. She had been contemplating selling equipment to stretch the final distance to make ends meet. Every month it was a struggle, but Lil had been somehow managing, just eking it out of the red. A mortgage payment, any mortgage payment, would break them.

Gran waited a beat after Lil’s interruption, punctuating the unspoken admonishment with a lifted eyebrow and communicating clearly without words: Are you done yet?

Lil blushed.

“But—” Gran continued. “We have each other. And we have Lil.”

The way her gran said her name made the hair stand up on the back of her neck, but when she opened her mouth to question, her grandmother lifted her palm to her, a signal to Lil to hold her tongue.

Out of respect, she did.

“Lil. You’re on temporary reassignment.”

“What are you talking about?” Lil asked.

“I’m the owner, aren’t I?” she asked.

“Yes, but we agreed that I was in charge of daily operations.” 

“I’ve changed my mind.”

“Gran.”

“I can do your job. Nobody but you can do what we need you for now.”

Here was the plot then. Lil’s skin crawled with a warning, but she asked anyway, “And what is that?”

Gran handed her a glossy quarter sheet flyer in response. Lil read the largest print and then set it facedown on the table and brought her fingers to her temples.

Gran’s voice was soft when she next spoke. “We need the money, Lil. I don’t see any other way.”

Lil groaned.

Gran added, “You’re the best there’s ever been.”

The old woman wasn’t pulling any punches.

Lil’s voice flirted with the edge of hysteria. “Says a nobody’s grandma with a stopwatch and pasture.”

“‘Nobody’s grandma?’ Excuse you.” She pointed to the third line of the flyer, “Did you see the prize? There are no points required, just a qualifier. It’s part of the whole thing. Like American Idol.”

Lil went ahead and dove fully into hysteria. When she spoke, her voice squeaked high to low like a pubertal boy. American Idol?”

Gran’s next words had the same effect as being hit by a bucket of cold water: “You could ride a bull.”

Lil’s body froze and tingled at the same time.

She hadn’t stepped foot in an arena in years and never competed in a PBRA-sponsored rodeo.

She had walked away a junior champion and ridden pro a few times in the Indian National Rodeo rodeos. Still, the world of rodeo mostly had forgotten about her—except for the few administrators who would always remember her as the girl who had tried and failed, over and over, to get women into the PBRA’s, the Professional Bull Riders Association, rough stock events. Because in Lil’s mind, what did it matter if she won every other event if she couldn’t win on the back of a bull?

She was skilled enough to have made a good living between women’s events in the PBRA and the Indian rodeos, but if she couldn’t ride a bull under the banner of PBRA, she didn’t want any of it.

So she rode for a college scholarship and then quit when she graduated instead. And then she’d come back to the ranch. End of story. And that was good enough for her.

Since her retirement, rodeo had opened up a lot, and she was happy for the younger generation. A handful of girls had even been allowed on top of bulls. None had made it far, but Lil knew it was only a matter of time.

She shook her head with a sigh. “I can’t, Gran. I’m rusty as an old nail, and there’s just too much to do around here. Besides, the ranch is too much for Tommy and Piper to run on their own.”

Gran snorted. “You work in the office most of the day, anyway.”

“Gran, you don’t have the energy for it,” Lil insisted.

“Energy? Hell, after more years of doing it than you’ve been alive, I could do the ranch’s books half asleep—and have! I just let you take over because it’s a snoozefest.”

“Snoozefest? Gran, do you hear yourself?” Lil turned to Piper and Tommy for help, “You don’t support this, do you?”

Both shrugged.

Piper said, “We trust Gran.”

Gran crossed her arms in front of her chest and lifted a brow. “They trust me.”

“It’s a lot more work,” Lil tried.

Tommy said, “We’ve been doing more and more of it while you’ve been up there pinching pennies.” 

Lil’s cheeks heated, but she didn’t contradict him. He and Piper had been pulling more and more of her weight as she tried to do the impossible.

The impossible that she wasn’t very good at. The impossible that Gran could do in her sleep—which was true. Gran ran a tight ship, whatever ship she came to, and she had been far more organized in running Swallowtail Ranch than Lil could ever hope to be.

They had supported her through the last sad and stumbling years. Participating in this crazy scheme was what they were asking of her in return.

Mentally sweating, Lil pushed her chair back, its legs screeching across the floor, and stood up. Turning around, she headed to the door without saying another word.

“Where are you going, Lilian?” Gran only used her full name when she got stern.

Lil stopped mid-step. “I’m going to clear out my desk,” she said.

Behind her back, Gran smiled. Lil didn’t have to see it to know it was true. Gran always smiled when she got what she wanted, and she always got what she wanted.

“Don’t worry about that now. You’ve got training to do. Gotten a bit out of shape, if you ask me.”

Piper erupted in a fit of witchy cackles as Lil stormed out of the kitchen. Ignoring them all, Lil went to her office.

On the second floor of the farmhouse, the room used to be her gran and granddad’s bedroom, but she and Gran had turned it into the office after he passed. Gran said she couldn’t bear to sleep in there alone.

It made a lovely office—wide and bright, with delicately framed French doors that led to a weight-bearing balcony. Weight-bearing because Lil’s summer project last year had been to reinforce the support beams, replace the decking, and weather coat the whole thing.

She figured that should get her five years’ worth of good use of Muskogee’s extreme annual mood swings before she’d need to do any repairs. That is if she kept up on refinishing it every year, which she had planned to, since walking out on the balcony had preserved her sanity after a long stint of pushing paper many a time.

She walked through the doors and stood there now, enjoying it while she could still call it hers. There were bills to pay, orders to fulfill, and emails to respond to, but that wasn’t her job now. Now her job was to enter a rodeo contest and try to win some money to save the ranch.

And to think she’d thought the goats were bad. 

Excerpted from The Wildest Ride by Marcella Bell, Copyright © 2021 by Marcella Bell. Published by HQN. 

The Summer of No Attachments (The Summer Friends #2) by Lori Foster Review

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

Two women looking for an uncomplicated break from relationships find themselves faced with the possibility of real love when they come across two brothers and an angry child during the summer in author Lori Foster’s “The Summer of No Attachments”, the second book in THE SUMMER FRIENDS series. 

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The Synopsis

From New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Lori Foster comes the heartwarming story of two best friends who cross paths with a pair of new-in-town brothers with one angry little boy in tow. A standalone story of second chances at life and love, with found family and rescued animals, perfect for fans of Jill Shalvis, Sarah Morgan, and Lori Wilde.

Summer flings with no strings mean nobody gets hurt.

At least, that was the plan…

After putting the brakes on her dead-end relationship, local veterinarian Ivey Anders is ready to soak up this summer on her own terms. The way she sees it, no dating means no disappointment. Why complicate life with anything long-term? But when she meets Corbin Meyer—and his troubled young son, Justin—Ivey’s no-strings strategy threatens to unravel before she can put it into practice.

Trust doesn’t come easy for Ivey’s best friend, Hope Mage, a veterinary-clinic assistant who’s affected by an incident that’s colored every relationship she’s had. Though Hope’s happy for Ivey, she can’t quite open her own heart to the possibility of love. Not just yet… Maybe not ever. Soon, however, she’s faced with a dilemma—Corbin’s older brother, Lang. He’s charming, he’s kind…and he may just be the reason Hope needs to finally tear down her walls.

And as the sweet summer months unspool, the two friends discover love won’t give up on them so easily.

The Review

A heartwarming and emotional story that balances the friendship and bond of women’s fiction with the heart of romance narratives, author Lori Foster has crafted a beautiful story set within an established series that still manages to act as a standalone story that readers both old and new will enjoy. The pacing does a great job of getting into the character’s personalities and interactions while slowly building the rising relationships between the women and the men they meet over the summer. 

The character arcs were fantastic to see unfold here. The strength and humor that Ivey brings as a protagonist are great to witness, while the overall development of Hope as a character after her heartbreaking past was inspiring and hopeful, two qualities that make for a great romance story. 

Allrecipes: 12 Month Subscription

The Verdict

A perfect summer read that blends love and hope into an engaging narrative, author Lori Foster’s “The Summer of No Attachments” is the perfect summer novel for fans of women’s fiction and romance novels. The powerful story of not only budding romance but of true friendship in the face of adversity in both women’s lives made this such a captivating story, so if you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has become a New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. She lives in Central Ohio where coffee helps her keep up with her cats and grandkids between writing books. For more about Lori, visit her website at http://www.lorifoster.com, like her on Facebook or find her on Twitter, @lorilfoster.

Social Links:

Author website: https://lorifoster.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lorilfoster

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgeOARHmjBYWcmReym_N39A 

Buy Links:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/the-summer-of-no-attachments/9781335459893

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ioRrfn

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summer-of-no-attachments-lori-foster/1137483437?ean=9781335459893

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Summer-No-Attachments/Lori-Foster/9781335459893?id=7036960299115

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335459893

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Here is an Excerpt From “The Summer of Not Attachments”

Chapter One

Ivey Anders shoved back a wayward curl and gently secured the dog against her body so it couldn’t move while her tech, Hope Mage, carefully clipped away the twisted wire. The poor thing, a stray by the looks of it, had gotten itself tangled pretty tightly and one hind leg was in bad shape. Ivey wanted to get it to the clinic where she could properly assess the damage.

Mud caked the fur, making it difficult to find any other injuries just yet, but there was one astounding fact Ivey couldn’t ignore.

Behind her, the homeowner groused that the dog had likely been stealing eggs from his chicken coop.

Voice calm, temper mostly in check, Ivey said, “You didn’t hesitate to call me, did you, Marty?” It was well-known that Marty was not a fan of dogs, or cats for that matter, and mostly considered them a nuisance. However, they’d come to an agreement some time ago. Marty, who owned a fair amount of wooded acreage, was supposed to call her if a stray showed up, and she, as the local vet, would take care of the “problem” for him.

Laura, his wife, was quick to say, “I called.” Defiant to Marty, she added, “Soon as I heard the poor thing, in fact.”

Which didn’t mean much. The animal might have been there for hours. Possibly more than a day, though Ivey couldn’t bear the thought of that.

“She’s pregnant, you know.” Refusing to take her eyes off the dog and unwilling to raise her voice since it might frighten the animal more, Ivey said, “If she took an egg, it would have been from starvation—and you already know I would have compensated you for it.”

Affronted, Marty grumbled, “I wasn’t worried about one egg, just don’t want to lose my chickens.” He cleared his throat. “If it helps any, I was out here this morning and she wasn’t caught then. Afternoon I watered my garden, and that’s why there’s so much mud. So I doubt she was hung up there more than a few hours.”

The fist around Ivey’s heart loosened just a little. “That helps tremendously, Marty. Thank you.”

More times than she could count, Ivey had taken on problems with stray animals who needed special love and care. It didn’t matter that she’d been working as a veterinarian for years now, seeing all manner of hurt, neglected or just plain ill animals. She still loved them all, and when one hurt, she hurt with it.

“No thanks necessary,” Marty complained, his tone gruff with insult. “Not like I’d let an animal suffer.”

Ivey had a feeling their definitions of suffer varied a bit, but she realized this mattered to him, and she was too grateful to quibble so she just nodded.

Almost got it,” Hope murmured, and with one last clip, the wire loosened. “There.” Fingers gentle, she disentangled the dog’s leg, exposing a painful wound.

Ivey murmured to the small animal all the while, cooing softly, petting and holding her secure. The second she was able to sit back on the muddy ground, she pulled the dog into her lap. With her face close to the top of the dog’s head, she whispered, “There now, that’s better, isn’t it? We’ll get you all fixed up, I promise.”

“Here.” Slipping off her zip-up hoodie, Hope offered it to Ivey to wrap around the dog. “Do you want me to get the carrier?”

Busy swaddling the dog, careful not to jar her, Ivey shook her head. “She doesn’t weigh more than ten or eleven pounds. I’ll carry her to the truck and we’ll see how it goes.” Feeling mud seep into the seat of her pants, she realized she couldn’t get up without letting go of the dog. Lifting a brow at Hope, she said, “A little help?”

“Oh sure.” Hope caught her under one elbow, and Laura hurried forward to take the other, giving her the leverage she needed.

Marty stepped back to avoid getting muddy.

Carefully, the two women got Ivey on her feet. The thick mud was heavy on the seat of her pants, dragging on her stretch jeans that had loosened throughout the day. At least her rubber boots wouldn’t be ruined. Since they treated all sorts of animals, including those on farms, she and Hope each kept a pair at the clinic.

“Let’s go.” Plodding forward, Ivey led the way to the truck. Halfway there, the dog started panting. Concerned, she hastened her step, not at all worried about getting mud on the truck seats. “No need for the crate. Just get us back to the clinic.”

Picking up on her angst, Hope ran around to the driver’s side and got the truck on the road in record time. “Everything okay?”

“Not really, no. Something’s wrong.”

“What should I do?”

Poor Hope. A sick cat had kept them an hour past closing, and then Marty had called… “I’m sorry.” Ivey barely took her gaze off the stressed dog. “Do you think you could assist me at the clinic?”

“Of course I will! You don’t even have to ask.” Frowning, Hope muttered, “Did you think I’d drop you off with a dog in distress? Tell you good luck?” She snorted. “Have I ever done that?”

She and Hope were close enough that Ivey knew she’d inadvertently insulted her. “No, you haven’t. But it’s Friday night after a very long day.”

“It’s Friday night for you, too, you know.”

“What a sad situation for us both.” Despite her worries, Ivey chuckled. “Most women would have plans, and yet we never do.”

“You have Geoff.”

Ivey made a face. “Lot of good that does me.” Likely Geoff was settled on the couch already, watching sports or playing a video game. The excitement had left their relationship a long time ago, so she doubted he’d even notice her absence.

For her part, Hope never dated. That bothered Ivey a lot, but she loved Hope enough that she would never pry.

Smiling at her friend, Ivey said, “I’m glad I won’t have to do this alone.”

“Not ever,” Hope vowed. “Even if by some miracle I ever do have something worthwhile lined up for the weekend, I’d still be here for you, okay?”

Her friendship with Hope meant so much more than any other relationship Ivey had, including her lackluster romance with Geoff. “Smartest thing I ever did was hire you.”

“I’m so glad you did,” Hope whispered. “Otherwise we might not have become friends, then where would I be?”

“Let’s just agree that we’re better off together.” Though Ivey was ten years older than Hope, they’d still hit it off from the start, meshing together as if they’d been lifelong friends. Where Ivey was take-charge and sometimes a little too outspoken, Hope was an intent listener with an enormous heart.

Ivey often wanted to challenge the world, and Hope, sadly, wanted to hide from it.

Or more accurate, she wanted to hide from any interested men.

Hope had an affinity with animals, plus a gentle but sure touch. She was never squeamish, but she exuded sympathy. Ivey valued her. The clients loved her. And the animals trusted her.

Unfortunately, they were still five minutes away from the clinic when the dog went into labor. “This is definitely happening,” Ivey said, doing what she could to make the animal comfortable.

Leaning closer to the steering wheel, Hope drove a little faster. “Be there soon.”

They’d barely gotten in the door when her water broke. Hope ran ahead to prepare an area, moving with practiced ease as she opened an already cleaned kennel and set up a whelping box, then filled it with bedding material. The box had three tall sides to contain the coming puppies, and one low side for the mother to step out for food and water.

Knowing Hope had it in hand, Ivey began cleaning the dog as quickly and efficiently as possible. She managed a cursory job, removing the worst of the mud, when Hope rejoined her. “We’re all set.”

“With luck we’ll have enough time to clean and wrap her leg before she gives birth.” Usually that happened within two hours after the animal’s water breaking, so they didn’t have a minute to spare.

A day that had already been long just turned entirely endless.

Excerpted from The Summer of No Attachments by Lori Foster, Copyright © 2021 by Lori Foster. Published by HQN Books.