Tag Archives: romance

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

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

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

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The Synopsis 

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

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

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

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

An Impossible Promise is romantic, fun and pure escape.

The Review

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

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

The Verdict

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

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

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

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

BUY LINKS:

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

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

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SOCIAL LINKS:

JUDE DEVERAUX:

Author website: https://judedeveraux.com/

Twitter: @JudeDeveraux1      

Facebook: https://facebook.com/224518397561073 

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

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

TARA SHEETS:

Author website: https://tarasheets.com/

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

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

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

Here is an Exclusive Excerpt from “An Impossible Promise”

PROLOGUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeep Tour by Gail Ward Olmsted Review

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

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

The Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Review

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

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

The Verdict

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

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

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

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

http://www.gailolmsted.com

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. 

Interview with Author Tyler Wittkofsky

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

I am a multi-genre author, poet, and mental health advocate from Leland, North Carolina. I received my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I currently work in communications and public relations.

Growing up, my grandmother was a high school English teacher, assistant principal, principal, and later my elementary school principal. She encouraged my creative writing style and helped me to grow into the writer I am today.

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What inspired you to write your book?

I had never written a romance novel before and wanted to give it a go, drawing inspiration from some real-life events.

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

The goal of his book is for people to understand what a long-distance relationship is, the amount of work that goes into making it a successful relationship. There is also the underlying theme of how mental illness can affect a relationship and how two people can work together to overcome those struggles. 

What drew you into this particular genre?

I’ve always seen myself as a hopeless romantic. I love romance movies and shows and rom-coms especially.

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

I would sit down with Kenney and simply ask him ‘Why?’ I don’t want to say too much more and give away the book.

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

I would say Twitter has connected me with the most readers, and friends.

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

Don’t give up. It’s hard in the beginning, it really is. The struggle to find out what marketing tools work best, how to write a blurb, transitions, there is a lot that goes into writing. In the beginning, it is easy to get discouraged and feel like it isn’t going anywhere but stick with it. Write for yourself first and foremost and the rest will come.

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

“The Seeds of Love” was book one in a five-part series called “Sunflower Kisses”. I’m really excited about that. I also have another work in progress that is for my grandmother. I just started writing for InTheCrescent.com, an online magazine focused on the supernatural. 

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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

Melody of Your Heart by Renley N. Chu and Tiffany Chu Review

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

A short collection of short stories take center stage as themes of love, loss, and hope come alive in co-authors Renley N. Chu and Tiffany Chu’s “Melody of Your Heart”.

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The Synopsis

Melody of Your Heart is a short story anthology that we wrote together. They are stories with themes of love, loss, and connection, exploring different kinds of love.

The Review

What a compelling and moving short story collection. This group of stories really does an amazing job of weaving together stories of love lost, love found, and the hope we find in the wake of loss. The chemistry between the authors and their writing style is felt in every tale, highlighting their shared experiences while also delving into the bond they built with one another.

One story, in particular, stood out to me right off the bat, and that was Walls. The story of a man sent to prison suddenly and forced to be separated from the person he loves, only to feel her slip away and the world starts to forget him entirely, really did an amazing job of highlighting the walls we often force ourselves into or are forced into when fighting for love. We try so desperately to hold onto what we had, that sometimes we lose sight of who we’ve become until you are the only one left behind in a world that moved on without you long ago. It’s a thought-provoking and mesmerizing tale that touches just the tip of the iceberg in this collection. 

The Verdict

An engaging, heartfelt, and thoughtful collection of short stories, authors Renley N. Chu and Tiffany Chu’s “Melody of Your Heart” is a must-read collection. The passion and eloquence with which the authors approached the narratives within these stories really showed the depth and love that the two authors brought from their own lives and into the tales. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Author of Cryptic Clockwork, an autographical collection of prose and poems, and Melody of Your Heart, a short story anthology about life, love, and loss. These works were compiled after his death by Tiffany Chu, in hopes they bring hope and encouragement to anyone going through dark times.

Born in England as Leonel M. M. Santiago on May 14, 2003, Renley lost both his parents in a fire that permanently damaged his vocal cords and lungs at the age of five, leaving him unable to speak. He became Justin Steele at the age of eight when adopted into the Steele family.

Through a shared love of writing, Renley met Tiffany Chu in 2020 and they formed a close friendship. At the beginning of 2021, even as his health rapidly deteriorated, he prepared to move to the U.S. and become part of the Chu family.

On May 18, 2021, he changed his legal name to Renley Nicolas Chu.

About a week after his eighteenth birthday, Renley suffered a severe attack leading to lung and heart failure; he passed away on the morning of May 25, 2021, three days before he would have left for the U.S.

Renley’s last wish to come home was fulfilled on June 1, when his ashes were brought to San Diego and scattered at Los Penasquitos Canyon.

He left behind numerous samples of his writing, both personal as well as fictional. Each piece he wrote exudes the rawness and authenticity of his heart, his emotions, his experiences. His style tends to be stream-of-consciousness and metaphorical with a sense of immediacy and strong emotion.

Rest in Peace, Renley Chu (May 14, 2002 – May 25, 2021) 

 InstagramFacebookGoodreads.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58298765-melody-of-your-heart

https://linktr.ee/renleynchu.author

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. 

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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.

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Season of Love – A collection of four, seasonally-themed short stories by Kristine Raymond Review

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

Author Kristine Raymond brings readers four original short stories exploring romance in the various seasons of the year in the hit short story collection, “Seasons of Love”. 

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The Synopsis

Four couples. Four seasons. A lifetime of love.

Dogwoods in Springtime

Still in mourning three years after her husband’s death, Caroline Ballard’s solitary life in rural Kentucky is disrupted by a broken water line, of all things. As if the lack of running water wasn’t bad enough, her immediate attraction to plumbing contractor Rick Spencer unearths emotions long thought buried. Opening her heart to love for a second time, a malicious lie told by his ex-wife threatens to end the budding relationship before it begins.

Seashells in Summer

Having adopted her four-year-old daughter, Lily, at birth, Taylor Brightman is suspicious when former Marine Sergeant Grant Cutler appears on her Nantucket Island doorstep claiming to be the girl’s biological father. Wary of his motives, his good looks and charming personality win her over, but can she trust that she won’t lose custody along with her heart?

Aspens in Autumn

Ramsey Fiorentino is having a bad day. On the run for her life after witnessing a murder, she’s being pursued by none other than Bishop Hamilton, a private investigator hired by the person who committed the crime. When he catches up to her and the truth comes out, they flee to the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona to hide, but it’s only a matter of time before their newfound romance is tested in the wake of a deadly confrontation.

Snowflakes in Winter

When New Hampshire State Trooper Alex Ballard becomes stranded during a blizzard in the middle of the night, he seeks refuge at a local bed and breakfast, surprised to discover the owner, Chloe Mancuso, is the sole occupant. A passionate night spent in each other’s arms ignites feelings neither thought possible, but there’s someone else with his eye on Chloe and he’s not willing to share.

The Review

A truly fantastic collection of short stories, the author has done a wonderful job of creating well-rounded characters and evenly-paced stories that really capture the reader’s attention. The interesting thing about this collection is not only how the stories end up connecting to one another, but how each story incorporates various genres into the narratives, ranging from drama and loss to mystery and suspense, all against the backdrop of romance. 

The really interesting thing however comes in the use of seasons for the narrative of each story. Utilizing this storytelling device, the author has found a way to make the seasons themselves not only part of the tapestry of the narrative but characters themselves. The writing does a great job of navigating the subtle nuisances of each story’s narrative, ranging from building tension to passionate romance and so much more.

The Verdict

An emotional, heartfelt, and enrapturing read, author Kristine Raymond’s “Seasons of Love” is a must-read short story collection. Perfectly written for those who love romance stories that incorporate many other genres into their narratives and romantic pairings that draw the reader in immediately, be sure to grab your copy of this incredible collection today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first novel. Over a dozen books in multiple genres later, there are a multitude of ideas floating around in her head thus assuring she’ll never be idle. When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and fur-babies (not necessarily in that order) at their home in south-central Kentucky, gardens, reads, or binge-watches Netflix. To find out more, please visit her website at www.kristineraymond.com

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