Review – Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen

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“Friends to lovers at its best– a sweet indulgence I couldn’t put down!” – R.S. Grey, USA Today Bestselling Author

Baking Me Crazy, the first in the romantic comedy Donner Bakery Series of standalones, from Karla Sorensen is available now!

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I’m Levi Buchanan, and until five years ago, I thought the legend of my family’s curse was a load of crazy, Southern nonsense.

No curse can make you fall in love at first sight. No curse can force a true, deep, passionate, all-consuming love that will haunt you all the days of your life.

Then I met Jocelyn Abernathy and I realized how completely wrong I was.

The problem is, Jocelyn guards her feelings like well-armed soldier. She’s the most beautiful, stubborn, infuriating woman I’ve ever met. Every time she talks, I want to kiss the living daylights out of her. But I can’t.

Because when we met, she didn’t need true love. She needed a best friend. And that’s what I’ve been to her… for five years.

But when Jocelyn meets a handsome stranger her first day working at Donner Bakery and she lets him buy her a dill pickle cupcake, I realize with ominous regret that I may have missed my window with my best friend.

If I can’t get her to see past our friendship, my new curse may be to watch the love of my life move on with someone else.

‘Baking Me Crazy’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Donner Bakery series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

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BFF K’s Review of Baking Me Crazy

If Baking Me Crazy is any indication, we all need to get ready for some incredible books from the Smartypants Romance writers!
There’s a Buchanan Curse. ”…it’s been said that Buchanan men fall in love only once, and they fall in love—real, true love—the moment they meet the one.“ Levi Buchanan has fallen victim to the curse as well and the object of his affection is his best friend Joss. They’re move from friends to lovers is a slow burn, but so sweet and authentic that you’ll be cheering for them to “figure it out already!”
Part of what I love about Penny Reid and the Smartypants universe is a commitment to tell stories with diverse characters and truly unique settings. Baking Me Crazy is a glowing example of both of these tenets. Joss is an extraordinary character and it’s wonderful to read a book that places you in a unique setting and in the mind of a character with a uncommon set of circumstance. And, Levi fiercely loves her through it all. It’s fun reading the scenes as he tries to get Joss to switch from the BFF mindset to Best Friends with All-the-Benefits!
I absolutely recommend Baking Me Crazy, in fact, I think I told 3 people at work about it on Tuesday. I hope many many more people will read it too! Bring on all the Smartypants books ASAP!
An advance copy of this book was received. The reviewer purchased the audiobook copy. Receipt of the advance copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

Excerpt from Baking Me Crazy

“Besides, this is my best friend perk. Shouldn’t I get perks in baked goods?”

She cut me a look. “You’ve been getting those perks for two years, Buchanan. Don’t even pretend you didn’t put on a solid ten pounds that first year I started baking.” Quite pointedly, she looked at my stomach, which we both knew was covered in muscle.

“That’s rude,” I mumbled under my breath. I flexed my bicep. Nero licked my elbow since it was right in front of him. “Yeah, ten pounds in my left arm maybe.”

The noise she made roughly translated to you are ridiculous. She made that sound at me a lot. Of course, the sad truth of the matter was that I was ridiculous.

Not once in the past five years had my feelings lessened for her. I had just learned to live with them. In my junior year of undergrad, I was taking a class on brain pathology in injuries, and a man came to talk to us about how he learned to live without his right arm after it was amputated.

He told us about how, even years after he lost his arm, his brain still triggered sensations to the limb that was no longer there. The adult brain, in particular, struggled to reorganize after the loss of a limb, and given that four out of five amputees suffer from phantom pain symptoms, some of which were incredibly debilitating, it was a lesson that stuck with me.

I wasn’t fool enough to think that me loving Jocelyn was on par with a man who’d lost his arm, but something about the way he talked plucked at a chord inside me. Sometimes my brain struggled to remember that we were just friends.

She’d never dated, never even hinted that she wanted to. She’d never given me a longing glance. Never stared at my mouth like she wondered what it tasted like.

But my hands never, not once, stopped wanting to reach for hers. My fingers always, always itched to dig into her crazy hair and see what the curve of her scalp felt like.

My brain knew what this relationship was, but sometimes, the signals it sent to the rest of my body didn’t always match up with the truth of our situation. We worked out together a lot, Joss and I, and when she got frustrated with the limitations of her body, I always wanted to wrap my arms around her.

I wanted to pull her into the curve of my body, absorb her dissatisfaction into my skin, and carry it for her. That was the irony when she made noises like that.

She had absolutely no clue how ridiculous I really was.

About the Author

Karla Sorensen has been an avid reader her entire life, preferring stories with a happily-ever-after over just about any other kind. And considering she has an entire line item in her budget for books, she realized it might just be cheaper to write her own stories. It doesn’t take much to keep her happy…a book, a really big glass of wine, and at least thirty minutes of complete silence every day. She still keeps her toes in the world of health care marketing, where she made her living pre-babies. Now she stays home, writing and mommy-ing full time (this translates to almost every day being a ‘pajama day’ at the Sorensen household…don’t judge). She lives in West Michigan with her husband, two exceptionally adorable sons and big, shaggy rescue dog.

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Website: http://www.karlasorensen.com/

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Review – Beard with Me by Penny Reid

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“This is Penny Reid at her finest.” — L.B. Dunbar, author

Beard With Me, an epic and breathtaking story from New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!

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No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching.

Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.

No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying.

Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.

‘Beard With Me’ is the origin story of Billy Winston and Scarlet St. Claire (aka Claire McClure) and is just the beginning of their epic love story.

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Enter the giveaway for a signed paperback set of The Winston Brothers Series!

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BFF K’s Review of Beard with Me

I don’t mean to skip ahead but….Beard Necessities is the title of the next (and final) book in the Winston Brothers Series. And, I don’t think there’s ever been a more appropriate title. After reading Beard with Me, I’m in desperate need of the next book. Now! Stat! Please put me out of my heart-broken misery!!! 💔

I’ve been waiting the entire series to know and understand Billy Winston. And, the backstory is even more endearing and tragic than I imagined. Billy and Scarlet are star-crossed lovers for sure. Beard with Me is the beginning of their relationship and explains all the ins and outs of their broken journey.

Bill Winston has always struck me as being wiser than his years and carrying more responsibility than someone his age and all of his siblings. I had NO idea. My intuition didn’t even scratch the surface of what was really happening in his life, his heart and his brain. And, if Billy is an old soul, then he’s a perfect match for Scarlet. This book is a tale of young love, misunderstanding, and sacrifice that exceeds maturity.

This story was at times hard to read due to the gut-wrenching challenges and vulnerabilities that the characters displayed, but it was such a glimpse into what circumstances built the Winston family. And, it was the perfect story I didn’t know I needed in the series.

All of the praise for this angst-filled, tear-jerker aside, I don’t remember the last time I was this anxious to end a cliffhanger and put a beautiful bow on the Winston Brothers Series!

 

 

 

An advance copy of this book was received. The reviewer purchased the audiobook copy. Receipt of the advance copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

Excerpt from Beard with Me

*Scarlet*

“Do you want me to leave?”

Yes. That would be best, a wise voice said between my ears.

So of course I inhaled deeply and said as calmly as I could manage, “I thought we were going to go get firewood.”

“Okay. Good.”

“But then,” I blurted, flustered and irritated with myself for not speaking wisdom, “You should go. You can’t tell me carting firewood back and forth between your house and here is how you want to spend the last of your Thanksgiving weekend.”

“I didn’t say it was.” He began making his way up the incline.

“But you just said—”

“How about we make a deal.” Billy dropped the kindling next to my little woodpile, dusting his hands off on his pants. “I’ll cart the firewood, and you sing.”

“You want me to serenade you while we carry firewood?”

He smiled, slow and easy as he walked to me and reached out his hand. On autopilot, I accepted it and allowed him to help me up.

As soon as I was standing, his gaze moved from my hairline down to my nose, lips, and then chin, saying quietly, “I’ll take a serenade from you anytime.”

Thunk ka-thunk. That was my heart. It had been doing the thunk ka-thunk quite a lot around him. I ignored it, because what else could I do?

“And you’re not carrying the wood.” He tugged on my hand, pulling me out of my daze and past my tent.

“I will too carry wood.” Struggling to find my bearings, I stumbled after him. “I can carry logs just fine.”

“You’ll carry a log.” Billy fit his fingers between mine, pressing our palms together and grinning at me like he was waiting for me to argue and he couldn’t wait.

Snapping my mouth shut, I glared at him.

“Nothing to say?”

Maintaining my glare, I walked next to him. I wasn’t being led anywhere I didn’t wish to go. Not anymore. He wasn’t talking me into anything else.

“That’s an awfully mean look, Scarlet.” His grin grew, his brutally attractive eyes glowing happily as he peered down at me.

“Well, you deserve it. Always trying to tell me what I can and can’t do. I’m not arguing with you about this. I’m carrying as much wood as I want and you can take your stupid, chauvinistic opinions and shove them up your pretty-boy ass.”

Goodness. Where had that come from?

Billy’s steps faltered and his mouth fell open, his eyebrows rising high on his forehead. He stared at me, looking shocked as hell. And then in the next moment, he threw his head back and laughed. But he did not let go of me, instead bringing my knuckles to his chest as his deep, rumbly laughter filled the empty spaces between the trees, surrounding us.

Crushing me.

Yes. I was well and truly crushed as I could only watch Billy Winston laugh, desperately basking in the image of him so delighted and relaxed. I had the odd sense that his laughter also filled the empty spaces inside of me, the neglected, vacant rooms, and even a few places that felt brand-new, like he’d created them.

All that noble honesty he carried around like a boulder abruptly lifted, revealing him. Just him. Carefree and young and happy. Someone he might’ve been if his burdens hadn’t been so heavy, his responsibilities so broad.

It lasted only a minute, maybe two, maybe less, but I had the sense of being caught afterward. Billy’s laughter had receded, but he’d spun a web while I’d been staring at him, holding his hand.

His grin became smaller and he bit his bottom lip, his gaze dropped to my mouth. “You think I’m pretty?”

“You know you’re pretty,” I said, bizarrely out of breath, rattled, needing to anchor my focus to a tree beyond him and waging war against the heat climbing up my neck to my cheeks. Oddly, my eyes stung. I blinked.

His attention was still on me. I felt it, but I didn’t dare look at him. I couldn’t handle one of Billy Winston’s intense stares right now. He’d probably use my scattered wits to his advantage, talk me into something I shouldn’t want to do, and then I’d be kicking myself later.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice deep with concern, all trace of his earlier humor gone.

I huffed, trying half-heartedly to steal my hand back from him. He didn’t let it go, instead taking my tugging as a signal to step closer, filling my vision.

“Scarlet—”

“Are you ever going to teach me how to play the guitar?” I closed my eyes.

He didn’t answer right away, and I felt him hesitate, his mind work before he muttered, “It’s only been a week.”

A quality to his voice made me think he wasn’t answering the question I’d asked, but rather he was reminding himself that it had only been a week since we’d struck the deal.

Was that only last week? Why does it feel like so much has changed?

Then he said, “Don’t be angry.”

“I’m not angry.” I was muddled, my head and heart hurt, I was incredibly confused, but I wasn’t angry.

The air shifted and I felt him move closer. A second later, the fingers of his free hand were at my ear, tucking my hair behind it, his fingertips lingering at my neck, sending wave after wave of goose bumps every which way. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t think. Every nerve in my body strained toward him and I didn’t understand it. What is happening?

“Have you ever been kissed, Scarlet?”

 

About the Author

Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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Connect with Penny:

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Review – Handle With Care by Helena Hunting

 

New York Times bestselling author of SHACKING UP and I FLIPPING LOVE YOU Helena Hunting mixes humor and heart in this scandal-filled romantic comedy.

HE WANTS TO LOSE CONTROL.
Between his parents’ messed up marriage and his narcissistic younger brother, Lincoln Moorehead has spent the majority of his life avoiding his family. After the death of his father, Lincoln finds himself in the middle of the drama. To top it all off, he’s been named CEO of Moorehead Media, much to his brother’s chagrin. But Lincoln’s bad attitude softens when he meets the no-nonsense, gorgeous woman who has been given the task of transforming him from the gruff, wilderness guy to a suave businessman.

SHE’S TRYING TO HOLD IT TOGETHER.
Wren Sterling has been working double time to keep the indiscretions at Moorehead Media at bay, so when she’s presented with a new contract, with new responsibilities and additional incentives, she agrees. Working with the reclusive oldest son of a ridiculously entitled family is worth the hassle if it means she’s that much closer to pursuing her own dreams. What Wren doesn’t expect is to find herself attracted to him, or for it to be mutual. And she certainly doesn’t expect to fall for Lincoln. But when a shocking new Moorehead scandal comes to light, she’s forced to choose between her own family and the broody, cynical CEO.

Buy Handle With Care Today

 

Excerpt

Scroll to the bottom of this post for an Excerpt of Chapter One in Handle With Care.

 

BFF K’s Review of Handle With Care

There are few tropes I like as well as the rough and gruff jerk turned sweetheart and Handle with Care is the blueprint for how to do this storyline justice! To say that Lincoln is rough around the edges would be a gross understatement. But, when Wren is assigned as his handler she vows to turn him into the camera-ready CEO that his company needs. Along the way they find that while Lincoln isn’t perfect, he’s a perfect fit for Wren.

Lincoln is rough around the edges. He’s harsh and cynical. He has ZERO interest in staying in the city and even less interest in taking over his family’s business. This family has more issues than all of the magazines their company creates combined. Lincoln has to determine what battles are worth fighting and just who the true enemies are.

Wren is not thrilled about being the handler to the newest Moorehead arrival, but it’s got to be better than constantly cleaning up after Lincoln’s brother Armstrong. She’s confident and capable and focused on seeing this job through successfully to achieve her bigger personal goals. What she discovers is a softer side to Lincoln that goes beyond a shave and a haircut. Deep down he’s thoughtful, caring, smart and kind. And they can’t help their mutual attraction.

Handle with Care is a terrific story with two strong, independent and individually likeable main characters. You will appreciate both on their own merits and be thrilled when they give in and give love a chance. Their attraction is immediate, but the affection and respect builds over time and pays off gloriously in a twisty-ending that you likely won’t see coming! Handle with Care packs a huge romantic payoff and should definitely be put at the top of your TBR!

 

 

An advance copy of this book was received. The reviewer purchased the audiobook copy. Receipt of the advance copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She’s writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

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Excerpt From Handle With Care

CHAPTER 1

WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?

WREN

I slip onto the empty bar stool beside the lumberjack mountain man who looks like he tried to squeeze himself into a suit two sizes too small. He’s intimidatingly broad and thick, with long dark hair that’s been pulled up into a haphazard man bun thing. His beard is a hipster’s wet dream. His scowl, however, makes him about as approachable as a rabid porcupine. And yet, here I am, sidling up next to him.

He glances at me, eyes bleary and not really tracking. He quickly focuses on his half-empty glass again. Based on the slump of his shoulders and the uncoordinated way he picks up his glass and tips it toward his mouth, I’m guessing he’s pretty hammered. I order a sparkling water with a dash of cranberry juice and a lime.

What I could really use is a cup of lavender-mint tea and my bed, but instead, I’m sitting next to a drunk man in his thirties. My life is extra glamorous, obviously. And no, I’m not an escort, but at the moment I feel like my morals are on the same kind of slippery slope.

“Rough day?” I ask, nodding to the bottle that’s missing more than half its contents. It was full when he sat down at the bar an hour ago. Yes, I’ve been watching him the entire time, waiting for an opportunity to make my move. While he’s been sitting here, he’s turned down two women, one in a dress that could’ve doubled as a disco ball and the other in a top so low-cut, I could almost see her navel.

“You could say that,” he slurs. He props his cheek on his fist, eyes almost slits. I can still make out the vibrant blue hue despite them almost being closed. They move over me, assessing. I’m wearing a conservative black dress with a high neckline and a hem that falls below my knees. Definitely not nearly as provocative as Disco Ball or Navel Lady.

“That solving your problems?” I give him a wry grin and tip my chin in the direction of his bottle of Johnnie.

His gaze swings slowly to the bottle. It gives me a chance to really look at him. Or what I can see of his face under his beard, anyway.

“Nah, but it helps quiet down all the noise up here.” He taps his temple and blurts, “My dad died.”

I put a hand on his forearm. It feels awkward, and creepy on my part since its half-genuine, half-contrived comfort. “I’m so sorry.”


He glances at my hand, which I quickly remove, and refocuses on his drink. “I should be sorry too, but I think he was mostly an asshole, so the world might be better off without him.” He attempts to fill his glass again, but his aim is off, and he pours it on the bar instead. I rush to lift my purse and grab a handful of napkins to mop up the mess.

“I’m drunk,” he mumbles.

“Well, I’m thinking that might’ve been the plan, considering the way you’re sucking that bottle back. I’m actually surprised you didn’t ask for a straw in the first place. Might be a good idea to throw a spacer in there if you want tomorrow morning to suck less.” I push my drink toward him, hoping he doesn’t send me packing like he did the other women who approached him earlier.

He narrows his eyes at my glass, suspicious, maybe. “What is that?”

“Cranberry and soda.”

“No booze?”

“No booze. Go ahead. You’ll thank me in the morning.”


He picks up the glass and pauses when it’s an inch from his mouth. His eyes crinkle, telling me he’s smiling under that beard. “Does that mean Imma wake up with you beside me?”

I cock a brow. “Are you propositioning me?”

“Shit, sorry.” He chugs the contents of my glass. “I was joking. Besides, I’m so wasted, I can barely remember my name. Pretty sure I’d be useless in bed tonight. I should stop talkin’.” He scrubs a hand over his face and then motions to me. “I wouldn’t proposition you.”

I’m not sure how to respond. I go with semi-affronted, since it seems like somewhat of an insult. “Good to know.”

“Dammit. I mean, I think you might be hot. You look hot. I mean attractive. I think you’re pretty.” He tips his head to the side and blinks a few times. “You have nice eyes, all four of them are lovely.”

This time I laugh—for real—and point to the bottle. “I think you might want to tell your date you’re done for the night.”

He blows out a breath and nods. “You might be right.”

He makes an attempt to stand, but as soon as his feet hit the floor, he stumbles into me and grabs my shoulders to steady himself. “Whoa. Sorry. Yup, I’m definitely drunk.” His face is inches from mine, breath smelling strongly of alcohol. Beyond that, I get a whiff of fresh soap and a hint of aftershave. He lets go of my shoulders and takes an unsteady step back. “I don’t usually do this.” He motions sloppily to the bottle. “Mostly I’m a three drink max guy.”

“I think losing your father makes this condonable.” I slide off my stool. Despite being tall for a woman, and wearing heels, he still manages to be close to a head taller than me.

“Yeah, maybe, but I still think I might regret it tomorrow.” He’s incredibly unsteady, swaying while standing in place. I take the opportunity for what it is and thread my arm through his, leading him away from the bar. “Come on, let’s get you to the elevator before you pass out right here.”

He nods, then wobbles a bit, like moving his head has set him off balance. “That’s probably a good idea.”

He leans into me as we weave through the bar and stumbles on the two stairs leading to the foyer. There’s no way I’ll be able to stop him if he goes down, but I drape one of his huge arms over my shoulder anyway, and slip my own around his waist, guiding him in a mostly straight line to the elevators.

“Which floor are you on?” I ask.

“Penthouse.” He drops his arm from my shoulder and flings it out, pointing to the black doors at the end of the hall. “Jesus, I feel like I’m on a boat.”

“It’s probably all the alcohol sloshing around in your brain.” I take his elbow again, helping him stagger the last twenty feet to the dedicated penthouse elevator.

He stares at the keypad for a few seconds, brow pulling into a furrow. “I can’t remember the code. It’s thumbprint activated though too.” He stumbles forward and presses his forehead against the wall, then tries to line up his thumb with the sensor, but his aim is horrendous and he keeps missing.

I settle a hand on his very firm forearm. This man is built like a tank. Or a superhero. For a moment, I reconsider what I’m about to do, but he seems pretty harmless and ridiculously hammered, so he shouldn’t pose a threat. I’m also trained in self-defense, which would fall under the by any means necessary umbrella. “Can I help?”

He rolls his head, eyes slits as they bounce around my face. “Please.”

I take his hand between mine. The first thing I notice is how clammy it is. But beyond that, his knuckles are rough, littered with tiny scars and a few scabs, and his nails are jagged.

“Your hands are small,” he observes as I line his thumb up with the sensor pad and press down.

“Maybe yours are abnormally big,” I reply. They are rather large. Like basketball player hands.

“You know what they say about big hands.”

I fight not to roll my eyes, but for a brief moment, I wonder if what’s in his pants actually matches the rest of him. And if he’s unkempt everywhere, not just on his face. I cut that visual quickly because it makes me want to gag. “And what do they say?”

His eyes crinkle again, and he slaps his own chest. “Something about big hands, big heart.”

I bite back my own smile. “Pretty sure you’re mixing that up with cold hands, warm heart.”

His brow furrows. “There’s a good chance.”

The elevator doors slide open. He pushes off the wall with some effort and practically tumbles inside. He catches himself on the rail and sags against the wall as I follow him in. I honestly can’t believe I’m doing this right now.

He doesn’t have to press a button since the elevator only goes to the penthouse floor. As soon as we start moving, he groans and his shoulders curl in. “I don’t feel so good.”

Please don’t let him be sick in here. If there’s one thing I can’t deal with, it’s vomit. “You should sit.”

He slides down the wall, massive shoulders rolling forward as he rests his forehead on his knees. “Tomorrow is going to suck.”

I stay on the other side of the elevator, in case he tosses his cookies. “Probably.”

It’s the longest elevator ride in the history of the world. Or at least it feels that way, mostly because I’m terrified he’s going to yak. Thankfully, we make it to the penthouse floor incident-free. On the down side, now that he’s in a sitting position, getting him to stand again is a challenge. I have to press the open door button three times before I can finally coax him to his feet.

In the time between leaving the bar and making it to the penthouse floor, the effects of the alcohol seems to have compounded. He’s beyond sloppy, using the wall and me for support as we make our way to his door. There are two penthouse apartments up here. One on either side of the foyer.

He leans against the doorjamb, once again fighting to find the coordination to get his thumb to the sensor pad. I don’t ask if he needs my assistance this time since it’s quite clear he does. Once again I take his clammy hand in mine.

“Your hands are really soft,” he mumbles.

“Thanks.”


The pad ashes green, and I turn the handle. “Okay, here we go. Home sweet home.”

“This isn’t my home,” he slurs. “My cousin’s family owns this building. I’m crashing here until I can get the fuck out of New York.”

I scan the penthouse. It an eclectic combination of odd art and modern furniture, like two different tastes crashed together and this is the result. Aside from that, it’s clean to the point of looking almost like a show home.

The only sign that someone is staying here is the lone coffee cup on the table in the living room and the blanket lolling like a tongue over the edge of the couch. I’m still standing in the doorway while he sways unsteadily.

He tries to shove his hand in his pants pocket, but all he succeeds in doing is setting himself off-balance. He nearly stumbles into the wall.

“Thanks for your help,” he says.

He’s back in his penthouse, which means my job is technically done. However, I’m worried he’s going to hurt himself, or worse, asphyxiate on his own vomit in the middle of the night, and I’ll be the one catching heat if that happens. I’ll also feel bad if something happens to him. I blow out a breath, annoyed that this is how my night is ending.

I heave his arm over my shoulder and slip mine around his waist again, leading him through the living room toward what seems to be the kitchen. There’s a sheet of paper on the island, but otherwise it’s spotless.

“What’re you doing?” he asks.

We pause when we reach the threshold. “Which way is your bedroom?”

He looks slowly from right to left. “Not that way.” He points to the kitchen. It’s very state of the art.

I guide him in the opposite direction down the hall, until he stumbles through a doorway, into a large but simply furnished bedroom. Once we reach the edge of the bed, he drops his arm, spins around—it’s drunkenly graceful—and falls back on the bed, arms spread wide as if he’s planning on making snow angels. “The room is spinning.”

“Would you like me to get you a glass of water and possibly a painkiller for the headache you’ll likely have in the morning?” I’m already heading for the bathroom.

“Might be a good idea,” he mumbles.

I find a glass on the edge of bathroom vanity—which is clean, apart from a brand new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. I run the tap, wishing I had a plastic tumbler, because I’m not sure he’s in any state to deal with breakable objects. I check the medicine cabinet, find the pills I need, shake out two tablets, and return to the bedroom.

He’s right where I left him; sprawled out faceup on a massive king-size bed, legs hanging off the end, one shoe on the floor beside him. I cross over and set the water and the pills on the nightstand.

I make a quick trip back to the bathroom and grab the empty wastebasket from beside the toilet in case his night is a lot rougher than he expects.

I tap his knee, crossing my fingers he’ll be easy to rouse. “Hey, I have painkillers for you.”

He makes a noise, but doesn’t move otherwise.

I tap his knee again. “Lincoln, you need to wake up long enough to take these.” I cringe. I called him by name, and he didn’t offer it to me while we were down at the bar. Here’s hoping he’s too drunk to notice or remember. His name is Lincoln Moorehead, heir to the Moorehead Media fortune and all the crap that comes with it. And there’s a lot of it.

One eye becomes a slit. “Every time I open my eyes, the room starts spinning again.”

“If you drink this and take these, it might help.” I hold up the glass of water and the pills.

“’Kay.” It takes three tries for him to sit up. He tries to pick the pills up out of my palm, but keeps missing my hand.

“Just open your mouth.”

He lifts his head. “How do I know you’re not trying to roofie me?”

I hold up the tablet in front of his face. “They don’t say roofie, so you’re safe.”

He tries to focus on the pill and then my face. I have my doubts he’s successful at either.

His tongue peeks out to drag across his bottom lip. “The cameras in the hall will catch you if you steal my wallet.”

I laugh at that. “I’m not going to steal your wallet, I’m going to put you to bed.”

“Hmm.” He nods slowly and opens his mouth.

I drop the pills on his tongue and hand him the glass, which he drains in three long swallows. “Would you like me to refill that?”

“That’d be nice.” He holds out the glass, but when I try to pull away, he covers my hands with his. His shockingly blue eyes meet mine, and for a moment they’re clear and compelling. Despite how out of it he is, and how much he resembles a mountain man, or maybe because of it, I have a hard time looking away. “I really wish I wasn’t this messed up. You smell nice. I bet your hair is pretty when it’s not pulled up like that.” He flops a hand toward my bun. “Not that it’s not pretty like that, but I bet if you took it down, it would be wavy and soft. The kind of hair you want to bury your face in and run your fingers through.” He exhales a long breath. “I haven’t had sex in a really long time, but I feel like I would have zero finesse if I tried right now.”

I smile and turn away. In the time it takes for me to refill his glass, he’s managed to get one arm out of his suit jacket. He’s made it most of the way onto the bed, feet still hanging off the end, but he’s on his back, which is not ideal.

I set the glass on his nightstand, along with a second set of painkillers, which I’m assuming he’ll need in the morning, and give him another nudge. “Hey.”

This time I get nothing in the way of a response. I poke him twice more, but still nothing. He can’t sleep on his back with how drunk he is. He needs to be on his side or his stomach with a wastebasket close by.

I can’t in good conscience leave him like this. My options are limited. I shake my head as I kick off my shoes and climb up onto the bed with him. This is not at all what I expected to be doing when I brought him back up here.

I stare down at his sleeping form. His lips are parted, they’re nice lips, full and plump, even though they’re mostly obscured by his overgrown beard. His hair has started to unravel from its man bun, wisps hanging in his face. He has long lashes, really long actually, and they’re thick and dark, the kind women pay a lot of money for. His nose is straight and his cheekbones— what I can see of them—are high. With a haircut, a beard trim or complete shave, and a new suit that actually fits, I can imagine how refined he’ll look. More like a Moorehead than a mountain man lumberjack. I shake my head. “I need you to roll onto your side, please,” I say loudly.

Nothing. Not even a grunt.

I pull on his shoulder, but he’s dead weight. Leaning over him, I make a fist and give him a light jab approximately where his kidney is. “Lincoln, roll over.”

And roll he does, knocking me down and turning over so he’s right on top of me. We’re face-to-face. Good God, he’s heavy. His bones must be made of lead. He shifts, one leg coming over both of mine. I push at his knee, but his arm swings out and he wraps himself around me on a low groan, pinning my arm to my side. He’s like a giant human blanket.

“How did this become my life?” I say to the ceiling, because the man lying on top of me is apparently out cold.

I try to wriggle free, I even yell his name a bunch of time before I give up and wait for him to roll off me. And while I wait for that to happen, I replay the conversation with his mother, Gwendolyn Moorehead, that took place forty-eight hours ago and put me in this awkward position underneath her drunk son.

I’d been standing in Fredrick’s office, still digesting the fact that he was dead. It was shocking that a massive heart attack had taken him, since he was always so healthy and full of life.

Gwendolyn, his wife—now a widow—stood stoic behind his desk, papers stacked neatly in the center.

“I’m so very for your loss, Gwendolyn. If there’s anything I can do. Whatever you need.” The words poured out, typical condolences, but sincerely meant because I couldn’t imagine how my mother and I would feel if we lost my father.

Gwendolyn’s fingers danced at her throat as she cleared it. “Thank you,” she whispered brokenly and dabbed at her eyes. “I appreciate your kindness, Wren.”

“Let me know what you want me to handle, and I’ll take care of it.”

She took a deep breath, composing herself before she lifted her gaze to mine. “I need your help.”

“Of course, what can I do?”

“My oldest son, Lincoln, will be returning to New York for the funeral, and he’ll be staying to help run the company.”

A hot feeling crept up my spine. I’d heard very little about Lincoln. Everything from Armstrong’s mouth was scathing, Fredrick’s passing references had been with fondness, and my interactions with Gwendolyn had been minimal as it was Fredrick himself who hired me, so this was first I’ve heard of Lincoln through her. “I see. And how can I help with that?” I could only imagine how difficult Armstrong would be if he had to share the attention with someone else, particularly his brother.

“Transitioning Lincoln.” Gwendolyn rounded her desk. “You’ve managed to turn around Armstrong’s reputation in the media during the time you’ve been here. I know it hasn’t been easy, and Armstrong can be difficult to manage.”

Difficult to manage is the understatement of the entire century where Armstrong is concerned. He’s a cocksucker of epic proportions. He’s also a misogynistic, narcissistic bastard that I’ve had to deal with for the past eight months on a nearly daily basis—sometimes even on weekends.

My job as his “handler” has been to reshape his horrendous reputation after his involvement in several scandalous events became very public. It wasn’t a job I necessarily wanted, and I was prepared to politely reject the offer, but my mother asked me to take the position as a favor to her since she’s a friend of Gwendolyn.

Beyond that, my relationship with my mother has been strained for the past decade. When I was a teenager, I discovered information that changed our relationship forever. Taking the job at Moorehead was in part, my way of trying to help repair our fractured bond. The financial compensation, which was ridiculously high, also didn’t hurt. Besides, Gwendolyn is on nearly every single charitable foundation committee in the city, and since that’s where my interests lie, it seemed like a smart career move.

“Since you’re already working with Armstrong and things seem to be settled there for the most part, I felt it would make sense to keep you on here at Moorehead to work with Lincoln. He’s been away from civilized society for several years. He’s nothing like his brother, very altruistic and focused on his job, rather than recreational pursuits, so he should be easier to manage.”

I fought a scoff at the last bit, since “recreational pursuits” was a reference to the fact that Armstrong couldn’t seem to keep his pants zipped when it came to women.

Gwendolyn pushed a set of papers toward me. “It would only be for another six months. And of course, your salary would reflect the double work load, since you’ll still have to maintain Armstrong in some capacity while you assist Lincoln in transitioning into his role here.”

“I’m sorry, what—”

Gwendolyn pulled me into an awkward hug, holding onto my shoulders when she stepped back. Her eyes were glassy and red-rimmed. “You have no idea how much I appreciate your willingness to take this on. As soon as your contract is fulfilled, you have my word that I’ll give you a glowing recommendation to whichever organization you’d like. Your mother told me you’re interested in starting your own foundation. I’ll certainly help you in any way I’m able if you’ll stay on a little longer for me.” She dabbed at her corner of her eyes and sniffed, then tapped the papers on the desk. “I already have an agreement ready and an NDA, of course. Everything is tabbed for signing.”

I’m pulled back into the present when Lincoln shifts and one of his huge hands slides up my side and lands on my breast. At the same time, he pushes his nose against my neck, beard tickling my collarbone. He mutters something unintelligible against my skin.

I’m momentarily frozen in shock. Under any other circumstances, I would knee him in the balls. However, he’s not conscious or even semi-aware that he’s fondling me. Thankfully, now that he’s moved, I have some wiggle room.

I elbow him in the ribs, which probably hurts me more than it does him. At least it gets him to move away enough that I can slip out from under him. I roll off the bed and pop back up, smoothing out my now-wrinkled dress. My stupid nipples are perky, thanks to the attention the right one just got. Probably because it’s the most action I’ve seen since I started working for the Mooreheads eight months ago.

I hit the lights on the way out of the bedroom, pause in the kitchen to grab a glass of water and check out the sheet of paper on the counter. It’s a list of important details regarding the penthouse, including the entry code. I nab my purse, snap a pic, and head for the elevators.

I have a feeling this is going to be a long six months.

From Handle With Care. Copyright © 2019 by Helena Hunting and reprinted with

permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

Review – Space by Penny Reid – Laws of Physics 2

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Space, the second book in the all-new Laws of Physics Trilogy from Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!

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One week.

Private cabin.

Famous physicist.

Still an unrepentant slacker.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Mona’s meticulously planned allotment of relaxation is thrown into chaos by the unscheduled appearance of her older brother’s band of friends, including the one person she’d hoped to never face again. Abram still makes her feel entirely too much, which is one of the reasons she disappeared after their one week together. But now, trapped on a mountain of snow and things unspoken, Mona will have to find a way to coexist with Abram, chaos and all.

Laws of Physics is the second trilogy in the Hypothesis series; Laws of Physics parts 1 (MOTION) & 2 (SPACE) end with a cliffhanger.

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BFF K’s Review of Space – Laws of Physics Part 2

 

One of the things that I miss in romance books is the simple, pre-technology plot lines of misunderstanding and miscommunication. You know, that 80’s-style – missed phone calls, no idea where someone is, can’t get in touch, assume the worst, stuff like that. And this modern age of cell phones, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. it is harder and harder to pull off miscommunication/misunderstanding storylines. The continuation of Laws of Physics feels like a very modern and completely understandable version of those comfortable, enjoyable, and effective plot lines.
Mona thinks she and her sister, Lisa, have gotten away with the identical-twin-life switch-thing. But there is no sense of victory or accomplishment because Mona has lost Abram in the process. The bulk of Space takes place 2-1/2 years after motion.
Mona arrives at her family’s mountain mansion for what she is planning to be a quiet, peaceful weekend with her best friend. But, she is rocked to discover that, unbeknownst to her, her brother Leo and a pack of friends have taken up residence as well… Including Abram!
Abram has a scheme to either completely ignore or find a way to get even with Mona. But, his initial plans are scattered and discarded once he sees her again. What ensues is a modern day cat and mouse game where the main characters are trying to both run from one another and to one another at the same time. It’s entertaining and emotional at the same time.
This book is so beautifully written! I don’t remember making this many highlights in a book in a long time. Abram is absolutely swoony! And I adore Mona and all of her quirks and inner monologue.
I don’t want to give away any more of the plot so I won’t go into the meat of the story or the ending let you know that it is all fantastic despite another cliffhanger ending! I am so excited for the third and final installment of Laws of physics. Penny Reid has outdone herself once again!

 

 

 

An advance copy of this book was received. Receipt of this copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

 

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Excerpt from Space, Laws of Physics Part 2

“Hi—hello,” she said, stepping forward but not out of the way, drawing my attention.

She was still staring at me, her face still pale, but her eyes had turned searching instead of stunned.

“I—” She stopped herself, swallowing, her gaze dropping to the front of my coat, a cute little frown furrowing her eyebrows. In the next moment, she was pulling off the glove of her right hand. Abruptly, she shoved the ungloved fingers toward me, returning her eyes to mine. “I’m Mona.”

I suppressed my disbelief at her small action before it could break my outward mask of calm. I wasn’t calm. Just to be clear, I was the opposite of calm.

The fact that she was introducing herself to me now meant that she thought I was too stupid to figure out her lies over the last two-and-a-half-fucking years. She was arguably one of the smartest people in the world, after all. To her, people like me must seem like housebroken pets. So it shouldn’t have surprised me. But it did. The tension and tightness around my ribs reappeared, squeezing uncomfortably.

Dropping my attention to her bare hand, I pressed my lips into a tighter line, dismissing the way my pulse jumped at the sight of her wrist, the olive tone of her skin under the yellow string lights overhead. Glaring at her outstretched offering, I considered telling her to go to hell.

I considered it, but I wouldn’t.

I didn’t trust myself to speak, that was reason number one.

The other reason was harder to explain, or use as a justification, or admit to myself. Staring at her hand, I braced against a sudden flare of hunger. She might consider me a lower life-form, but that didn’t change the fact that I wanted to touch her. I wanted to touch her more than I wanted to tell her to go to hell, and that was fucking pitiful.

But there it was.

Acting on the compulsion, I lifted my right hand and tugged off the ski glove, sliding my warm palm against her much colder one. Her hand felt good in my hand, the right weight, the right size, the right texture, and I inhaled freezing air.

Mona also seemed to suck in a slow but expansive breath as our hands touched, held. This brought my eyes back to hers in time to see her lashes flutter. Pink colored her previously pale cheeks. The sound of the wailing wind, the sting of the air and frost momentarily melted away, leaving just her, her soft skin warming against mine, her beautiful face filling my vision.

So beautiful.

She really was. She was stunning. I hated that she was still so beautiful to me.

Start the series today!

Motion

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Pre-order the highly anticipated conclusion today!

Time

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About the Author

Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

 

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Review – Motion Part 1 – Laws of Physics by Penny Reid

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Motion, the first in the all-new Laws of Physics Trilogy from Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!

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One week.

Home alone.

Girl genius.

Unrepentant slacker.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Mona is a smart girl and had everything figured out a long time ago. She had to. She didn’t have a choice. When your parents are uber-celebrities and you graduate from high school at thirteen, finish college at seventeen, and start your PhD program at eighteen, you don’t have time for distractions outside of your foci. Even fun is scheduled.

Which is why Abram, her brother’s best friend, is such an irritant.

Abram is a talented guy, a supremely gifted musician, and has absolutely nothing figured out, nor does he seem to care. He does what he feels, when he feels, and—in Mona’s opinion—he makes her feel entirely too much.

Laws of Physics is the second trilogy in the Hypothesis series; Laws of Physics parts 1 (MOTION) & 2 (SPACE) end with a cliffhanger.

 

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Download your copy today!

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Review of Motion

 

I want more! Now! Mona and Abram are incredible and I am aching to know how their story ends.

Mona is determined to help her sister out and then return to her orderly life of science and physics jokes. Abram is confused about why he’s suddenly drawn to Lisa and didn’t know this version of her. He doesn’t know that this is Mona’s impersonation of Lisa.

As Mona pretends to be her sister and finds a version of herself she didn’t know existed. Abram is everything she didn’t know that she wanted or needed and he makes Mona feel everything.

But stories that start out this way can’t possibly end well, can they? That’s what we need Parts 2 & 3 to find out! I can’t wait for the next part of this incredible story!

 

An advance copy of this book was received. Receipt of this copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

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Pre-order the rest of the Laws of Physics series today!

Space

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Time

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Amazon Paperback

 

About the Author

Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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Connect with Penny:

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www.pennyreid.ninja

Review – Trailer Park Heart by Rachel Higginson

Trailer park born and raised. It’s my legacy. That’s how my mama lived. And that’s how her mama lived. It’s the life I was born into and it’s the life I swore I would leave the second I was old enough to make it out.

Only legacies have a funny way of sneaking up on you. An innocent decision the night of high school graduation led to a series of complications in my plans to escape.

Seven years later, I’ve resigned myself to this small town and the roots I’m tied to. Nothing could make me leave. And nothing could make me spill the secrets that keep me here.

Until he walks back into town with a chip on his shoulder and a stupid hunch nobody else in town has been smart enough to follow.

Levi Cole is my opposite. Born on the right side of the tracks with family money to spare, he’s the kind of black sheep that can afford to be rebellious—because his family will always pay for his mistakes. He’s also the only living heir to Cole Family Farms, after his brother Logan was killed in duty seven years ago.

He sees something in my life that he thinks he has a right to. But he’s wrong. And obnoxious. And he needs to take his stubborn good looks and that intense way he looks at me and go back to wherever it was he came from.

I know better than to trust men like him. I was born and raised in a trailer park, I know nothing good happens to girls like me—girls with trailer park lives and trailer park hearts. Especially from gorgeous, kind, pigheaded men like him.

 

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BFF K’s Review of Trailer Park Heart

Last night I finished a book that won’t stop bouncing around in my brain. It is the best book I’ve read in 2018 and that’s saying something….I’ve read 90+ books this year. This book is sweet and tender, full of angst and emotion, heartbreaking and soul affirming, complex and beautifully written. I want everyone to read this book.

Part of the reason that I’m so in love with this story is that it is set in Nebraska. I understand the critical role that small-town-Nebraska plays in this story. There is a level of poverty that exists alongside material wealth that is staggering. There can be a tremendous sense of hometown pride mixed with a clear desire to move beyond what you’ve always known. Nebraska is its own character in this book and I love it!

Ruby is a perplexing character. She is strong and fierce at the same time that she is insecure and withdrawn. She can’t shake the aura of trailer park that follows her everywhere. Ruby knows that no one looks past her former-stripper-mother and the poverty in which she was raised. She believes that her upbringing defines her in the eyes of the small town residents and busy bodies. Her only goal is to get out, go to college, move on. But her plans are derailed on graduation night. The emotional barriers she has built continue to rise.

Levi was Ruby’s nemesis in high school. Constantly in her orbit. Prodding and poking and urging her on. He was both friend and foe. And now he’s back. And he’s even more than he was before. He’s smarter and more persistent, more handsome, more clever and more irresistible. Levi has his sights set on Ruby and showing her that there is more to life and Clark City than she believes. Until he learns her most closely guarded secret. Will it destroy the way that he looks at her?

Perhaps Ruby didn’t understand Levi and his motivations as much as she thought. Or, perhaps she was attempting to protect herself. Maybe, just maybe, Ruby’s walls and defenses extend beyond just Levi. His return makes her question everything she’s believed about her life. Maybe someone can love her because of her trailer park heart and not in spite of it?

This book is just everything. Like Levi, it is just MORE. It is a stunning, emotional, fulfilling story that you need to read. It will make you think and force you to feel and in the end it will just live in a corner of your brain with a piece of your heart, trailer park included.

An advance copy of this book was received. Receipt of this copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

Excerpt from Trailer Park Heart

He stared at me, unspeaking, unmoving. The hurt in his eyes and the frown on his face devastated my already broken spirit.

“And I don’t even know what to tell you,” I cried some more. “Because my mistake led me to Max and for that reason I can never really regret it. But I hate how I hurt you. I hate that my mistakes meant pushing you away. I hate that I finally know how I feel about you and it’s too late.”

His eyes flashed with something so intense I gasped for breath. “How do you feel about me?” How could he ask me that now? How did he not know? How had he not always known? “Don’t make me say it,” I whispered, my voice dragged over gravel. “It hurts too much.” “Ruby,” he pleaded, his voice just as fragmented. “Say it. Please.”

I didn’t bother brushing away the tears, there were too many of them, my grief was too heavy. “I love you,” I whispered. “I’ve always loved you. I’ve just been too afraid to say it.”

To admit it.

 

About the Author

Rachel Higginson is the best-selling author of The Opposite of You, The Five Stages of Falling in Love, Every Wrong Reason, Bet on Us and The Star-Crossed Series.

She was born and raised in Nebraska, and spent her college years traveling the world. She fell in love with Eastern Europe, Paris, Indian Food and the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, but came back home to marry her high school sweetheart. Now she spends her days writing stories and raising five amazing kids.

 

 

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Review – The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

City girl Calla Fletcher attempts to reconnect with her estranged father, and unwittingly finds herself torn between her desire to return to the bustle of Toronto and a budding relationship with a rugged Alaskan pilot in this masterful new romance from acclaimed author K.A. Tucker.

Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this new subarctic environment, Jonah—the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. As time passes, she unexpectedly finds herself forming a bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago.

It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

 

The Simple Wild Buy Links

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BFF K’s Review of The Simple Wild

Here’s a little something different for my review of The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker! I was invited to appear on an episode of All About Books on our local public radio station! How much fun is that? The interview included a review of one of my favorite books of 2018! If you have a few minutes, take a listen and learn all about The Simple Wild and why I absolutely LOVE this story!

I began by listening to this book on Audible, but loved it so much I also purchased the Kindle copy so I could finish reading it and highlighting my favorite parts. The story is beautiful and you’ll love it no matter how you read it.

Listen to it here on the blog or go directly to the NET All About Books Archives!

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.

She is the USA Today bestselling author of 17 books, including the Causal Enchantment, Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series, He Will Be My Ruin, Until It Fades, Keep Her Safe, and The Simple Wild. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, First for Women, and Publisher’s Weekly. She has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance 2013 for TEN TINY BREATHS and Best Romance 2018 for THE SIMPLE WILD. KEEP HER SAFE made Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2018 list for Romantic Suspense. Her novels have been translated into 16 languages.

K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her family.

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Review – Pucked Love by Helena Hunting

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Pucked Love, the final sexy and emotional standalone in the NYT bestselling Pucked Series from New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting, is available NOW!

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As an NHL player, relationships haven’t been my thing. Shrouded in secrecy and speculation, they never last very long. But then that’s what happens when you require an NDA before the first date.

Until Charlene. She’s like a firefly. She’s elusive, and if you catch her she’ll burn bright, but keeping her trapped dulls her fire and dims her beauty.

I caught her. And as much as I might want to keep her, I’ll never put the lid on her jar. Not at the risk of losing her. So I’ve let her set the rules in our relationship.

But as long hidden secrets expose us both, I discover exactly how fragile Charlene is, and how much I need her.

We’re all broken. We’re all messed up. Some more than others. Me more than most.

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BFF K’s Review of Pucked Love

There are few things I love more than seeing a clueless hero get knocked on his butt when he realizes he’s in love with the heroine. And does Darren take a tumble! I’ve read/listened to every book and novella in this series and I’m thrilled with this ending!

I’ll admit, I’ve been perplexed by Darren and Charlene the whole time. To be honest, their relationship just seemed weird. Were they a couple or weren’t they? It seemed like there were, but time and again they behaved in ways that made you question that. They seemed to like one another but were so secretive and closed off. His secrecy and her gosh darn pearls…what was the deal?

Darren and Charlene both had some significant baggage. And, they were really just hauling it around with them for years. It wasn’t until they were forced by both friends and enemies to confront their issues that they were able to come together and figure their s&%# out! It was so fun to take that journey with them. I think Darren and Charlene are one of my favorite couple’s in the series. I’m just so happy with the conclusion of their love story.

If you haven’t read any of the books in the Pucked series, you need to fix that immediately! They’re terrific books and fantastic audiobooks. I can’t recommend them highly enough! This series is fun, sweet, sexy – everything you want in a rom-com series and Pucked Love is the perfect conclusion!

 

 

An advance copy of this book was received. The reviewer listened to the the audiobook with the Audible Romance Package. Receipt of the advance copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

 

Excerpt

You’re turning twenty-six. It’s your champagne birthday, so we need to do something fun.” Violet bounces, making her boobs shake and my mimosa slosh perilously. “It should be themed! We can all wear leather chaps!”

“Could you be any more cliché?” I roll my eyes. “Just to be clear, Darren doesn’t own chaps.”

“Just a ball gag and a mask with no eye holes, according to Alex.”

And we’re back to my sex life. I knew I was getting off so easy.

I wonder if Darren is catching this kind of heat today. I seriously doubt it’s worse than what I’m getting since I don’t think his friends are likely to push his buttons, but I’ll have to ask when I speak to him next. I’m not sure when that will be, either. The message I sent about Gertrude was pretty straightforward and doesn’t necessarily require a response. Maybe I should’ve worded it differently.

Sunny raises her hand, like we’re all still in middle school and she’s waiting her turn to speak. “Wouldn’t a mask with no eyeholes be dangerous? You wouldn’t be able to see where you’re going.” Her eyes widen, and she looks around the room. “And what’s a ball gag?”

I honestly love that Sunny has grown up in this highly overinformed society and still manages to be innocent.

“Yeah, Char, wouldn’t a mask with no eyeholes be dangerous?” Violet props her fist on her chin and smiles. “And please, do explain what a ball gag is.”

“I’m not sure you really want the answer to that, Sunny.” Poppy gives me a look I can’t quite decipher.

Sunny twirls her hair around her finger. “Why not?”

“Where’s the harm in a little bondage-sex education? It’s not like Miller’s ever going to go out and buy either item for her. First of all, Alex would murder him, and secondly, I don’t think that’s Miller’s thing.”

Sunny’s face lights up, and she does jazz hands. “Oh! I think I know what Miller’s thing is!”

Lily grins. “Eating your cookie?”

“He really likes to do that, a lot. When my belly gets too big I’ll have to watch from the mirror.” She gets a faraway look in her eyes. “But he has another thing! Kind of like how you and Randy are always getting it on in bathrooms, except I think it’s a bit more sanitary.”

“And it doesn’t cause thousands of dollars of damage,” Violet adds.

Lily throws her hands up in the air. “That sink was already falling off the wall. It’s not my fault it broke!”

“That was one expensive orgasm,” I say.

“And Randy says it was worth every penny.” Lily’s smile is devious as she bites her knuckle, then turns to Sunny. “Anyway, back to Miller’s thing.”

Sunny wiggles around excitedly in her chair. “So Miller paints my toenails for me.”

“Miller’s thing is painting your toenails?”

“Yes. Well, no. I think he likes my toes.” Her fingers go to her lips, and she looks around the room, her cheeks flushing.

“Say what now?” Violet asks.

”Sometimes he kisses them.” She covers her mouth with her palm and says something unintelligible.

Violet sits forward in her chair. “Hold on a second, does Buck have a foot fetish?”

“Um, I don’t know.” Sunny looks worried now. “Is that weird? Is it, like, mask with no eyeholes kind of weird?”

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Helena Hunting lives outside of Toronto with her amazing family and her two awesome cats, who think the best place to sleep is her keyboard. Helena writes everything from contemporary romance with all the feels to romantic comedies that will have you laughing until you cry.

 

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Review – Hate Notes by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

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A standalone romance novel published by Montlake Romance

By: New York Times Bestselling Authors Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

Release Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2018

 

It all started with a mysterious blue note sewn into a wedding dress.

Something blue.

I’d gone to sell my own unworn bridal gown at a vintage clothing store. That’s when I found another bride’s “something old.”

Stitched into the lining of a fabulously feathered design was the loveliest message I’d ever read: Thank you for making all of my dreams come true.

The name embossed on the blue stationery: Reed Eastwood, obviously the most romantic man who ever lived. I also discovered he’s the most gorgeous. If only my true-love fantasies had stopped there. Because I’ve since found out something else about Mr. Starry-Eyed.

He’s arrogant, cynical, and demanding. I should know. Thanks to a twist of fate, he’s my new boss. But that’s not going to stop me from discovering the story behind his last love letter. A love letter that did not result in a happily ever after.

But that story is nothing compared to the one unfolding between us. It’s getting hotter, sweet-er, and more surprising than anything I could have imagined.

Something new.

But I have no idea how this one is going to end . . .

 

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BFF K’s Review of Hate Notes

 

Charlotte Darling has all of the characteristics you would think of for a woman by that name. She is smart, sweet, kind, and caring. She works hard and expresses genuine concern for those around her. She has found herself in a rough spot through no fault of her own. Dumped before her wedding day by a cheating, undeserving, fiancé she is struggling to rebuild her life and find herself again.
Reed Eastwood is a workaholic. He is struggling to rewrite his own life after being left near the alter. He is drawn to Charlotte but keeps her at arms length protect himself. Reed has another secret that keeps him at a distance from Charlotte. The discovery of which, provides an unforeseen twist to an otherwise predictable storyline.
Charlotte and Reed are surrounded by a colorful cast of characters that add humor and depth to the story. Grandma Iris is particularly delightful. I am hoping that Reed’s brother Max gets his own story.
There is a definite push and pull to Charlotte and Reed’s relationship. They are attracted to one another and get along quite well, but Reed finds countless reasons why they can’t be together. They challenge one another and each bring out the best in the other person. Their journey to love is sweet and driven by Charlotte relentless optimism and sentimentality.
When you start the book, you will think it is a standard workplace romance/enemies to lovers storyline. But, there are some unanticipated twists and turns that round out the story and make it wholly enjoyable!
Hate Notes is a solid story, one of my favorite that I have read this year. The book has highs and lows and a whole lot of heart. Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward have done it again. They’ve delivered another solid story with lovable characters and a dreamy HEA.

 

An advance copy of this book was received. The reviewer purchased the audiobook copy. Receipt of the advance copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

 

 

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To read an excerpt of Hate Notes, click here.

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PURCHASE LINKS:

Add to Goodreads      Amazon ebook     Amazon Print     Amazon Audio     

Amazon print UK

Please Note: Because Hate Notes is published by Montlake Romance, a division of Amazon, the ebook and paperback will only be available on Amazon. If you are an Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited member, the Hate Notes ebook will be free for both Prime and KU members on release day!

Sign up for Penelope & Vi’s mailing list now and be the first one notified when it goes live! ➜ https://www.subscribepage.com/Vi&Penelope

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

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Vi Keeland

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA To-day Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in two dozen languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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Penelope Ward

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twen-ties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.

With over 1.5 million books sold, she is a twenty-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels.

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http://instagram.com/PenelopeWardAuthor/

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Other Books From Vi & Penelope:

Co-written Novels

The Rush Series (2 Book Series)

Rebel Heir (Rush Series Duet #1)Rebel Heir

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JHynHe
iBooks: https://goo.gl/iG6fmD
B&N: http://smarturl.it/ubjd6b
Kobo: https://goo.gl/iU76VK

Rebel Heart (Rush Series Duet #2)Rebel Heart

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KuY8Me
iBooks: https://apple.co/2oleXyJ
B&N: http://smarturl.it/ew2ggj
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2H7FRCm

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British Bedmate

(Previously titled: Dear Bridget, I Want You)
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2I9CSxm
iBooks: http://smarturl.it/y4x3xi
B&N: http://smarturl.it/o780mb
Kobo: http://smarturl.it/kfgc6a

Cocky Bastard

Cocky Bastard

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JIy7HT
iTunes: http://apple.co/1PffE2J
B&N: http://bit.ly/1EjxNpY
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1UxCSUO

Stuck-Up SuitStuck-Up Suit

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KvRMfE
iBooks: http://apple.co/1Qbwy57
B&N: http://bit.ly/29vrQhV
Kobo: http:// bit.ly/1RJdUif

Playboy PilotPlayboy Pilot

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HFAtec
iBooks: http://apple.co/1Wb06Cf
B&N: bit.ly/2caXPEK
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2cJDXO1

Mister MoneybagsMister Moneybags

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HFgHzm
iBooks: http://smarturl.it/3y1tuq
B&N: http://smarturl.it/kx7h8m
Kobo http://smarturl.it/qqf5ho
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]
By:Vi Keeland & Dylan Scott
Left Behind (A Young Adult Novel)
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HGMjVw

Vi’s Standalone Novels

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Vi’s Upcoming January 2019 Release

Bloggers, sign up here.

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The Naked Truth

Amazon: http://smarturl.it/6ni3r8
iBooks: http://smarturl.it/3m7isv
B&N: http://smarturl.it/iic2r1
Kobo: http://hyperurl.co/cmuza2
Google Play: http://smarturl.it/1nkhv0
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2H0XH9p
Audio: https://amzn.to/2uC6fPS
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2kuv7V6
Sex not Love

Sex, Not Love

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KtKuZx
iBooks: http://smarturl.it/vlfabb
B&N: http://smarturl.it/hivkor
Kobo: http://smarturl.it/9bxfwx
Beautiful Mistake

Beautiful Mistake

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rffS5i
iBooks: http://smarturl.it/20x53a
B&N: http://smarturl.it/n8jey6
Kobo: http://smarturl.it/1btxsz
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]

Egomaniac

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Ktm6r2
iBooks: http://apple.co/2fIsmvC
B&N: http://smarturl.it/t4ohsv
Kobo: http://smarturl.it/azmhq9
Bossman

Bossman

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Fy4vuz
iBooks: http://apple.co/25x2jyX
B&N: http://bit.ly/29sL4H2
Kobo: http://bit.ly/29lW19I

The Baller

The Baller

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Fy6PBQ
iBooks: http://bit.ly/iBooksBaller
B&N: http:// bit.ly/BarnesBaller
Kobo: http:// bit.ly/KoboBaller
Life on Stage series (2 Standalone Books)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]

Throb

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HFxAKy
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/throb/id948747986
B&N:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/throb-vi-keeland/1121112695
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/throb-4
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]

Beat

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2jjG23h
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/beat/id983959123
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beat-vi-keeland/1121715501
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/beat-5

MMA Fighter series (3 Standalone Books)

Worth the Fight (MMA Fighter #1)

Worth the Fight

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KoSwmx
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/worth-the-fight/id805540252
B&N:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/worth-the-fight-vi-keeland/1117014180
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/worth-the-fight
Worth The Chance (MMA figher #2)

Worth the Chance

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rdzGa3
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/worth-the-chance/id813714461
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/worth-the-chance-vi-keeland/1118634058
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/worth-the-chance
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Worth Forgiving

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JJqtNG
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/worth-forgiving/id906130022?ls=1&mt=11
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/worth-forgiving-vi-keeland/1120173153
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/worth-forgiving
Worth it All (MMA Complete Series)

Worth It All (Com-plete Fighter Series)

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Fx1g6H

Serials

The Cole Series (2 Book Serial)
Belong to You (Cole #1)

Belong to You

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2FzDjLN
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/belong-to-you/id639401754
B&N:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/belong-to-you-vi-keeland/1114962845
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/belong-to-you
Made for You (Cole #2)

Made for You

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rcCmnJ
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/made-for-you/id84550637
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/made-for-you-vi-keeland/1115883225
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/belong-to-you

Penelope’s Standalone Novels

Love Online Ebook

Love Online

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2obQRa2
iTunes :https://apple.co/2LzO4om
B&N: http://bit.ly/2wfHUQO
Kobo:http://bit.ly/2MYBexz
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ORdVWT
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2LyWzAb
Audible: https://adbl.co/2KAWnMq
Amazon Audio: https://amzn.to/2KF8tEl
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2LJjHso

Gentleman NineGentleman Nine

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KoRJC5
iBooks: http://bit.ly/2D7K7Qi
Nook: http://bit.ly/2EPuDCn
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2nMeoP3
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2C9ESTm

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Drunk Dial

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rcBbVl
iBooks: http://apple.co/2tq7dRz
Nook: http://bit.ly/2xeEH2H
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2ihXnMD
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2LzQ2Fg

Mack DaddyMack Daddy

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2regybn
iTunes: http://apple.co/2iNrIPj
B&N: http://hyperurl.co/aiypfj
Kobo: http://hyperurl.co/r3hv19
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2LhHZxB

RoomHateRoomHate

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rficJw
iTunes: http://apple.co/1PgsvE7
B&N: http://bit.ly/1PLGnSL
kobo: http://bit.ly/1POvSnW
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2JMo306

Stepbrother Dearest

Stepbrother Dearest

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2FBxe1G
ITunes: http://bit.ly/YER0mT
B&N: http://bit.ly/1taMFjG
kobo: http://bit.ly/1fJaaBs
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2JJV90V

Neighbor Dearest

Neighbor Dearest

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JJQPz2
iTunes: http://apple.co/29mC6L8
B&N: http://bit.ly/2akQ2aq
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2axt1SY
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2LFzZTn

Jaded and Tyed

Jaded and Tyed (A novel-ette)

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Sins of Sevin

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2I6i3T6
iTunes: http://apple.co/1K8mzGg
B&N: http://bit.ly/1hTKAKE
kobo: http://bit.ly/1OaGY3D
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2LImsup
Jake Undone (Jake #1)

Jake Undone

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KoQnYd
iTunes: http://apple.co/1fJayQ8
B&N: http://bit.ly/1obAwJ6
kobo: http://bit.ly/1SPKl0M
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2uU45v3
Jake Understood (Jake #2)

Jake Understood (Jake #2)

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rbAlZQ
iTunes: http://apple.co/1DQQwgC
B&N: http://bit.ly/1FwJC0z
kobo: http://bit.ly/1LQ7Fvk
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2JHWUM0
My Skylar

My Skylar

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Fwe78V
iTunes: http://bit.ly/SLNOTR
B&N: http://bit.ly/SLO1qi
kobo: http://bit.ly/1kNrtAB
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2mzqkmn
Gemini

Gemini

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rggfwv
iTunes: http://apple.co/1QTaONj
B&N: http://bit.ly/1KfmLHD
kobo: http://bit.ly/1BGJ2wu
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2zYoXXP

 

 

Review – I Bet You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

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She’s the one bet I can’t resist…

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills returns with an all-new swoon-fest of a novel about what happens when you look beyond labels and take a chance on love.

I Bet You, an all-new sexy college romance standalone is available NOW!

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Sexy Athlete: I bet you…

Penelope Graham: Burn in hell, quarterback.

The late night text is random but Penelope knows exactly who “Sexy Athlete” is. And why she shouldn’t take his wager.

Ryker Voss.

Football star.

Walks on water and God’s gift to women.

Just ask him.

His bet? He promises Penelope he’ll win her the heart of the nerdy guy she’s been crushing on. His plan—good old-fashioned jealousy. Once her crush sees her kissing Ryker, he’ll realize what he’s missing. Sounds legit, right? The only question is…why is Ryker being so nice to her?

Penelope Graham.

Virgin.

Lover of sparkly vampires and calculus.

His mortal enemy.

Penelope knows she shouldn’t trust a jock, but what’s a girl to do when she needs a date to Homecoming? And Ryker’s keeping a secret, another bet, one that could destroy Penelope’s heart forever.

Will the quarterback score the good girl or will his secret mean everyone loses at this game of love?

IBY-AN

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon     Amazon Worldwide

Add to GoodReads

 

BFF K’s Review of I Bet You

I Bet You is a perfect New Adult, college romance! This story gave me similar feels to Madden-Mills previous work, Dirty English, which I LOVED!

Penelope is hard-working, sweet and kind. She has a troubled relationship with her father and she’s mourning the relatively recent loss of her mother. Those experiences have shaped her and given her a skeptical outlook on life and love. And, she’s a bit of a lovable nerd!

Ryker is a football star. His role as the Quarterback and leader of a championship caliber team gets him whatever and whoever he wants. Except Penelope. He’s drawn to her in spite of or because of that fact! He’s a more complicated person than Penelope originally believed and she struggles to match her assumptions of him to the reality. But, of course, their chemistry and attraction to one another is undeniable.

There aren’t a lot of twists and turns or surprises in this book. But, it delivers exactly what you hope for when you pick up a NA, college, football, romance! From start to finish, I Bet You is a sweet and charming coming of age tale. It is a definite one-click for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and all romance lovers!

 

An advance copy of this book was received. Receipt of this copy did not impact the content or independence of this review.

 

 

Excerpt from I Bet You

Penelope

I stand in front of the mirror in the restroom and gasp. Holy moly, I’m a total disaster. Red is on my shirt, my neck, my cheek, and there’s even a dab in my hair. I let out a heavy sigh as I wipe at it with a wet paper towel. At least my hair is auburn and the red will just blend right in. I scrub at the stain on my shirt, but all I end up doing is making a giant wet spot.

“Forget it,” I mutter to myself a few minutes later as I straighten my lopsided messy bun and adjust my glasses. My makeup is faded, and I reach into my apron for a tube of cherry red lipstick then quickly swipe it over my mouth. Like that’s going to improve the situation. I need a makeover and new clothes stat.

I walk out of the restroom and take in Sugar’s Bar and Grill, a restaurant in Magnolia, Mississippi. The dinner rush is over, but a few stragglers will come in, mostly college students. Only a block from campus, Sugar’s has a modern farmhouse feel with galvanized steel light fixtures, pale pine floors, and straight-back metal chairs, but the food…well, that’s what keeps the place hopping. It’s the only restaurant near campus to get anything you want served up with a side of fresh fried green tomatoes. Their menu also features Southern classics, such as chicken and dumplings or macaroni and cheese with bacon sprinkled on top. Just thinking about it makes my stomach rumble. I was so wrapped up in writing during my break that I forgot to eat.

I sigh and head to the football table, where they promptly hand over the money. “Nice doing business with you, boys,” I say before flouncing off, feeling Ryker’s eyes on me the entire time.

What’s his deal with me?

I mean, you’d think he’d want to avoid me because of the article, but it’s as if his mission is to be around me as much as he can. In fact, I’m not even sure he knew who I was before I wrote it since we don’t run in the same circles. I suspect he’s torturing me.

I push him out of my head and walk over to a table that needs bussing, picking up half-empty soda glasses and putting them on my tray. The door chimes, signaling that someone has come in, and I raise my head to see—

Whoa.

I freeze.

Bring out the angels and cue the hallelujah chorus.

Now that’s the kind of man I should be writing sexy scenes about.

Standing at the door is Connor Dimpleshitz—yes, his surname is unfortunate, but his IQ makes up for it. I’ve been crushing on him since our sociology class last semester.

Framed by a golden halo of sunlight as it glints through the windows, I decide he’s what would happen if Albert Einstein and Henry Cavill had a baby. “A hot genius. The perfect unicorn,” I murmur to myself.

I chew on my lip, debating on whether to mosey up to him and say hi or hide.

Hide wins. I know, I’m a little ridiculous, especially since we have calculus together this semester and he’ll obviously see me at some point in class.

But then I’ll have good hair and ketchup-free clothes.

I quickly survey the possibilities for my escape as the hostess seats him in another server’s section. My eyes land on the right side of the restaurant, where I could make a mad dash for the kitchen, but he’s bound to see me darting since I’d have to walk past him. Plus, I want to hang around and watch him without him knowing.

I come to a decision. Wrangling the tray of half-empty sodas I cleared, I quickstep it over to the back left corner, the farthest away from the double doors of the entrance. I maneuver my body into an awkward hunkering position behind a huge potted plant with wide fan-shaped leaves. At least five feet tall with a gnarly brown trunk, the green monster is perfect camouflage.

I peek around a big leaf that’s in dire need of a good dusting,judging by the motes floating around. Feeling paranoid that someone is a witness to my absurdity, I throw a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure no one’s around.

Ryker. Shit.

He’s staring at me from the football table, and there’s a glint in his gaze, as if he’s wondering what I’m doing.

I scowl and stick my tongue out at him. He makes me feel so rebellious and flustered and…excited.

I can’t even stop myself. Ugh.

His expression deepens in amusement, and I grimace, realizing my butt is sticking out. His annoying eyebrow jacks up and says, What the hell are you doing?

With eye telepathy I tell him to mind his own freaking business.

I pointedly turn my back on him and focus on The Unicorn.

A few seconds later, a familiar deep voice resonates from behind me, making me start. “You look a little flustered, Penelope. Spying on someone for your next story, perhaps?”

I freeze. Blink. His voice is husky and lower than before when he was calling me garçon, the tone reminding me of languid summer nights under a starry Southern sky while he gives me deep, passionate kisses—

Good Lord.Stop your daydreaming.Must. Stop. Reading. Romances.

I heave out a sigh and turn around to face Ryker.

What the hell does he want now?

***

“I don’t submit to the Wildcat Weekly anymore,” I say.

I worked for them most of last year, covering the home games and a few random articles. With a dad who was in the NFL, I know a lot about football, but when Sugar’s offered me more hours, I took it.

“No more football stories, huh?”

I shrug, my gaze taking in his chiseled cheekbones, the curve of his full lips, the hint of scruff on his jaw. Dammit, why is he so gorgeous? “What can I say? I covered the most fascinating story last semester—you. Guess I went out on a high note.”

He nods, taking that dig. “I always noticed you at the games.”

I scoff. “I didn’t think girls like me were on your radar.”

“You sat near the third row at the fifty-yard line taking notes at every home game.” His eyes drift over me. “And I didn’t say you were on my radar.”

“Really? Sounds like you did.”

“Trust me, I have more discriminating tastes.” He shrugs.

“Why, how sweet of you.” My Southern accent has thickened, the way it does when I’m sassy. It’s one thing to know he doesn’t like me, but for him to say I’m not up to his standards…well. “Did you pop over here just to be nice?”

He exhales and rakes a hand through his hair, calling attention to the lighter strands that have been bleached by the sun. “Honestly, I’m not sure why I came over here.” A conflicted expression crosses his face as he tugs at his collar. My eyes stare at the myriad of curly blond chest hairs that are poking out from the V-neck of the light blue Oxford he’s wearing with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay from the ketchup getting all over you, but everything I’m saying is coming out wrong.”

Oh. This is different. And not what I expected.

“I’m fine, Baby Llama. No need to worry. You can go. Your girlfriends are waiting for you.” I tilt my head back toward the football table.

He doesn’t budge. “Baby Llama?” An amused grin flashes over his face.

I shrug. It’s been my private nickname for him since sophomore year when I stumbled upon him coming out of an upstairs bathroom at the Tau house after a shower with only a white towel wrapped around his trim waist. Some jersey chaser was with him. His hairy chest had both shocked my virgin sensibilities and excited me at the same time. The unruly curls just made him seem more naked, as if I’d seen his cock. Much to my dismay, I’d later dream about rolling around on that bed of golden curls. Seriously, who takes a shower with a chick in the middle of a kegger? Ryker Voss, that’s who. Because he can. And girls do whatever he wants.

But not this one.

I respect the game—even love it—but I don’t fall for football players, especially high and mighty quarterbacks who think they walk on water. My dad was the star player at Waylon twenty years ago, and trust me, I know how they operate. They get what they want and then they walk out, leaving broken hearts everywhere.

“Have you ever seen a real llama?” he asks, continuing our conversation. It’s as if he’s actually trying to be nice. “I saw one at a safari park once. Little bugger tried to eat my hand off when I fed him, but he was cute. Maybe you need a poster of one in your room so when you see it, you’ll think about me. I’ll even sign it for you.”

And there’s the cocky again.

“Buy me one. I’ll throw darts at it.”

“Damn, you never stop.” He huffs out a laugh, his eyes lingering on my neck. “Oh, there’s a bit of ketchup here too,” he says, reaching out to glide his finger across the top of my collar, his knuckles barely brushing against my neck.

The feather-light touch is brief and not sexual, yet my body hums, tendrils of sparks racing over my skin. I suck in a breath and catch his scent, warm and spicy with hints of leather and sandalwood.

He blinks and clears his throat. “Um, I actually have this cleaner stuff that I spray on my practice clothes. It’s a miracle worker. You’re welcome to borrow it. Of course, you’d have to come by the football dorm to pick it up. We could even do laundry together if you wanted?”

He says the words softly, as if they’re nothing,and I’m staring at him full on.

Do our laundry together?

I suspect Ryker Voss is flirting with me, though not well. The pimply-faced checkout boy at Big Star has better lines than this.

Yet…

Something warm grows inside my stomach and then flutters around, the sputtering of newborn butterflies. He is the hottest guy on campus. Still, I remind myself he’s a player, gather my resolve, and shoot those butterflies down.

“You’re being weird, Ryker.”

“Because I’m being nice? Yeah. New year, new start. I want to forget all the bad stuff from last semester.” He pauses. “And the article you wrote.”

“Is that right? Even the part where I said you dishonored the sport and were a disgrace to college players everywhere?”

He stares down at his hands. “I had my reasons for what happened.”

So I heard. He got involved in the fighting to help his friend and fellow teammate Maverick save his disabled sister.

“Ah, well, I did write a follow-up article, but it wasn’t nearly as popular as the first one.”

He shrugs, and somehow, he’s closer now. I stare into his thickly lashed cerulean eyes and blink at the force of them. His irises…God, someone should name a crayon after them.

“So…do you want to do laundry together sometime?”

This again? My mouth parts. “What? Like a date?”

“Yeah.”

I blink rapidly, my brain trying to wrap about this new Ryker. “No. I’m sure you already have jersey chasers lined up outside your dorm vying to do your laundry. I’ve heard they actually beg to rub your shoulders and do your homework. I imagine they even fight to be the one to suck your sweet little toes.” I come to an abrupt halt. Suck his toes? SUCK HIS TOES? OMG. Where did that random comment come from? I don’t have a foot fetish. I blame it on his presence and carry on. “And don’t worry about me—I don’t need your laundry advice. A little ketchup never hurt anyone.”

Determination crosses his face and with a flurry of movement, he drops a small piece of paper onto the tray I’m holding.

I stare down at it. Sexy as Hell Athlete is written in masculine handwriting with a phone number after it. I look back up at him, my eyes tracing the enigmatic half-smile on his face.

“I wrote it down for you earlier and wanted to give it to you after the ketchup thing, but I chickened out.”

Several seconds go by.

“Will you give me yours?” he asks after a few moments of us just standing here.

“My what?”

“Number.” He grins.

I indicate the tray and my obvious impediment. “I don’t have any paper on me.”

“Just tell me. I’ll remember.”

I’m flustered, and that’s the only reason I rattle off my phone number. He grins and repeats it back to me.

He lowers his voice in a conspiratorial way. “So…you’re watching someone, I take it. Anyone I know?”

Feeling bemused by his attention, I shake my head, quickly losing control of this situation.

“For a writer, you seem to be at a loss for words. Do I make you speechless, Penelope?”

I scoff. “No.”

“I’m curious as to what has your attention back here.” He slides in next to me behind the plant, his shoulder brushing against mine. He’s a giant next to my slender frame, and all at once, I feel protected and safe, which is entirely wrong. It’s probably his male pheromones, lulling me into softness before the kill—and damn if it isn’t working. He murmurs something about us hiding together and spying on people, but I’m distracted because my face is up close and personal with the chest hair that pokes out of his shirt. I want to trail my fingers through it and see if it’s as soft as it looks. He smells like alpha male and sex. Hard, passionate sex that makes you orgasm fast and furious.

Not that I have any firsthand knowledge of that, of course, but I have my fantasies.

Gird your loins, Penelope.

Resist the quarterback.

But I’m getting sucked in.

I blame it on the dimple that appears when he smiles. My stomach does that fluttering thing again, and this time, I can’t shoo the butterflies away. I’m weak. I move my eyes up the strong column of his tanned throat to meet his gaze. At least ten seconds go by as we take each other in.

What. Is. Happening?

“You’re pretty,” he murmurs. “Have I ever told you that?”

“We don’t usually talk except for when I take your order.”

His hand reaches up and briefly touches a piece of my hair that’s fallen out of my topknot. He rubs it between his fingers. “Your hair…it’s—”

“Auburn,” I manage, clearing my throat.

“It reminds me of a new penny, the way the amber color catches the light…” His voice trails off, and he bites his bottom lip. “God, that has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever said.”

“You have worse lines. Tell me, is doing laundry code for sex?” I say, staring up at him. I’m itching to straighten my glasses, a nervous reflex, but my hands are holding the tray.

“I only use lines on jersey chasers. You’re the kind of girl I have to work for.”

“What about your discriminating tastes?”

“Pure bluff. I think we have a real connection, Penelope.” His face is closer now, and I swallow, wondering how we must look to everyone else in the restaurant. I realize that in the process of talking, we’ve backed up to the wall behind the plant, and I figure the only table we’re visible to is the football one, but I don’t tear my eyes away from Ryker to check.

“You smell like rainbows,” he says.

My chest rises. I’m enjoying his full-court press. It’s…intoxicating. “What does a rainbow smell like?”

“Sweet and delicious.”

“It’s the suckers.” His eyes land on my lips, and it almost feels as if he’s touched them. Heat rushes over my skin. “The red ones are my favorite. I think they’re cherry or strawberry or raspberry…definitely not cranberry…that’s disgusting,” I say, rambling, feeling disoriented.

“It’s crazy, but I really want to kiss you right now,” he murmurs.

My eyes drift over his shoulder to where Connor’s table is. I can’t see his face, but I know he’s there, and even though I’m drugged by Ryker’s proximity, I remind myself he’s the one I should kiss.

Not Ryker.

Ryker is a player—just like my dad was.

He watches the direction of my gaze and follows it. “You’ve been watching Dimples hitz, haven’t you?” he says, a frown line appearing on his forehead. “Are you into him?”

My stomach dips. “Why would you say that?”

“Because you hightailed it over here when he walked in and you’ve been hiding ever since. So, I figure he either did you wrong or you’re infatuated, and since I haven’t heard any gossip about you and him, I’m guessing you must have a thing for him.”

Abort! Abort!He knows too much!

Sanity slowly returns to my brain in small increments, and I take a deep breath, orienting myself as questions race through my head. What if he uses my crush against me? Maybe he wants revenge for the article. I don’t know!

Flustered and unsure, my eyes dart around the restaurant, looking for an exit so I don’t have to answer his question.

My gaze lands on the football table he came from, and I notice Archer watching us with focused interest, a calculating look on his face as he whips his eyes from me to Ryker. He leans over and whispers to Blaze, who turns to peer in our direction. I pause, my brain analyzing and decoding. Why is Archer suddenly interested in what Ryker is doing over here with me—especially when there’s a pretty co-ed sitting right next to him, tracing little circles on his bicep?

Yet Archer’s eagle eyes are onus. Watchful.

I notice all three players at the table have suddenly given us their attention, anticipation evident on their faces.

Alarms go off in my head and things start to click into place.

How nice he was to me. How we ‘have a connection’. Yeah, right.

Mortification washes over me.

How could I not have seen it sooner?

God, I am an idiot.I was so distracted…

I’m a bet. A stupid freaking bet.

I feel like someone just punched me in the gut.

My survival instinct tells me to get away from Ryker, and obviously,I could just walk away and hold my head high, but I want to make a point and show those football players they can’t toy with me. I release the tray I’ve been balancing for what seems like days in his direction. The contents of the glasses spill out and crash to the floor, watered-down soda and ice drenching us before dripping down to the floor. The plastic glasses make a horrible clattering noise on the wooden floors, and I imagine most everyone in the restaurant heard it. I don’t look to see their faces. I only glare at Ryker.

He jumps back and stares down at the mess on his khaki pants then looks back at me. “Remind me to never bring up Dimpleshitz again.”

“Stop your games, Ryker.”

His face stills. “What games?”

My teeth snap together. Enough.

 

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About the Author


Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap. She’s best known for her angsty, heartfelt new adult college romances.

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice; Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.

She’s also addicted to frothy coffee beverages, Vampire Diaries, and any kind of book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females.

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