Tag Archives: romance novel

Just Like That (Albin Academy #1) by Cole McCade Review

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

A young teacher returns to the school that tormented his youth, and is surprised by the bond he creates with his former teacher, who soon becomes something much more than colleagues in author Cole McCade’s “Just Like That”. 

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The Synopsis

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

In Just Like That, critically acclaimed author Cole McCade introduces us to Albin Academy: a private boys’ school where some of the world’s richest families send their problem children to learn discipline and maturity, out of the public eye.

The Review

A powerful and emotional read, the author does a great job of building a complex story that focuses on character development above anything else. The bond between Summer and Professor Fox is engaging and real and draws the reader in immediately. 

The balance of the two characters and their personalities was unique to see unfold here, as was the way they balanced one another. From Summer’s submissive, quiet, and yet determined personality to Professor Fox’s strong, reserved, and more assured personality, these two drive home the romance and drama of the two character’s pasts, which compliments their growing bond as well. 

The Verdict

A moving, engaging, and emotional read that plunges the depths of the reader’s hearts, author Cole McCade’s novel “Just Like That” is a fantastic LGBTQ read that pushes the genre forward and creates memorable and relatable characters. If you haven’t yet be sure to grab your copies today! 

Rating: 10/10

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Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1335146458 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/just-like-that-cole-mccade/1135613577

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/just-like-that/id1491922418 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cole_McCade_Just_Like_That?id=tsbEDwAAQBAJ 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/just-like-that-12 

About the Author

Cole McCade is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in Seattle. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant and business writer, and his nights writing contemporary romance and erotica that flirts with the edge of taboo—when he’s not being tackled by two hyperactive cats. 

He also writes genre-bending science fiction and fantasy tinged with a touch of horror and flavored by the influences of his multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual background as Xen. He wavers between calling himself bisexual, calling himself queer, and trying to figure out where “demi” fits into the whole mess—but no matter what word he uses he’s a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA and POC representation and visibility in genre fiction. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts: 

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Excerpt

“Extinguisher first, then sand,” the voice ordered. “Dr. Liu, if you insist on getting in the way, at least make yourself useful and remove anything else flammable from the vicinity of the blaze. Quickly, now. Keep your mouths covered.”

Summer’s entire body tingled, prickled, as if his skin had drawn too tight. That voice—that voice brought back too many memories. Afternoons in his psychology elective class, staring down at his textbook and doodling in his notebook and refusing to look up, to look at anyone, while that voice washed over him for an hour. Summer knew that voice almost better than the face attached to it, every inflection and cadence, the way it could command silence with a quiet word more effectively than any shout.

And how sometimes it seemed more expressive than the cold, withdrawn expression of the man he remembered, standing tall and stern in front of a class of boys who were all just a little bit afraid of him.

Summer had never been afraid, not really.

But he hadn’t had the courage to whisper to himself what he’d really felt, when he’d been a hopeless boy who’d done everything he could to be invisible.

Heart beating harder, he followed the sound of that voice to the open doorway of a smoke-filled room, the entire chemistry lab a haze of gray and black and crackling orange; from what he could tell a table was…on fire? Or at least the substance inside a blackened beaker was on fire, belching out a seemingly never-ending, impossible billow of smoke and flame.

Several smaller fires burned throughout the room; it looked as though sparks had jumped to catch on notebooks, papers, books. Several indistinct shapes alternately sprayed the conflagration with fire extinguishers and doused it with little hand buckets of sand from the emergency kit in the corner of the room, everyone working clumsily one-handed while they held wet paper towels over their noses and mouths with the other.

And standing tall over them all—several teachers and older students, it looked like—was the one man Summer had returned to Omen to see.

Professor Iseya.

He stood head and shoulders above the rest, his broad-shouldered, leanly angular frame as proud as a battle standard, elegant in a trim white button-down tucked into dark gray slacks, suspenders striping in neat black lines down his chest. Behind slim glasses, his pale, sharply angled gray eyes flicked swiftly over the room, set in a narrow, graceful face that had only weathered with age into an ivory mask of quiet, aloof beauty.

The sleek slick of his ink-black hair was pulled back from his face as always—but as always, he could never quite keep the soft strands inside their tie, and several wisped free to frame his face, lay against his long, smooth neck, pour down his shoulders and back. He held a damp paper towel over his mouth, neatly folded into a square, and spoke through it to direct the frazzled-looking group with consummate calm, taking complete control of the situation.

And complete control of Summer, as Iseya’s gaze abruptly snapped to him, locking on him from across the room. “Why have you not evacuated?” Iseya demanded coldly, his words precise, inflected with a softly cultured accent. “Please vacate the premises until we’ve contained the blaze.”

Summer dropped his eyes immediately—habit, staring down at his feet. “Oh, um—I came to help,” he mumbled through the collar of his shirt.

A pause, then, “You’re not a student. Who are you?”

That shouldn’t sting.

But then it had been seven years, he’d only been in two of Iseya’s classes…and he’d changed, since he’d left Omen.

At least, he hoped he had.

That was why he’d run away, after all. To shake off the boy he’d been; to find himself in a big city like Baltimore, and maybe, just maybe…

Learn not to be so afraid.

But he almost couldn’t bring himself to speak, while the silence demanded an answer. “I’m not a student anymore,” he corrected, almost under his breath. “It’s…it’s me. Summer. Summer Hemlock. Your new TA.” He made himself look up, even if he didn’t raise his head, peeking at Iseya through the wreathing of smoke that made the man look like some strange and ghostly figure, this ethereal spirit swirled in mist and darkness. “Hi, Professor Iseya. Hi.”

Copyright © 2020 by Cole McCade

Burn Zone (Hotshots #1) by Annabeth Albert

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

Desire and danger lurk as a seasoned fire rescue crew member Linc finds the younger brother of his late best friend Jacob joining the crew, stirring up old feelings despite a promise never to pursue anything that he made to Jacob’s brother years earlier in author Annabeth Albert’s “Burn Zone”. 

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The Synopsis

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.

Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.

Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.

The Review

This is definitely an emotional, steamy, and engaging read for those who like passionate LGBTQ romance reads with a hint of action, drama, and intensity. The character development and ongoing struggle of the characters felt relatable. 

From Linc’s growing desire and a mixture of guilt combining with his own identity within the fire rescue crew community he had been engaged with for years to Jacob’s desire to honor his brother’s legacy and finally earn the respect of his family and the people his brother and Linc had worked with for years, the struggles of these two’s lives when combined with the intense romance brewing between them made for a compelling read. 

The Verdict

A gripping evenly paced read, author Annabeth Albert’s “Burn Zone”, the first in the Hotshots series, is a must-read for any fans of the LGBTQ romance/contemporary genre. A fantastic setting and heart-pounding look into the world of fire rescue crews, the story of these two men, and the journey they go on together is something readers will not be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Burn-Zone-Hotshots-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07YCQ7VQW

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/burn-zone-annabeth-albert/1133792901

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/burn-zone/id1481346634

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/burn-zone-2

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Annabeth_Albert_Burn_Zone?id=3eWxDwAAQBAJ

About Annabeth Albert

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter.  In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Connect with Annabeth Albert

Website: http://annabethalbert.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnabethAlbert 

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

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6477494.Annabeth_Albert 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Annabeth-Albert/e/B00LYFFAZK 

Author Q&A

BURN ZONE is the first book in the Hotshots series. What three words best describe BURN ZONE?

Danger, heat, and loyalty! All three words apply on multiple levels here! 

What is Linc’s most surprising quality?

His tenderness. Linc’s deep and abiding loyalty is what people notice first with him, but it’s his private tenderness with Jacob that surprised (and delighted!!!) me the most with him. 

What quality do you love most about Jacob?

Jacob is fearless and tenacious. He knows what he wants and he goes for it, full tilt, whether that thing is his older brother’s best friend, Linc, or smoke jumping.  

BURN ZONE is full of amazing tropes: age difference, grumpy & the sunshine one, older brother’s best friend, rookie/experienced expert, and hurt/comfort. Which trope was the most fun to write for Linc and Jacob’s story?

I knew going into this that this was going to be a deeper examination of best friend’s little brother trope.  I did best friend’s brother with At Attention (Out of Uniform, book #2), but the stakes were lower than they are here as far as the familial relationship. I wanted the characters to have to really grapple with some big feelings. And those feelings give rise to some of my favorite hurt/comfort scenes that I’ve done. All the tropes play together to make this one of my favorite books I’ve done—I loved watching my initial idea of angsty brother’s best friend evolve and grow with the other tropes. 

What would you like readers to take away from reading Linc and Jacob’s story?

Sometimes the heart knows what it wants and won’t stop until it gets its way. Linc and Jacob are meant to be, even in face of opposition and adversity. Their relationship is ill-advised—they work together, Linc’s his mentor, and he’s Jacob’s older brother’s best friend. On paper, they are terrible for each other, but in actuality, they are perfect for each other, the missing half to the other’s heart. They’ve been in love, in a way, for years and years, and all that longing pays off in explosive chemistry. I think what I want readers to take away from this story is “Trust your heart. The rest will follow.” If you trust in your heart, then all the obstacles can be tackled, one by one. 

Who was your favorite secondary character to write in BURN ZONE?

Garrick! He gets book 2, HIGH HEAT, coming to you in July from me and Carina Press! I can’t WAIT for you to meet Garrick and Rain! 

Where did the inspiration for the Hotshots series come from?

I wanted to do a Central Oregon series, and after spending time in the region on family trips, I was fascinated by how much of the summer season is dominated by wildfire risk. After writing Rough Terrain (Out of Uniform, book #7), I really, really wanted to do more parachute-loving characters, and what’s better than one hero who likes to jump out of planes? Two! And a whole team of them! I wanted to return to the team feeling from Out of Uniform with a close-knit fire community in a part of the country that I truly love. 

Writing about smoke jumpers in Oregon must have resulted in some interesting research for the Hotshots series. What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned so far? 

So much amazing research! One thing that I loved finding out about was how smoke jumpers repair a lot of their own gear. They are responsible for repairing and maintaining their equipment and a lot of time that means sewing and other highly dexterous tasks that you might not associate with rough-and-ready firefighters. 

BURN ZONE and the Hotshots series returns to the ‘band of brothers’ feel readers loved in your Out of Uniform Series. What do you love about writing the ‘band of brothers’ feel into your books? 

I love loyal groups bound by more than just friendship or family. I love people brought together by a shared passion for serving their community. I love putting them in the sort of life-and-death situations that our real life frontline heroes face. Loyalty to each other goes far beyond a job. It’s a calling, and sometimes it results in sacrifices. I like to honor that hard work and sacrifice in my books and pay tribute to these heroic vocations. It’s inspiring and also fascinating, examining the community created by people brought together to serve the greater good. 

HIGH HEAT, the second Hotshots book comes out this summer. What can readers expect from Garrick’s story?

I loved every single thing about writing BURN ZONE, but Garrick was one of my favorite parts. He’s a foil for both Linc and Jacob, and he’s the sort of freewheeling, easy spirit that absolutely embodies the smoke jumping community. But what happens when that job, that community is threatened by an injury beyond your control? Garrick’s book was a chance for me to delve deep into what happens when life doesn’t go according to plan. But it’s also a tremendously fun book. There’s a dog in need of a home, a kinky new younger neighbor, a hot tub, and shenanigans aplenty as Garrick and his co-hero Rain, discover what truly makes a home. With the whole series, you can expect fire drama in the background and lots of adrenaline pumping, but also deep, meaningful feelings and warm, squishy endings.  

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr Review

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

Two sisters separated by age difference and having never gotten to know one another find themselves forced to start life over again and must learn to find not only each other but themselves in author Robyn Carr’s “Sunrise on Half Moon Bay”. 

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The Synopsis

Sometimes the happiness we’re looking for has been there all along…

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other.

When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.

Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.

Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

Set in the stunning coastal town of Half Moon Bay, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr’s new novel examines the joys of sisterhood and the importance of embracing change.

The Review

A fantastic, emotional and engaging read, author Robyn Carr’s “Sunrise on Half Moon Bay” is a great story of family, relationships and finding your true self. The harsh circumstances these two sisters find themselves in are truly emotional and heartbreaking, but the journey they go on with one another leads to changes that many readers will be able to identify with as moments in their own journeys in life. 

This novel’s greatest strength is character development, as the protagonists, Justine and Addie take readers on two very different yet similar experiences of getting out of stagnant, debilitating situations and taking the dive to find the things that make them feel whole and complete again. Surrounding them are new romances, good friends, personal and professional rivals and at the heart of the story, family. The setting does a great job of tying the story into the character’s journey perfectly, really giving the readers a clear picture in their mind of the events unfolding. 

The Verdict

A wonderful read, author Robyn Carr’s “Sunrise on Half Moon Bay” is a must-read contemporary romance and women’s fiction read that readers are not soon to forget. An average length read this story keeps the readers engaged on a personal level throughout the entirety of the book, and will be the perfect read for anyone looking for that perfect escape. Be sure to grab your own copy of the book today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at www.RobynCarr.com.

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target 

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

Social Links:

Author Website: https://www.robyncarr.com/

Twitter: @RCarrWriter

Facebook: @RobynCarrWriter

Instagram: @RobynCarrWriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/107767.Robyn_Carr?from_search=true

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EXCERPT

 “Has it ever occurred to Scott to get a serious job?” Adele asked. “I mean, forgive me, since I haven’t had a serious job in my life.” 

Justine smiled patiently. “Your jobs have all been serious, and without you we’d have been lost. If you hadn’t dedicated yourself to Mom’s care, it would have cost our whole family a fortune. We’re indebted to you. And I agree it would help if Scott worked more than part-time, but I think that ship sailed years ago. He’s only worked part-time since Amber and Olivia came along.” 

Adele adored her nieces, ages sixteen and seventeen. She was much closer to them than she was to Justine. 

“I’m sorry you’re going through this,” Adele said. “I wish there was something I could do.” 

“Well, the thing is, the future is looking very uncertain. I might need your help,” Justine said. 

“What could I do?” she asked. 

“Adele, I don’t like to push you, but you have to get it together. We have to make some decisions about what you’re going to do, what we’ll do with the house. I realize what I’ve given you for your hard work hasn’t been much, but I don’t know how long I can keep it up—paying for the maintenance on this house, the taxes, a modest income for you… I don’t want to panic prematurely,” Justine said. “Maybe I’ll be able to work everything out without too much hassle, but if I run into trouble… Money could get very tight, Addie. All those promises I made—that I’d help financially while you fix up the house, that I’d give you my half of the proceeds when and if you sold it… I might not be able to come through. I know, I know, I promised you it would be yours after all of your sacrifice, but you wouldn’t want me to ignore the girls’ tuition or not be able to make the mortgage…” 

“But Justine!” Adele said. “That’s all I have! And I was considering finishing school myself!” Though if she was honest, she had no plans of any kind. 

Justine reached out to her, squeezing her hand. “We’re a long way from me needing money. I just felt it was only fair to tell you what’s going on. If we’re in this together, we can both make it. I swear, I will make this all work out. I’ll make it right.” 

But as Adele knew, they had never really been “in it together” in the past, and they wouldn’t be for very long in the future. Addie’s dedication to their parents allowed Justine to devote herself to her career. For that matter, it should be Justine and Scott shoring each other up. At least until Justine had a better idea. But where was Scott today? Golfing? Biking? Bowling? 

Adele realized she had some difficult realities to face. When she dropped out of school to help her mother care for her father, she wasn’t being completely altruistic. She’d needed a place to run away to, hiding an unplanned pregnancy and covering her tattered heart. She’d never told her family that her married lover—her psychology professor—had broken down in tears when he explained he couldn’t leave his wife to marry Adele, that the college would probably fire him for having an affair with a student. For her, going home was the only option. 

At the time Justine and Scott had been riding the big wave and didn’t lust after the small, old house in Half Moon Bay. That house was chump change to them. So, they worked out a deal. Adele had become her mother’s guardian with a power of attorney. But the will had never been adjusted to ref lect just one beneficiary rather than two. In the case of the death of both parents, Adele and Justine would inherit equal equity in the eighty-year-old house and anything left of the life insurance. At the time, of course, neither Adele nor Justine had ever considered the idea that Adele would be needed for very long. But before Adele knew it, eight years had been gobbled up. She was thirty-two and had been caring for her parents since she was twenty-four. 

Adele, as guardian, could have escaped by turning over the house, pension, social security to a care facility for her mother and gone out on her own, finding herself a better job and her own place to live. She wasn’t sure if it was her conscience or just inertia that held her in place for so long. 

“I just wanted to make sure you understood the circumstances before anything more happens,” Justine said. “And since you don’t have any immediate plans, please don’t list the house for sale or anything. Give me a chance to figure out what’s next. I have children. I’ll do whatever I can to protect them and you. They’re your nieces! They love you so much. I’m sure you want them to get a good education as much as I do.” 

Does anyone want me to have a real chance to start over? Adele asked herself. This conversation sounded like Justine was pulling out of their deal. 

“I’ll think about this, but Scott has responsibilities, too,” she pointed out. 

“He’s been out of the full-time workforce for so long…” Justine said. 

“Just the same, we all have to live up to our adult commitments and responsibilities. And you’ve had a highfalutin job for a long time. You’ve made a lot of money. You can recover. I haven’t even begun.” 

“I need your help, Addie,” Justine said. “You need to come up with a plan, something we can put in motion. Make plans for your next step, put a little energy into this old house, make suggestions of what we should do with it, everything. Let’s figure out what to do before I find myself short and unable to help. I’m sorry, but we have to move forward.”

Excerpted from Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, Copyright © 2020 by Robyn Carr. Published by MIRA Books.

Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller by Timothy Jay Smith Review

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

A young Greek-American FBI agent finds himself searching for an arsonist, uncovering hidden secrets in a small island community in the Greek Islands and wrestling with a growing and passionate affair with someone who may very well be the prime suspect in the arson case in author Timothy Jay Smith’s “Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller”.

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The Synopsis

For lovers of crime fiction and the allure of the Greek islands, Fire on the Island is the perfect summer read. 

FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

A long time devotee of the Greek islands, Smith paints the setting with gorgeous color and empathy, ushering in a new romantic thriller with the charm of  Zorba the Greek while shedding bright light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.

The Review

A brilliant blend of action, dramatic tension, thrills and romantic humor and passion, author Timothy Jay Smith has created an engaging read that will keep readers invested in the cast of characters throughout the narrative. The novel does an excellent job of not only creating the tension of the thriller and the passion of the romance, but infuses into it the tone of the very real distrust, heartbreak and painful situation regarding refugees forced to flee and ending up in the Greek Islands. It demonstrates the division amongst the communities regarding accepting and helping these refugees and those who want to blame them for all of society’s woes. 

Amidst this important storytelling sits a beautiful work of character building that really fleshes out the cast of characters well in this novel. The setting comes alive on the pages of this book and really does a great job of making this community become its own character, giving the book’s plot more heft and importance as the story progresses. 

The Verdict

A must-read novel, “Fire on the Island” by Timothy Jay Smith is a fantastic read with a quick pace and engaging plot that will keep the readers on the edge of their seat both for the book’s thrilling plot and romantic character developments. Be sure to grab your own copy on July 7th, 2020. 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that’s seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.

Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. Another novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, will be published in spring 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012.

Tim was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.

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Husband Material by Emily Belden 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 must face her heartbreaking past and discovers a shocking secret in author Emily Belden’s novel “Husband Material”. 

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The Synopsis 

Told in Emily Belden’s signature edgy voice, a novel about a young widow’s discovery of her late husband’s secret and her journey toward hope and second-chance love.

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.

Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.

But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.

The Review

This book has the perfect balance of rom/com style dialogue with heartfelt, emotional themes that deal with the reality of loss, in particular losing a spouse at an early age. The novel answers the question of how we find the motivation and will to move on and if finding love again is possible, while also delving into the complex feelings that come with respecting the past and meeting the future head-on. 

The protagonist perfectly showcases a strong lead that directs the story forward in a natural progression while also showing off how the protagonist’s pain and way of dealing with grief have closed themselves off from the rest of the world, including the people closest to her. The author does a great job of not following the formula exactly for a rom/com stylebook, instead of writing real characters with complex emotions that leaves the future for the characters open to interpretation, just as life truly is. 

The Verdict

A masterful romance, comedy yet dramatic story with rich characters and an evenly paced tone, the novel Husband Material by Emily Belden is a must-read for any fans of the romance genre. A great hit with lots of hearts, fans will not be able to put down their copies anytime soon. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author Bio:

EMILY BELDEN is a journalist, social media marketer, and storyteller. She is the author of the novel Hot Mess and Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals. She lives in Chicago. Visit her website at http://www.emilybelden.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @emilybelden.

Advance Praise for Husband Material

“Tackling thorny questions of widowhood and dating after trauma, Belden’s second novel is witty, full of heart, and blindingly au courant. Packed with pop-culture references, it will appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Rosie Walsh, and Plum Sykes. Belden writes twists and turns to keep readers hooked.” Booklist

“Charming.” Publishers Weekly

“Sensitive, thoughtful, and touching.” —Library Journal

“In this touching, witty, and timely book, Emily Belden deftly explores the complexities of human relationships in our increasingly tech-obsessed world. By turns heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny, Husband Material beautifully demonstrates that you can’t reduce love to a bunch of 1s and 0s.”

—Kristin Rockaway, author of How To Hack a Heartbreak

Buy Links:

Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781525805981_husband-material.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Husband-Material-Emily-Belden/dp/1525805983

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/husband-material-emily-belden/1129908343?ean=9781525805981#/

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781525805981

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/husband-material-12

Google Books: https://books.google.com/books/about/Husband_Material.html?id=0sR6DwAAQBAJ

Social Links:

Author website: http://www.emilybelden.com/

Twitter: @emilybelden

Instagram: @emilybelden

Facebook: @emilybeldenauthor

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Q&A with Emily Belden

Q: When you begin writing a love story, do you know how you want it to end? Or do you decide as you develop the plot?

A: I generally have an idea of how I want things to wrap up, but what I always struggle with is that final sentence. How do you know you’re REALLY there? I often ready my theoretical last sentence out loud, followed by saying “The End”, and if it feels like it has a certain “ring” to it, then I can shut the laptop. If not, then I know it’s not my stopping point. Wrapping up that final thought with a bow on it is super important. It’s what I want when I read a book, at least.

Q: How was it to write about grief, pain and love for the same character?

A: It was new. That’s really the best word to explain it. HOT MESS has so many autobiographical elements to it (i.e., restaurant industry know-how, dating an addict, etc.) but HUSBAND MATERIAL was all unchartered territory for me. I realized right away that in order to write about the grief of losing a spouse/partner, I had to curate a focus group of real-life women like Charlotte and really learn from them to bring the level of authenticity and nuance needed to successfully write the book.

Q: What type of love stories do you like? Or were there ones you looked to as you began writing Husband Material?

A: I like really unexpected love stories. In today’s literary landscape, there’s certainly a formula that is pretty common. So it’s the books that break or stray from that formula that really do it for me. I like stories where it’s not innately clear who the protagonist is going to end up with. Even with HOT MESS there’s a moment where (I hope) the reader is like “OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING” insofar as Allie’s love story goes. Same with Charlotte in HUSBAND MATERIAL.

Q: Do you prefer to write by planning ahead (ie outlining, etc) or just go with the flow as inspiration hits?

A: I prefer to go with the flow. My general writing pattern is banging out 1-2 chapters at a time and then ending my work with a bulleted list of what I think needs to happen next. That way, when I open up my laptop and start to write the next 1-2 chapters, I’m not totally lost or forgetful of where I left off. It helps me figure out what would make sense in the flow of the pages.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become an author? What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR list?

A: It’s been my only god-given talent since I was a little kid. It started with really creative letters to Santa or the Tooth Fairy. I won a contest to be a kid reporter for the Chicago Tribune when I was 12 years old and after that, my fate was sealed. I knew I wanted to write at the highest level I could! I am currently reading a book called Lulu’s Cafe by an author who is also repped by my agents, Browne & Miller. I really love it and can picture it as an adorable Hallmark Movie. 

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: I heard a news story on the TV when I was doing dishes at my (former) home in San Diego. It was about a developer who wanted to buy the land a mausoleum was on so they could tear it down and build luxury condos overlooking the ocean. I thought, how crazy if your loved one’s ashes just got mailed back to you one day and the resting place you thought was final, wasn’t. It wasn’t easy, but turned that general premise into a light-side-of-heavy rom-com.

Q: What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: Over all, that second chances at love take all different forms. You never know the circumstances someone has found themselves in, so be kind. For Charlotte, I intentionally wrote the first few chapters as if she was divorced–talking about her “first marriage”. Then you find out “Oh, sh*t, she’s a widow,” and all the sudden your emotional connection with her changes. I also find it interesting writing about death. We don’t talk about it in society, especially not in contemporary women’s fiction. A tragic, unexpected death is the crux of this book. Let’s dig in!

Q: What drew you into this particular genre?

A: I saw there was room to carve out a spot for someone like me who writes unexpected, voicey, edgy, authentic women’s fiction and so I went full steam ahead with the help of a great agent to make it happen.

Q: If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

A: I would sit down with Charlotte. I’ve met the “real life” versions of her when doing my focus groups for research, it would be my honor to meet her. I’d ask her if she wanted to team up and develop a dating app framed around people’s dogs. 

Q: What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

A: Instagram. I feel like I’ve become friends with people I’ve never met in real life. They cheer me on and I’m humbled by it. I also find other authors on Facebook in certain literary groups. This has been fun and has helped me grow my TBR list with books I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of.

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Q: What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

A: Be patient. Be patient with the process – success as an author is fluid and can mean many different things. Nothing happens overnight. It’s a process. And be patient with yourself. If you aren’t vibing your writing, don’t put pressure on yourself to tap keys just because you said you were going to do 1,000 words tonight. There are times two weeks go by and I haven’t opened my Word doc once. But then when I am vibing it, I can cruise for 10K words and absolutely rock it. There’s an ebb and flow, for sure.

Q: What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

A: I am working on a third novel at my own pace right now. I’m very excited about it and just exploring where the plot takes me. I would love to work on a film/TV/podcast adaption of any of my existing works as a next step, too. I also got married nine months ago and am enjoying life with my soulmate, Matt.

Interview With Author Jessica Leed

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing? 

As far as I can remember I have loved story telling—in all forms. As a child I would spend every Saturday at the library, devouring books like there was no tomorrow! This quickly led to writing short stories wherever that had a surface! I think there is so much beauty in the world with many stories to tell and feel like there are endless possibilities of ways to communicate them. 

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2) What inspired you to write your book? 

I love creating different worlds in my head. There is such a freedom in writing. A lot of inspiration was drawn from real life experiences, lived out by fictional characters, and of course, the fictional town of ‘Aringdale’. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book? 

This book weaves together themes of self-identity and toxic relationships— issues I feel are prevalent in society that many people can relate to. It is my hope that my readers know that who they are is enough, that no battlelife has thrown at them defines them or their worth. We are strong, brave, resilient and capable of anything we set our mind to. 

4) What drew you into this particular genre? 

I have always been a bit of romantic. In saying that I realise that life doesn’t always end in ‘happily ever after’ the way most romance movies and fairy-tale books lead us to believe. Let’s face it, Life is complicated, relationships are complicated. I wanted to create a story that highlights this, but in a way that stirs faith and hope within the reader. 

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why? 

I think it’s safe to say that there are a few readers that have been frustrated with Sienna’s decision in tolerating a toxic relationship for so long. Instead of asking Sienna why she didn’t leave, I would ask her what she would be most afraid about if she did. 

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership? 

Facebook has been the most beneficial. I started promotion my book months before its release. I found that Facebook ads have really helped drive people to my website and subscribe to my newsletter which is wonderful. 

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7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there? 

Read, read, read! The more you read, the better you will be able to refine your craft and gain a deeper insight into the genre that most inspires you. Also know that your writing will never be perfect and that there will always be someone who doesn’t like your work. You could be the juiciest, sweetest, ripest peach in the world, but not everyone likes peaches! This is true with writing, too. Understand that your debut book will not be your best, which is actually exciting because it means you will only continue to grow as a writer! 

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon? 

I have very recently launched my debut novel NINE YEARS and about to embark on the sequel; HERE I STAND. I will be spending a lot of the summer in hibernation, writing! Stay tuned. 🙂 

About the Author

Jessica is a 30-year-old school teacher, former fitness professional and dancer. She was born and raised in Bendigo, Victoria before moving to Melbourne in 2008. For as long as she can remember she has had a passion for storytelling—in all forms. 

From writing countless short stories as a child to later completing a creative writing course, written by her favourite and best-selling author, Karen Kingsbury, Jessica was adamant to become a published author. NINE YEARS is the first book in the two-part series BENEATH THE CLOUDS.

AMAZON:https://www.amazon.com.au/Nine-Years-novel-Jessica-Leed/dp/0648679721/ref=sr_1_fkmr3_1?keywords=nine+years+jessica+lead&qid=1573102696&sr=8-1-fkmr3

GOOD READS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48556916-nine-years

Website: http://jessleed.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicaleeda…

Instagram: @jessicaleedauthor  

Tormino’s by Yuuki Haneda Review

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

A young teen discovers a unique new cast of characters at his new job, and perhaps even love, in author Yuuki Haneda’s novel “Tormino’s”. 

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The Synopsis

Miles Sonatas’ parents approved for him to get a part-time job during his final years of high school, but he soon learns the family restaurant he works at is anything but normal. He is immediately welcomed by his co-workers, and oddly enough, finds himself accepting of their quirks. Such as the lazy manager, Cyrus who calls everyone by their last name and sits in his closet of an office all day. Or the chefs, Shasta, who is very protective of his kitchen, and Sierra, who has a song stuck in her head. Then there are the other servers, Anita, who is searching for her soulmate, Oliver, a struggling artist who lives in the restaurant attic, and the ever clumsy waitress, Ramona.

When Miles catches Ramona on the first day, everyone believes love in the air. Despite this new habit, Miles and Ramona insist there is nothing between them. Or is there?

A slice of life novella featuring a cast of colorful characters and the hilarity and romance that ensues.

The Review

In this short yet incredibly engaging read, author Yuuki Haneda has done a marvelous job of creating a cast of characters that is both unique and relatable in their quirkiness. Each character in the book delivers funny, real and personable moments that keep the reader invested in the overall story.

The author also does a great job of highlighting the complexities of romance and relationships overall, from young love to those who believe in destiny versus those who believe in their own hearts and more. Its a great story filled with both humor and emotional storytelling that any reader will be able to jump into head first.

The Verdict

Overall this was a wonderfully written novel. Although readers may notice a couple of grammatical errors here or there, the characters are what drive the story forward, and the entire cast is strong enough and interesting to the point where readers won’t want to put the story down. In a fairly quick read, this story shines through as the first in a series of books that readers will not want to miss getting their hands on, so be sure to grab your copy of “Tormino’s” by Yuuki Haneda today!

Rating: 8/10

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https://mailchi.mp/cf15baa4d54c/torminostories

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48915950-tormino-s

Nine Years by Jessica Leed 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 struggling internally as she is caught between her family, the man she’s sure she’s meant to marry and her career finds new life in unexpected ways in author Jessica Leed’s novel “Nine Years”. 

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The Synopsis

An emotional, captivating tale about the complexity of relationships, self-discovery and long-lost love. Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Kristin Hannah and Jane Green.

You would think Sienna Henderson had the perfect life. She has a successful career, a loving family and is engaged to be married. From the outside she appears to have it all together, yet on the inside she is coming undone.

Caught inside a dysfunctional relationship and with her work environment intolerable, she finds herself slipping further from the life she has envisioned.

After reuniting with a man from her past, Sienna’s life is turned upside down in a way that has her questioning everything she has ever known.

The Review

An emotional, well plotted and character driven narrative, Nine Years hits every emotional beat that a good drama/romance genre novel should. Highlighting the struggle that comes from trying to make a strained relationship work, the author does an amazing job of showcasing how those types of relationships and how a life that has gone down a road not thought possible can impact a person mentally and emotionally.

Sienna is a relatable, honest and heartbreaking character that readers will instantly connect with. Like many people before her, Sienna finds herself fighting to keep a relationship alive despite a complete lack of effort from the other half of that relationship. Showcasing the struggles she undertakes with that effort and highlighting how the protagonist is affected in her career, her personal life and her romantic life after an old friend with deep emotional roots in her heart comes back into her life suddenly, this novel produces a narrative many people are familiar with, but yet still remains relevant and engaging with readers everywhere. 

The Verdict

This is a a must read novel for anyone who enjoys a good romance/drama book. The author does an excellent job of creating an ending that can easily lead into further books along the way, and showcases how often life is more complex than the fairytale romances other novels often portray. Those novels are an escape from reality, giving life to the hopes we all have in our hearts, yet the author creates a realistic and personal story that many can relate to, and a protagonist fans can not only root for but can identify with easily, making for an engaging read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of “Nine Years” by Jessica Leed today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jessica is a 30-year-old school teacher, former fitness professional and dancer. She was born and raised in Bendigo, Victoria before moving to Melbourne in 2008. For as long as she can remember she has had a passion for storytelling—in all forms. 

From writing countless short stories as a child to later completing a creative writing course, written by her favourite and best-selling author, Karen Kingsbury, Jessica was adamant to become a published author. NINE YEARS is the first book in the two-part series BENEATH THE CLOUDS.

AMAZON:https://www.amazon.com.au/Nine-Years-novel-Jessica-Leed/dp/0648679721/ref=sr_1_fkmr3_1?keywords=nine+years+jessica+lead&qid=1573102696&sr=8-1-fkmr3

GOOD READS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48556916-nine-years

Website: http://jessleed.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicaleeda…

Instagram: @jessicaleedauthor  

The Princess Plan (A Royal Wedding #1) 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 visit from royalty turns into a tragic mystery as the stubborn Prince of a visiting nation teams up with a driven young woman who runs a local gazette in London society in author Julia London’s novel “The Princess Plan”, the first in the A Royal Wedding Series. 

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The Synopsis 

Princes have pomp and glory—not murdered secretaries and crushes on commoners

Nothing gets London’s high society’s tongues wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefitted from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater one in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.


The Review

A well written, character driven narrative, author Julia London soars as this novel brings historical fiction, romance and mystery to life. The chemistry between Eliza and Prince Sebastian was the immediate draw of this romance tale, as Sebastian’s temper and Eliza’s independence clashed immediately, but soon led to a friendship and something more as time went on. 

What the author did an excellent job of however was expertly exploring the roles of men and women in society, those that are expected versus the roles we seek to create for ourselves. Also exploring social class and how status can sometimes impede life choices, it was fascinating to see the characters struggle against these roles thrust upon them by others when trying to find their own way themselves. Something quite difficult when caught up in a murder mystery, pending trade agreements and a brewing romance that puts Sebastian in the hot seat as he must choose between love and his duty. 


The Verdict

Engaging, entertaining and explosive, author Julia London has created a smash hit with The Princess Plan. A story of society’s expectations versus our own, love and overcoming the odds to maintain that love, and battling those who conspire against you behind your back, this was a truly tantalizing read that readers will not be able to get enough of. A lengthy read, the book is equal parts mystery, romance and historical fiction, creating a book that many different readers can enjoy. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of Julia London’s “The Princess Plan (A Royal Wedding #1)” today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

SOCIAL LINKS:

 www.julialondon.com/newsletter

 www.facebook.com/julialondon

 www.twitter.com/juliaflondon

 www.instagram.com/julia_f_london

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin

Amazon

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Google Play

IndieBound

Kobo

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The Princess Plan Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

London 1845

All of London has been on tenterhooks, desperate for a glimpse of Crown Prince Sebastian of Alucia during his highly anticipated visit. Windsor Castle was the scene of Her Majesty’s banquet to welcome him. Sixty-and-one-hundred guests were on hand, feted in St. George’s Hall beneath the various crests of the Order of the Garter. Two thousand pieces of silver cutlery were used, one thousand crystal glasses and goblets. The first course and main dish of lamb and potatoes were served on silver-gilded plates, followed by delicate fruits on French porcelain.

Prince Sebastian presented a large urn fashioned of green Alucian malachite to our Queen Victoria as a gift from his father the King of Alucia. The urn was festooned with delicate ropes of gold around the mouth and the neck.

The Alucian women were attired in dresses of heavy silk worn close to the body, the trains quite long and brought up and fastened with buttons to facilitate walking. Their hair was fashioned into elaborate knots worn at the nape. The Alucian gentlemen wore formal frock coats of black superfine wool that came to midcalf, as well as heavily embroidered waistcoats worn to the hip. It was reported that Crown Prince Sebastian is “rather tall and broad, with a square face and neatly trimmed beard, a full head of hair the color of tea, and eyes the color of moss,” which the discerning reader might think of as a softer shade of green. It is said he possesses a regal air owing chiefly to the many medallions and ribbons he wore befitting his rank.

Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies

The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, a widower and justice of the Queen’s Bench in Her Majesty’s service, was very nearly blind, his eyesight having steadily eroded into varying and fuzzy shades of gray with age. He could no longer see so much as his hand, which was why his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Tricklebank, read his papers to him.

Eliza had enlisted the help of Poppy, their housemaid, who was more family than servant, having come to them as an orphaned girl more than twenty years ago. Together, the two of them had anchored strings and ribbons halfway up the walls of his London townhome, and all the judge had to do was follow them with his hand to move from room to room. Among the hazards he faced was a pair of dogs that were far too enthusiastic in their wish to be of some use to him, and a cat who apparently wished him dead, judging by the number of times he put himself in the judge’s path, or leapt into his lap as he sat, or walked across the knitting the judge liked to do while his daughter read to him, or unravelled his ball of yarn without the judge’s notice.

The only other potential impediments to his health were his daughters—Eliza, a spinster, and her younger sister, Hollis, otherwise known as the Widow Honeycutt. They were often together in his home, and when they were, it seemed to him there was quite a lot of laughing at this and shrieking at that. His daughters disputed that they shrieked, and accused him of being old and easily startled. But the judge’s hearing, unlike his eyesight, was quite acute, and those two shrieked with laughter. Often.

At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge. There had been an unfortunate and rather infamous misunderstanding with one Mr. Asher Daughton-Cress, who the judge believed was despicable, but that had been ten years ago. Eliza had once been demure and a politely deferential young lady, but she’d shed any pretense of deference when her heart was broken. In the last few years she had emerged vibrant and carefree. He would think such demeanour would recommend her to gentlemen far and wide, but apparently it did not. She’d had only one suitor since her very public scandal, a gentleman some fifteen years older than Eliza. Mr. Norris had faithfully called every day until one day he did not. When the judge had inquired, Eliza had said, “It was not love that compelled him, Pappa. I prefer my life here with you—the work is more agreeable, and I suspect not as many hours as marriage to him would require.”

His youngest, Hollis, had been tragically widowed after only two years of a marriage without issue. While she maintained her own home, she and her delightful wit were a faithful caller to his house at least once a day without fail, and sometimes as much as two or three times per day. He should like to see her remarried, but Hollis insisted she was in no rush to do so. The judge thought she rather preferred her sister’s company to that of a man.

His daughters were thick as thieves, as the saying went, and were coconspirators in something that the judge did not altogether approve of. But he was blind, and they were determined to do what they pleased no matter what he said, so he’d given up trying to talk any practical sense into them.

That questionable activity was the publication of a ladies’ gazette. Tricklebank didn’t think ladies needed a gazette, much less one having to do with frivolous subjects such as fashion, gossip and beauty. But say what he might, his daughters turned a deaf ear to him. They were unfettered in their enthusiasm for this endeavour, and if the two of them could be believed, so was all of London.

The gazette had been established by Hollis’s husband, Sir Percival Honeycutt. Except that Sir Percival had published an entirely different sort of gazette, obviously— one devoted to the latest political and financial news. Now that was a useful publication to the judge’s way of thinking.

Sir Percival’s death was the most tragic of accidents, the result of his carriage sliding off the road into a swollen river during a rain, which also saw the loss of a fine pair of grays. It was a great shock to them all, and the judge had worried about Hollis and her ability to cope with such a loss. But Hollis proved herself an indomitable spirit, and she had turned her grief into efforts to preserve her husband’s name. But as she was a young woman without a man’s education, and could not possibly comprehend the intricacies of politics or financial matters, she had turned the gazette on its head and dedicated it solely to topics that interested women, which naturally would be limited to the latest fashions and the most tantalizing on dits swirling about London’s high society. It was the judge’s impression that women had very little interest in the important matters of the world.

And yet, interestingly, the judge could not deny that Hollis’s version of the gazette was more actively sought than her husband’s had ever been. So much so that Eliza had been pressed into the service of helping her sister prepare her gazette each week. It was curious to Tricklebank that so many members of the Quality were rather desperate to be mentioned among the gazette’s pages.

Today, his daughters were in an unusually high state of excitement, for they had secured the highly sought-after invitations to the Duke of Marlborough’s masquerade ball in honor of the crown prince of Alucia. One would think the world had stopped spinning on its axis and that the heavens had parted and the seas had receded and this veritable God of All Royal Princes had shined his countenance upon London and blessed them all with his presence.

Hogwash.

Everyone knew the prince was here to strike an important trade deal with the English government in the name of King Karl. Alucia was a small European nation with impressive wealth for her size. It was perhaps best known for an ongoing dispute with the neighboring country of Wesloria—the two had a history of war and distrust as fraught as that between England and France.

The judge had read that it was the crown prince who was pushing for modernization in Alucia, and who was the impetus behind the proposed trade agreement. Prince Sebastian envisioned increasing the prosperity of Alucia by trading cotton and iron ore for manufactured goods. But according to the judge’s daughters, that was not the most important part of the trade negotiations. The important part was that the prince was also in search of a marriage bargain.

“It’s what everyone says,” Hollis had insisted to her father over supper recently “And how is it, my dear, that everyone knows what the prince intends?” the judge asked as he stroked the cat, Pris, on his lap. The cat had been named Princess when the family believed it a female. When the houseman Ben discovered that Princess was, in fact, a male, Eliza said it was too late to change the name. So they’d shortened it to Pris. “Did the prince send a letter? Announce it in the Times?”

Caro says,” Hollis countered, as if that were quite obvious to anyone with half a brain where she got her information. “She knows everything about everyone, Pappa.”

“Aha. If Caro says it, then by all means, it must be true.”

“You must yourself admit she is rarely wrong,” Hollis had said with an indignant sniff.

Caro, or Lady Caroline Hawke, had been a lifelong friend to his daughters, and had been so often underfoot in the Tricklebank house that for many years, it seemed to the judge that he had three daughters.

Caroline was the only sibling of Lord Beckett Hawke and was also his ward. Long ago, a cholera outbreak had swept through London, and both Caro’s mother and his children’s mother had succumbed. Amelia, his wife, and Lady Hawke had been dear friends. They’d sent their children to the Hawke summer estate when Amelia had taken ill. Lady Hawke had insisted on caring for her friend and, well, in the end, they were both lost.

Lord Hawke was an up-and-coming young lord and politician, known for his progressive ideas in the House of Lords. He was rather handsome, Hollis said, a popular figure, and socially in high demand. Which meant that, by association, so was his sister. She, too, was quite comely, which made her presence all the easier to her brother’s many friends, the judge suspected.

But Caroline did seem to know everyone in London, and was constantly calling on the Tricklebank household to spout the gossip she’d gleaned in homes across Mayfair. Here was an industrious young lady—she called on three salons a day if she called on one. The judge supposed her brother scarcely need worry about putting food in their cupboards, for the two of them were dining with this four-and-twenty or that ten-and-six almost every night. It was a wonder Caroline wasn’t a plump little peach.

Perhaps she was. In truth, she was merely another shadow to the judge these days.

“And she was at Windsor and dined with the queen,” Hollis added with superiority.

“You mean Caro was in the same room but one hundred persons away from the queen,” the judge suggested. He knew how these fancy suppers went.

“Well, she was there, Pappa, and she met the Alucians, and she knows a great deal about them now. I am quite determined to discover who the prince intends to offer for and announce it in the gazette before anyone else. Can you imagine? I shall be the talk of London!”

This was precisely what Mr. Tricklebank didn’t like about the gazette. He did not want his daughters to be the talk of London.

But it was not the day for him to make this point, for his daughters were restless, moving about the house with an urgency he was not accustomed to. Today was the day of the Royal Masquerade Ball, and the sound of crisp petticoats and silk rustled around him, and the scent of perfume wafted into his nose when they passed. His daughters were waiting impatiently for Lord Hawke’s brougham to come round and fetch them. Their masks, he was given to understand, had already arrived at the Hawke House, commissioned, Eliza had breathlessly reported, from “Mrs. Cubison herself.”

He did not know who Mrs. Cubison was.

And frankly, he didn’t know how Caro had managed to finagle the invitations to a ball at Kensington Palace for his two daughters—for the good Lord knew the Tricklebanks did not have the necessary connections to achieve such a feat.

He could feel their eagerness, their anxiety in the nervous pitch of their giggling when they spoke to each other. Even Poppy seemed nervous. He supposed this was to be the ball by which all other balls in the history of mankind would forever be judged, but he was quite thankful he was too blind to attend.

When the knock at the door came, he was startled by such squealing and furious activity rushing by him that he could only surmise that the brougham had arrived and the time had come to go to the ball.

Excerpted from The Princess Plan by Julia London, Copyright © 2019 by Dinah Dinwiddle. Published by HQN Books.