Tag Archives: romance novel

Hugs, Kisses, and Mistletoe Wishes by Collected Authors Review

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

Eight authors come together to bring readers the first all-star collection of holiday romance novels for the 2021 holiday season from high-profile romance authors in the romance collection, “Hugs, Kisses, and Mistletoe Wishes”. 

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The Synopsis

Hugs, Kisses and Mistletoe Wishes…a Sweet Christmas Romance Collection. Celebrate the magical holiday season with this special gift straight from our hearts, eight enchanting love stories to cherish all year long. Rekindle your love of the holidays with these heartwarming romances.

Roxy Boroughs: THE SPRITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A wisecracking Christmas sprite takes a heartbroken woman on a magical journey to discover the true meaning of love and family, but only if she has the courage to act before it’s too late.

S. L. Dickson: MY CHRISTMAS HERO

When a firefighter finds and returns a Christmas sock monkey to its rightful owner, he finds a woman with a zest for life. While the romance sparks, a tragedy occurs. Will they get a second chance? Will a kiss under the Mistletoe fulfill their dreams?

Raine Hughes: LOVE IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

Ready to move into their newly purchased home, Jamison Baker and his two young girls discover the previous owner and her female boarders haven’t vacated. Until new accommodations can be found for the women their only option is to share the renamed house, Baker’s Harem…er, Haven. Jamison can’t imagine how he’ll live with thirteen females, especially the feisty Kat Madison.

Ellen Jorgy: SAFE IN HIS ARMS AT CHRISTMAS

Mix one scared city girl with one guilt-ridden country boy doctor and you get a recipe for love at Christmas, but hidden agendas emerge that could crush not only their hopes of love but might end Nicole’s life as well.

Shelley Kassian: A GENTLEMAN FOR CHRISTMAS

In this Downton Abbey meets Outlander romance, a veterinary surgeon pursues a high society lady at the height of the Christmas season. Differing cultures and a high-class father complicate the romance. Will a carol’s song and a horse’s Lady Luck make the season brighter?

Katie O’Connor: GINGERBREAD DREAMS

Poppy Holiday needs a buy a new oven for her bakery. Darius Badeaux has a reputation to shed. They only way they can both achieve their dreams is by winning the Annual Gingerbread Baking Competition. Together. Too bad there’s a hurtful past hanging between them. Will the season of giving bring them together to build the perfect gingerbread house and salvage their careers, or will the past crush their dreams and their hearts?

Sherile Reilly: A WISH UPON A CHRISTMAS KNIGHT

Orphaned, Melody Blackwell, lives under the control of her selfish uncle who betroths her, for financial gain, to a cruel old man. Cursed for centuries, Samuel Knight is brought to life by the fair Melody. Together, they must fight an ancient curse that threatens to destroy their love and then kill them. Can they survive?

A. M. Westerling: EVEYLN’S BEAU

After a disappointing Season, Lady Evelyn Kendall retreats to Kendall Hall in Cornwall. Her immediate future does not include a husband, although a renewed acquaintance with long-time family friend Oliver Harrington shows promise. When a local vicar offers her an opportunity to organize a Christmas pageant for disadvantaged children, Evelyn accepts, never thinking it would lead to disaster for both her and Oliver. 

The Review

These breathtaking romances

such a delight to read. I know we’re in the spooky season right now, but I’ve always felt it’s never too early to start dipping our toes into the holiday season, and fiction is the perfect way to do so without skipping over the Halloween season. These authors did a great job of crafting whole and unique worlds within this collection that felt original and yet meshed well together with all at once. 

What stood out to me as a writer was how natural the author’s various sub-genres within the sweet romance genre overall. Everything from fantasy and historical fiction romances to more dramatic turns, all within the holiday setting, and each author brought their own unique voice and writing style into their narratives expertly. The emotion and charming wit that each protagonist and romance inspired were fantastic to watch unfold, as was the incredible writing of the character interactions within each story.

What always has stood out to me as an author and reader during the holidays is the sense of hope and understanding each tale brings. It’s a time of warmth, where magic isn’t just a silly child’s fantasy but instead a promise of better things for us all. Each story captured that wonderfully, bringing out the romance and passion of each relationship explored while fitting within their own respective genres neatly. Whether the story was filled with great sadness, a beautiful beginning, or even a needed ending, each story found hope and life in the narratives presented here. 

The Verdict

A memorable, magical, and entertaining collection of holiday romance novels, the collected works found within “Hugs, Kisses, and Mistletoe Wishes” is a must-read for the 2021 holiday season! Inviting and engaging on both a creative and emotional level, each author crafted a narrative that kept the reader hooked from the first moments of each story, and warmed our hearts as these characters grew and evolved throughout their romantic journeys. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Katie O’Connor lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She married her high school sweetheart and is living her happily ever after. She is the mother of two grown daughters and is extremely proud of her five grandchildren.

Katie’s career path has been long and twisted, with most of her life devoted to her family. She’s been a waitress, chambermaid, cashier, store manager, as well as a lab and x-ray technician. She is an avid quilter and crafter. She finds inspiration and relaxation in the wilds of Alberta.

She’s dabbled in writing since high school because something drives her to create stories. She swears it’s impossible for her NOT to write. Unsatisfied with one genre, Katie writes contemporary romance, fantasy/paranormal romance and erotica. Recently, she’s crafted her first cozy mystery with the intention of publishing a cozy mystery series.

She believes in all things magical; including dragons, fairies, UFOs, ghosts, and house pixies. But most of all she believes in love, romance and hope.

https://www.katieohwrites.com/

SHELLEY KASSIAN has been writing timeless love stories filled with romance or dark fantasy (romantasy) for more than twenty years, novels that include her recent beach read, A Sea for Summer. A history enthusiast, she’s traveled far and wide to explore secret gardens and medieval castles, having an avid interest in the Tudor period. Her prose has been described as “near rhapsodic,” “pitch perfect,” and “stylishly straightforward, rarely relying on complex turns of phrase.” Reviewers have said her narrative conveys “imaginative fantasy,” “fascinating characters,” and “refreshing romance.”

Shelley’s taken creative writing courses, holds board positions within professional associations, and retains a Professional Editing Certificate. Drawing on her expertise, she has mentored novice writers, but her passion comes alive while scribing her stories into novel-length fiction. Shelley shares her life with her husband, adores her adult children and three grand pups, and when not relaxing at her seaside cottage, lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

S.L. Dickson writes romantic stories about strong men and women who make a difference. She sets her stories in small towns and rural locations, although some of her characters are city dwellers. She is passionate about storytelling and appreciates the support of her husband, Bill, family members, beloved friends, and her many writing colleagues.

Shaa’s favorite place to write or retreat is at her cabin. She enjoys canoeing, swimming, hiking in the forest, or sitting on the dock listening to the call of the loons; even watching bald eagles soar in a blue sky. A favorite family time is when her children and grandchildren come to visit. Family gather around the camp fire, roasting marshmallows and sharing their life stories, whether the season be summer or winter.

Just for fun, Shaa wrote a short story called – Mind Traffic. by S.L. Shaa Dickson. It’s a fun story about life from younger years to the Golden years. Hope you enjoy it.

In Shaa’s spare time, she shares a fun hobby with her family. She often sets up acrylic paints and paints on smooth river rocks, old plates and flat paint stir sticks. Art is life and life is art, and whether the tools be words or a brush stroke, they make our world a more beautiful place.

Shaa and her husband reside in northwestern Ontario with their sheltie mix dog, Lacey.

Before launching her writing career, the multi-talented Roxy Boroughs was an accomplished stage and film actor who appeared in the TV series DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH; and top-rated movies such as IT MUST BE LOVE, starring Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.

Look for her romantic comedy CRAZY FOR COWBOY; her suspense series PSYCHIC HEAT, featuring the award-winning novel A STRANGER’S TOUCH; and the popular FROST FAMILY CHRISTMAS series, marrying sweet romance with cozy mystery.

November 2021 marks the release of two original heartwarming holiday stories. Watch for THE SPRITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, published in the sweet romance anthology HUGS, KISSES AND MISTLETOE WISHES; and A CHRISTMAS CAROLE, featured in CHRISTMAS ROMANCE DIGEST 2021: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, edited by Tracy Cooper-Posey.

Roxy is married to her first love, so she not only writes romance, she lives it! If she’s not typing away at her desk, she’s reading, quilting, whipping up a fabulous new recipe, or hiking around the Rocky Mountain village she calls home, where mule deer and bighorn sheep roam the streets.

“From vikings to viscounts, join the adventure, live the romance.”

Living by the motto “You don’t know unless you try”, A.M.Westerling started writing historical romance because she couldn’t find the kinds of fun stories she enjoyed. After all, she thought, who doesn’t enjoy a tasty helping of dashing heroes and spunky heroines, seasoned with a liberal sprinkle of passion and adventure?

Westerling, a former engineer, is a member of the Romance Writers of America and active in her local chapter. As well as writing, she enjoys cooking, gardening, camping, yoga, and watching pro sports. She lives in Calgary, Canada.

http://www.amwesterling.com/index.html

Raine Hughes was born in central Canada, growing up on a dairy farm in a prairie province. She milked cows in the lands down under (Australia and New Zealand) as well as in Canada before settling down with her husband and assorted livestock and exotic birds. With a favorite TV show being the I Dream of Jeannie series, naturally Hughes thought of writing something similar and started her own Down to Earth Magical Romances in sub-genres including paranormal, fantasy and contemporary. She likes to write on the ‘sweeter’ side rather than ‘dark’ because the world needs more ways to lighten the mood. As a member of a Canadian chapter of the Romance Writers of America, as well as having membership in other writing groups, she enjoys reading most any romance along with books in a variety of the other genres.

Driving on the Left 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. 

As a young woman starts falling hard for a man she meets while on vacation with her mother in Ireland, and her mother must not only contend with helping her daughter but deciding how much to sacrifice for her own love in author Gail Ward Olmsted’s “Driving on the Left”.

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The Synopsis

A trip of a lifetime and a love that changes everything…

Becca Colby was not expecting to fall in love while vacationing in Ireland with her mother, yet she falls hard for sexy tour guide Sean Donovan. He’s everything she never knew she wanted, but a summer fling is a complication that she really doesn’t need right now. Becca’s got a life waiting for her back home, but Sean may be just too good to resist.

Her mom Jackie knows all too well how a seductive stranger can change the entire course of your life, so how can she advise her daughter to resist Sean’s charms? And besides, Jackie has a problem of her own. She needs to decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice for the man she loves.

Driving on the Left celebrates the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter: two women with only one week to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives as they travel through the beautiful Irish countryside.

The Review

What a whirlwind story! The author does an incredible job of writing a story that both newcomers and established readers alike will love, as the narrative focuses on Jackie 20 years after the author’s previous book, Jeep Tour, and brings Jackie’s daughter in as the dual protagonist of this tale. The imagery that comes with any book set in a beautiful travel location such as Ireland is incredibly vivid as the author takes readers through the sites and brings fresh emotions and a balanced tone of light-hearted bonding and passionate romance. 

It is the bond of a mother and daughter that really makes up the core of this story. Both protagonists, Jackie and Becca, are struggling with their own set of problems in their lives. The way the author balances out their own struggles with the relationship that keeps them together and allows Jackie to see herself in her daughter is the emotional lynchpin that keeps this narrative together. The way the author paints the similarities to the first book’s narrative, (i.e., Jackie’s experiences) and the differences with Becca’s journey make this story so engaging to read.

The Verdict

An emotional, bonding, and entertaining women’s fiction and romance novel, author Gail Ward Olmsted’s “Driving on the Left” is a must-read novel. The relatable cast of characters that make up the protagonist’s story and the emotional bond between mother and daughter and the highs and lows that come with that will have readers enthralled and relating heavily to the narrative. 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.

Twitter https://www.twitter.com/gwolmsted

Facebook   www.facebook.com/gailolmstedauthor 

Email  gwolmsted@gmail.com

Amazon  www.amazon.com/author/gailolmsted

Goodreads   

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8158738.Gail_Ward_Olmsted

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

Goodreads

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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. 

The Seeds of Love (Sunflower Kisses Book 1) by Tyler B. Wittkofsky Review

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

A young man fresh out of college and ready for a new job finds his world turned upside down when he meets a college soccer player. As she challenges him and changes his path in life, together they push ahead on a new journey in author Tyler B. Wittkofsky’s “The Seeds of Love”, the first in the SUNFLOWER KISSES series.

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The Synopsis

Fresh out of college, Clay Dabrowski is finally in a good spot in his life. Backed by his support systems, he has his sights on a new job and loving friends and family by his side. The future looks bright. Then he meets fiery-red haired Bailey Childe, a college soccer player from a loving family. Dealing with a rocky relationship, she changes Clay’s world, and quickly shakes up all of his plans. Together they forge a path neither believed was possible. But it leaves Clay wondering, is everything as perfect as it seems?

The Review

A moving and heartfelt story of two young people falling in love, author Tyler Wittkofsky does an outstanding job of creating an emotional and gripping narrative that draws the reader in immediately. The pacing of the novel does a great job of showcasing both the nervousness and magic of falling in love and the whirlwind excitement that comes with that, and the tension and work that comes after love as family, friends, and outside forces either try to voice their opinions or even stand in the way of a growing relationship.

The character arcs for both Clay and Bailey are both relatable and entertaining to read and watch unfold. The family dynamics and friendships for both highlight the struggle of balancing love and romance along with the viewpoints of others in our lives who we also love, and how they sometimes can clash. Aside from the deep-seated romance of the novel, however, I found the focus on mental health a great character development for Clay. As a mental health advocate, it was refreshing to see anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles represented honestly in a fictional way and not over-exaggerated like it sadly is so often, and yet showcases how love and romance can still thrive for those going through something so difficult. 

Allrecipes: 12 Month Subscription

The Verdict

A memorable, honest, and engaging narrative within the new adult, college-age romance novel genre, author Tyler Wittkofsky’s “The Seeds of Love” is a brilliant first chapter in the author’s new romance series. The emotional highs and lows of building a relationship and the way the characters come together are enthralling, to say the least, and make this story shine so brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this incredible story today, as I know I’m eagerly anticipating the next chapter of this series.

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Tyler Wittkofsky was born and raised in Leland, North Carolina, mere minutes from Historic Wilmington and Southport. He graduated from South Brunswick High School and went on to receive his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Growing up, his grandmother was a high school English teacher, assistant principal, principal, and later his elementary school principal. She encouraged his creative writing style and helped him to grow into the writer he is today.

He spends much of his time volunteering for nonprofits and giving his time back to the youth in his community. He was named one of Brunswick County’s Future 10 in 2017, the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional of the Year in 2018, and one of the StarNews 40 Under 40 in 2019 for his passion for helping others discover the jewel that is Northern Brunswick County.

He currently resides in Leland, North Carolina with his fiancé Grace and dogs Dutch and Belle.

https://linktr.ee/wittkofsky

A Second Chance for Love: A Sea Glass Bay Romance Book Review

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

In this collection of contemporary romance stories, four authors showcase the lives of four women living in the coastal town of Sea Glass Bay who find a newfound appreciation for romance in the anthology book, “A Second Chance for Love”. 

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The Synopsis 

With Mother’s Day approaching, four women living in a picturesque coastal town discover a second chance at love when they finally find their happily-ever-after partners in this anthology of contemporary romance novellas.

MOM WANTED

Claire Bishop’s life as an art teacher in Sea Glass Bay is full and rewarding, but her heart longs for a family she’ll never have. When she agrees to help out widower, Sully Vaughn, by taking care of his daughter after school, Sully is concerned his little girl, Lindie, is growing too attached to her favorite teacher. Sully is trying his best to protect his child from the heartache of loss that nearly destroyed him, but he hasn’t taken into account his passion for the dynamic woman—nor Lindie’s determination to lay claim to the perfect mom.

FATHER WANTED

Jazzy Dunbar is enjoying life as a single mom, proving that you don’t have to have a man to have it all. Jeremiah Caldwell, a good friend, made the perfect sperm donor. He’s happy with their “no strings attached” relationship … or is he? He wants to be more than a sometimes-father in baby Caleb’s life. Jazzy doesn’t want to ruin their friendship by allowing their attraction to flare, but when a serious situation threatens, will Jeremiah be able to prove that they can have love and the perfect family?

HERO WANTED

Single mom Leah Martin needs to find a wedding date for her ex-husband’s wedding. Their son, Owen, is going to be the ringbearer and her attendance is required. But this florist has no time to date around the busy Mother’s Day holiday, which is why she agrees to let her friends set her up for a blind date. Hank DeLeon’s bar shares an alley with Leah’s florist shop, which is the perfect location for a restaurant if she’s willing to relocate. When he’s asked to take her on a blind date, he has to wonder: is this a great chance for a business proposition? Or a once-in-a-lifetime chance at love?

FAMILY WANTED

After a corporate restructuring at her accounting firm, Paige Duffy moved north to Sea Glass Bay and opened a handmade candle booth at the coastal town’s popular local craft market. Now her severance is running out and Paige discovers she’s pregnant from a one night stand. Charter boat owner, Gavin Cole, lost his grandfather six months ago, promising him he’d finally pursue his dreams of sailing the open ocean. But when Paige tells him that she’s pregnant with his child, Gavin must decide what adventure he really wants: the one he’s always dreamed of, or the one he never believed possible.

The Review

These four amazing authors have done a perfect job of finding the best romance stories just in time for Mother’s Day. The stories are instantly grabbing and entertaining, bringing forth both romance and rich character development within a short amount of time. The stories feel profound and well-rounded, something not every author can accomplish within a short story, and yet each of these narratives shines brightly on its own. 

What was incredibly impressive was the perfect balance the authors found with not only keeping their stories set within the same fictional town and world that this collection embodies, but still managed to hold onto their own unique writing voices and styles within their own narratives. Each author brought authenticity and engaged the reader on an emotional level, capturing the heart and romance of the collection’s theme perfectly.

The Verdict

A masterful, entertaining, and emotionally-driven narrative, “A Second Chance for Love” is a must-read romantic anthology. Fantastic writing and great character build-up in such a short span of time make this a fun and exciting read, and fans of the genre will absolutely fall in love with the love stories of this collection. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

A geek at heart, USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J Stewart writes “refreshingly unique, quietly humorous, and profoundly moving romance.” (RT Book Reviews) Her books include The Nemesis Files Trilogy (light romantic suspense), The Butterfly Harbor series for Harlequin Heartwarming (sweet romances) and the Honor Bound series for Harlequin Romantic suspense. She’s also branching out into paranormal romance with the Tome Wardens short romance collection.

NYTimes bestselling author Brenda Novak says “The talented Anna J Stewart delivers every time!” Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Jason Momoa addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates two devious kitties named Sherlock and Rosie.

http://www.authorannastewart.com/

Kayla Perrin is a multi-award-winning, multi-published USA Today and Essence ® bestselling author of over fifty novels and novellas. In 2011, Kayla received the prestigious Harry Jerome Award for excellence in the arts.

From the time she could hold a pencil, Kayla knew she wanted to be a writer, and didn’t stop until she realized her dream.  She is published in a variety of genres, including mystery/suspense, romance and mainstream fiction. She has written for major publishing houses including St. Martin’s Press, HarperCollins Publishers, Kensington Books, Harlequin, Ballantine and Simon & Schuster. 

She has been featured on television shows such as Entertainment Tonight Canada, Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings (Bravo documentary about the romance genre), A.M. Buffalo, and the CTV News (among others).  She has also been featured in Ebony magazine, Romantic Times magazine, The South Florida Business Journal, The Toronto Star, The Hamilton Spectator and many other Canadian and U.S. publications.  She has been a guest on many radio shows (including CBC). In October 2007, she was featured in the Italian version of Vanity Fair after speaking at a women’s conference in Matera.  Her works have been translated into Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

Kayla has spoken to children and young adults at schools and other venues, and enjoys speaking about her passion. Through her own story, she wishes to inspire people.  

https://www.authorkaylaperrin.com/

Prior to writing romance, award-winning, USA Today Bestseller Melinda Curtis was a junior manager for a Fortune 500 company, which meant when she flew on the private jet she was relegated to the jump seat—otherwise known as the potty. After grabbing her pen (and a parachute) she made the jump to full-time writer. Between writing sweet romance and sweet romantic comedy, Melinda finds time to bond with her husband over home remodeling projects. She recently came to grips with the fact that she’s an empty nester and a grandma, concepts easier to grasp than jet-setting on a potty.

Sign up for her newsletter on her website to receive two free reads.

https://www.melindacurtis.net/

A non-stop flight from Honolulu to Chicago. A quick stop at the airport bookstore and Cari Lynn Webb discovered her love for romance. She cannot recall the book she bought, but she does remember finishing it somewhere over California, feeling pleased the murderer had been arrested (justice had prevailed). But frustration reigned as Cari searched for a hidden chapter or missed epilogue that would show the heroine and the FBI agent she’d fallen in love with living their happily-ever-after. (Surely love conquered all.) Except not in that particular book. Another trip to the bookstore in her grandparents’ home town and Cari discovered an entire section of books dedicated to the happily-ever-after. There she found Kathleen Woodiwiss, Judith McNaught and then Nora Robert … and she became a life-long romance reader.

Cari’s passion for reading had not dimmed years later when she found herself newly married and inside another bookstore during her lunch break. But the shelves of happily-ever-afters surrounding her couldn’t stem her frustration at not being able to find a new historical romance (Amazon wasn’t the household name it would become). So like any dedicated reader, Cari drove back to work, opened a word document and began to write the historical she wanted to read. Months later, she printed the manuscript, presented it to her husband and asked if she should pursue acting or continue writing. With her husband’s full support, she continued writing… and now she feeds her passion for romance with a stack of to-be read paperbacks in her nightstand, multiple downloads on her kindle and her own stories.

Cari believes in the power of love simply because she’d grown up surrounded by true love. She remembers her grandparents holding hands when she visited them as a kindergartner and still holding hands when her grandmother whispered her final goodbyes to her grandfather after 70 years together. Cari’s parents have been married over 50 years. And Cari is blessed to have married her own hero. She will be the first to tell you that true love isn’t always sweet and perfect, it can be challenging, complicated and risky. But in the end, there is nothing more worth fighting for.

Wishing all of you, your very own happily-ever-after…

Gold Fever: Treasures of the Heart Book One by Lawna Mackie 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 from the big city must leave behind that life in order to find and save her brother in the wilderness, and in the process protect her heart from a rugged and handsome man who doesn’t believe in love in author Lawna Mackie’s “Gold Fever”, the first in the Treasures of the Heart romance series. 

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The Synopsis

Could it be true? The gold existed. A treasure map alluded to such a find, but for over a century it was rumored a fable, one told by an old crazy man—Samantha (Sam) Avery’s great-great-uncle.

One huge problem existed. Her brother Finn sent her the map and told her to run. Sam knew her big brother was in trouble and she had to help him.

In Dawson City, Yukon, Hunter Gray, outfitter and guide had been hired to do a job. At the airport, pick up a Sam Avery and take him to the old Charlie Avery cabin up the mighty river. What Hunter Gray hadn’t expected was for Sam to be a Samantha, who wore fashion designer shoes, had a sharp tongue and a goddess like appearance—the vast wilderness of the Yukon was no place for somebody like her.

Sam had to learn quickly. How hard could it be to ride a horse and live without running water and restaurants for a week? It didn’t matter, her brother needed her and Sam had to convince the ruggedly handsome man and his wolf… yes…wolf, that she was up to the adventure.

Spending night and day together, Samantha knows the attraction between them is growing quickly. Not only is Samantha determined to rescue her brother, but she must now save her heart from a man who doesn’t believe in love.

The Review

The author does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for the overarching mystery and lore this novel showcases as readers see how the hunt for treasure really began. From there the stakes are risen, as a savage criminal holds the brother of one of the novel’s protagonists captive, and brings the events to the forefront. 

The pacing and tone of this novel fit perfectly in the thriller and romance genres, with the action of the shady criminal dealings in the wilds of the Yukon blending with the steamy romance between the city girl and the rough and tumble outdoorsman. The author introduces some very adult romance scenes throughout this novel, so this is definitely not for younger audiences.

The core of this story definitely rests within the chemistry between the characters of this story. While Samantha and Hunter are fantastic romantic love interests and really add to the heart of this tale, Finn and Emma are two surprising and engaging characters that hold much more weight for the novel’s plot, especially Emma. Fans will love delving into these character’s stories and their interactions with one another.

The Verdict

A remarkable, engaging, and steamy romance, author Lawna Mackie’s “Gold Fever” is the perfect first book in the author’s “Treasures of the Heart” romance series. Full of passion, evenly paced, and expertly crafted character relationships make this a standout story that fans of both the thriller and romance genres will not be disappointed by. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lawna Mackie was born in Jasper, Alberta. After finishing high school and post secondary she moved to Calgary, Alberta, married her husband and settled in the small town of Didsbury, Alberta.

Lawna would tell you that a lot of her creativity comes from her mother, who could design and build, just about anything. Her mother never lacked the talent for hand-making toys. “She always amazed me. My brother and I were never bored because she made us flutes, toy cars, and even parallel bars in the trees,” she explains.

Her other creative inspiration comes from her husband Jeff, and the many adventures they have had. It was on one particular trip to British Columbia, when she stopped at the Enchanted Forrest that the fairy tale world called to her to write a story.

Along with the love she has for her husband and family, is the deep admiration and compassion she has for animals. “They bring so much joy and inspiration to my life I don’t know how I would ever live without them,” she says. Alaskan Malamutes are near and dear to her heart. With one Malamute, one Bichon Shih Tzu, one farm cat and a Bengal, her house is never quiet.

Lawna writes contemporary romance and paranormals. One fan writes, “Lawna’s books are well-written and are impossibly good! The scenes are unexpected and very creative. I highly recommend her books!”

http://www.lawnamackie.ca/

A Princess By Christmas (A Royal Wedding #3) by Julia London Review

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

A young widow seeks to turn her late husband’s gossip and fashion rumor gazette into a serious source of journalism, and in doing so finds her first real story as a hidden and lost Prince seeks to root out corruption within his home in author Julia London’s “A Princess by Christmas”, the third in the “A Royal Wedding” series. 

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The Synopsis

She’s discovered his secret.

Now the trouble really begins…

After three years of mourning—and turning her dear deceased husband’s gazette into the ton‘s sauciest source of fashion and gossip—Hollis Honeycutt feels her life has been strangely bereft of late… Her sister is living abroad, and her best friend moved to the country. What must a young widow of rank and reputation do? Why, transform her society gossip sheets into serious investigative news, starting with a rumored coup…and the rather dashing, mysterious gentleman whom Hollis suspects might be the villain of her first real story, and she is the only one who can write it.

Marek Brendan is investigating terrible rumors of treachery and treason that threaten his home country of Wesloria, but he must proceed with caution. No one can discover the truth. After all, who would ever believe he is Wesloria’s lost crown prince? Only Hollis Honeycutt’s cerulean-blue eyes seem to know more than she’s letting on—and worse, Marek can’t seem to resist her curious charms. But even as betrayal threatens a nation and a throne, nothing is quite so dangerous as the lovely young widow who’s determined to find the truth…and a prince of her own.

The Review

A fantastic blend of Victorian-era scenery and social interactions amongst the characters blended with a holiday style romance narrative and political intrigue, this latest entry into the Royal Wedding series definitely is an attention-grabbing and entertaining read. The author beautifully brings to life the budding romance and emotion that all classic Victorian Romances hold, while also crafting a memorable reading experience.

The protagonists and the characters overall really helped bring this story to life, especially the historical setting and the Kingdoms involved in the narrative. The loss and loneliness that Hollis deals with when combined with her determination and passion despite the negative reactions others have to her writing make her a well-rounded character, while Marek’s passion to root out injustice while maintaining his life on his farm is a welcome journey for a young royal to take, making this a truly engaging plot and equally engaging characters to follow.

The Verdict

A heartfelt, emotional, stylistic, and lengthy read, author Julia London’s “A Princess by Christmas” is a must-read romance this holiday season. The story is breathtakingly beautiful and does a great job of drawing in readers with memorable characters and an inviting era of history, making this a must-read holiday romance. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today best selling author of more than two dozen romantic fiction novels. She is the author of the popular historical romance series, the Cabot Sisters, including The Trouble with Honor, The Devil Takes a Bride, and The Scoundrel and the Debutante. She is also the author of several contemporary romances, including Homecoming Ranch, Return to Homecoming Ranch, and The Perfect Homecoming.

Julia is the recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and a six-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. To keep up with all the Julia London news, please visit http://www.julialondon.com. Follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/julialondon

https://www.instagram.com/julia_f_london/

Connected to Me By Marc Kage Review

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

Two young people struggling with their own complicated lives make a strong connection together, and soon find themselves forced to live the other’s life in author Marc Kage’s “Connected to Me”. 

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The Synopsis 

Aoi Kanemoto is Japanese, cute, shy, and a certified genius. Despite graduating top of her class at Caltech, she struggles to find a job in the fast-paced tech industry. Her family, although very loving, doesn’t understand her at all, and her little sister seems poised for success. But Aoi suffers from deep seated trust issues, that keep her from pursuing her dreams.

Then she meets Christian Sterling at a local ramen shop. An Afro-Hispanic foster child and fellow tech-head, Christian’s gentle demeanor and kind gestures cut through Aoi’s emotional barrier. But as they chat and grow closer, the shy girl’s anxiety causes her to flee the restaurant, before he can even ask for her number. Getting ditched is bad enough, but Christian has no idea that this chance encounter is about to turn both their lives upside down.

The next morning, Christian and Aoi are shocked to wake up in each other’s bodies. They have no idea how to get back! As Aoi discovers how lonely Christian’s life really is, Christian must confront Aoi’s strict parents, and help her find the courage to stand up for herself once and for all. And the more they learn about each other’s lives, the deeper they fall in love. But are they trapped in each other’s bodies forever? And if they do switch back, will their new-found romance survive?

The Review

A truly unique twist on the classic “Freaky Friday” body-switch storyline. The author does a great job of developing these two protagonists and their own underlying struggles quite well. The story flows smoothly thanks to detailed and passionate writing, and the emotional bond the two protagonists share with one another can be felt as each chapter goes on. 

What really stood out to me from a narrative perspective was the entire concept of the body-switch, as both protagonists are tech-based geniuses and spend so much time in the world of science that it is fascinating to see how they deal with this almost magical-like situation. Culture also plays a great role in the narrative as well, and Silicon Valley has never felt more alive in this romantic setting. 

The Verdict

A gripping, heartfelt, and evenly-paced narrative, author Marc Kage’s “Connected to Me” is a must-read romance for the modern era. Dealing with mental health and anxiety-based struggles, loneliness, romance, and wonder, the novel is the perfect escape as we head into the final weeks of 2020. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Marc Kage was Born and Raised in Livingston, New Jersey. He graduated from Livingston High School in 2009 and graduated from Montclair State University with a BA in Georgraphy in 2016. Marc currently resides in Bowie, Maryland. When Marc is not writing, he enjoys working out, eating and most importantly, learning new things about this dysfunctional planet.