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Holiday Books to Read-Christmas in Silver Springs Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Friday, December 6

Tobias Richardson couldn’t help noticing the petite blonde sitting at the old-fashioned counter of the diner—and not just because she was pretty. He was sure he’d never seen her before. With a population of seven thousand, Silver Springs wasn’t small enough that he’d recognize everybody, especially because he’d only been living here for five months. The town seemed to have gotten a lot smaller since the weather turned, though. It didn’t snow in this part of California, but it was the rainy season and the region was experiencing colder than normal temperatures. Tourists weren’t interested in visiting when it was chill and damp, and the same went for the many residents of LA, ninety minutes to the southeast, who had vacation homes here. This month, and probably for the next two or three, he guessed Silver Springs would be limited to the locals.

He blew on his hands, trying to warm them while waiting for the coffee he’d ordered when he first sat down. He’d managed to squeeze in a hike after work. He didn’t care that it was dark and wet by the time he was on his way back. He had a 

headlight to guide him to the trailhead and was willing to put up with the rain. But he was chilled to the bone. After such an arduous hike, he was starving, too, and craving a hot shower.

Again, he glanced toward the counter. He didn’t want the woman to catch him staring, but something about her—besides her looks—drew his attention.

She didn’t seem happy…

“Here you go.” Willow Sanhurst, the barely eighteen-year-old girl who worked evenings at the Eatery, stepped between him and the woman who intrigued him, smiled broadly and put his cup on the table with a flourish. “Warming up yet?”

“Starting to.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been out hiking. It’s December!”

“Little bit of rain never hurt anybody.”

He’d traded out his muddy hiking books for a pair of clean shoes before coming into the restaurant. Other than that, he was only a little damp, so he wasn’t sure why she was making such a big deal of it.

“You must really like the outdoors.”

“I do,” he said.

“So do I.”

He got the impression he was supposed to follow that up with an invitation to go hiking with him sometime, but he didn’t.

Even though they’d already discussed his hike when he’d sat down and she’d brought him water, and the diner was full of people waiting for a chance to order, she didn’t move away as most waitresses would.

Before bringing the coffee to his lips, he looked up to see if there was something she needed.

As soon as their eyes met, she blushed a deep red, wiped her hands on her ruffled white apron and mumbled some remark about being careful not to burn himself—that the coffee was hot—before hurrying away.

Damn it. She had a crush on him. She’d clearly wanted to say something but hadn’t been able to gather the nerve, and that made him distinctly uncomfortable. After being released from prison in July he was committed to making better choices, to building a productive life. He couldn’t have some high school girl staring at him with the longing he saw shining in her eyes. If she started seriously pursuing him, he was afraid he’d end up in a bad situation just because he was so damn lonely.

With a sigh, he took a tentative sip of his coffee. This was his favorite place to eat—the comfort food and Norman Rockwell vibe reminded him of the wholesome existence he’d always secretly admired. But he’d have to quit coming here. He wouldn’t allow himself to be tempted. His brother, Maddox, said over and over that his first year out of prison would be the hardest, and although Tobias acted as though he was doing fine, that he had his life under control, his journey was not as sure-footed as he let on. Sometimes, especially late at night, he felt as though he’d been cast adrift on a vast ocean and might never find safe harbor. And that sense of being so small and insignificant made him crave the substances that had gotten him into trouble in the first place.

Willow kept looking over at him, obviously hoping to catch his eye. While he poured a dash of cream into his coffee, he considered canceling his meal. He could eat somewhere else—grab something to go and head home to shower. But just as he was about to slide out of the booth, his phone dinged with a text from Maddox, asking if he’d like to come over for dinner.

Already ate. Enjoy your night. See you at work tomorrow, he wrote back.

He knew his brother worried about him, was trying to help him adjust to life outside prison and didn’t want him to backslide and become like their mother. But Maddox had recently married the girl he’d loved since high school. He deserved to be alone with Jada, his new wife, who was now pregnant, and Maya, their daughter. The last thing Tobias wanted to do was get in the way of their relationship—again. It was because of him they hadn’t gotten together the first time around, and that had cost Maddox the first twelve years of Maya’s life.

As he slid his phone in his coat pocket, he saw that it was too late to cancel his food. Willow was once again coming toward him, this time carrying a plate.

“You texting your girlfriend?” she asked, flirting with him as she put down his meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

He allowed himself another glance at the blonde sitting at the counter. Her meal had come, too, and yet she held her fork, turning it over and over in one hand, staring at her food without taking a bite.

“Did you hear me?” Willow asked.

Putting his napkin in his lap, he picked up his fork. “I’m sorry. What’d you say?”

She looked over her shoulder in the direction he’d been looking and lowered her voice. “I see you’ve noticed Harper.”

“Harper?” he repeated.

“Yeah, Harper Devlin—Axel Devlin’s wife. She’s been in here before.”

“Who’s Axel Devlin?”

“Are you kidding me? He’s the lead singer of Pulse. They’re, like…the biggest band on the planet!”

He’d heard of Pulse, was familiar with their music and liked it. He’d also heard the name of the band’s lead singer many times. He’d just never dreamed Willow could be referring to that Axel Devlin—although there was no good reason why she couldn’t be. A lot of celebrities came to artsy, spiritually focused Silver Springs. Quite a few, especially movie people, retired here. And he often interacted with Hudson King, a professional football player, at New Horizons Boys Ranch, where he worked doing grounds and building maintenance. Hudson did a lot to help the troubled teens who attended the boarding school—both the boys’ side and the recently built girls’ school on the same property. He’d donated the money to buy an ice-skating rink both sides could use. “Do they live in the area?”

“No. She and her two kids are staying with her sister for the holidays. I overheard her talking to the owner.”

“She looks a little…” When he let his words trail off, Willow jumped in to finish the sentence.

“Depressed?”

“I was going to say ‘lost.’”

“Probably is. I watched an interview with Axel a few months ago. He said they were splitting up. Maybe that’s why.”

It was none of his business, but Tobias couldn’t help asking, “Did he give a reason?”

She seemed to like that they’d found something to talk about that wasn’t so strained and awkward for her. “Blamed it on the travel. He has to be gone too much. Yada, yada. What else is he going to say? That he’s cheating with a different girl every night?” she added with a laugh.

Tobias felt bad for Harper. It couldn’t be easy to be married to a rock star. She wasn’t that old, likely hadn’t been prepared for that kind of life. If Tobias remembered correctly, Axel was from a small town in Idaho, and he and his band had become famous almost overnight. Now he was sitting on top of the world.

But where did that leave her?

“You said they have kids?” he asked.

“Yeah. Two little girls. I don’t remember their ages—maybe eight and six? Something like that.”

So Harper had married Axel before he’d become a big success, and they’d started a family. That indicated she’d married for love. “Where are the kids?”

“With her sister, I guess.” Willow lowered her voice. “It would suck to be her, right? I mean, she has to see his name and his face everywhere, can’t escape the constant reminder.”

Now that he wasn’t paying as much attention to Willow’s hopeful smiles and nervousness when she was around him, Tobias could see others in the restaurant nudging their companions and pointing to Harper. Apparently a lot of people knew who she was—or word was spreading fast.

Poor thing. He understood what it was like to be the talk of the town. He’d been only seventeen when he’d been prosecuted as an adult and jailed for thirteen years. Returning to Silver Springs after his release this past summer had been like being put under a microscope. Suffering privately was one thing. Suffering publicly was something else entirely. That took what she was going through to a whole new level.

“Shouldn’t be too hard for her to find someone else.” He said it as though he wasn’t particularly invested, but Harper had caught his eye, hadn’t she?

“Are you kidding me?” Willow responded again. “How will anyone else ever compare?”

She had a point. It would be tough for a regular guy to match Axel, financially and otherwise. “True.”

You’re not interested in her, are you?” Willow looked slightly crestfallen.

Apparently he hadn’t been as careful to hide his feelings as he’d thought. But he was an ex-con, making a modest wage working for a correctional school. He’d never known his father, and his mother was a meth addict, constantly in and out of rehab. He knew when he was out of his league. “No.”

“Good.” A relieved smile curved her lips. “Because I’ve been watching you for a while and…well… I hope there’s someone else in this restaurant you might be interested in.” She finished in a rush, couldn’t quite look at him and then hurried away—only to return with a slip of paper that had her number on it when she brought the check.

Harper shoved her garlic mashed potatoes from one side of her plate to the other as she listened to the hum of voices in the diner. Although surrounded by people, she’d never felt so alone.

 

“I’ve got a number five,” the cook barked out for the waitresses.

Harper checked the menu, which she’d left open at her elbow so she’d have something to look at. It was difficult to go out in public right now. After the documentary she did with Axel last year, trying to remove the stigma of depression and using a therapist when necessary, people often recognized her, so she had little privacy.

A number five was a chicken breast with lemon-dill sauce, steamed vegetables and a gluten-free corn muffin. She’d ordered a number seven—peppercorn steak, garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, which had sounded good at first, but the only thing she’d been able to make herself eat was part of the dinner roll. She doubted it was gluten-free. Axel had made a big deal about staying away from gluten, but he was allergic to it, not her. And although she thought it was probably wise to avoid it, she didn’t care about her diet right now. She didn’t care about much of anything since her marriage had unraveled. It’d been all she could do just to hold herself together for the sake of her kids, and now Christmas would be here in only three weeks. It would be her and the girls’ first Christmas without Axel. He was touring Europe and wouldn’t be back until after the first of the year, since his last big concert was scheduled for New Year’s Eve.

Now that everything had changed between them, they wouldn’t have spent the holidays as they had in the past, anyway.

He might’ve asked to take the girls, however.

She could only imagine how lonely she would have felt with them gone, and yet…she sort of wished he had taken them. She didn’t feel capable of holding up her end, of putting on a brave face and telling their children that everything was going to be okay when it felt as though the ground had given way beneath her feet. She had no interest in decorating, putting up a tree or buying presents, which was why her sister had insisted she come

for an extended visit, even if it meant having the girls transfer schools for a couple of months. Piper and Everly were at a church Christmas party tonight with their cousins—twin girls who were older than Everly by four years. But Harper needed to be ready to face them with a smile when they came home.

Her phone vibrated in her pocket, but she didn’t bother to get it out. No doubt it was her sister. They’d had an argument before Harper stormed out of the house. Karoline had grown angry when Harper told her how little she was getting for child support. According to her sister, she was letting Axel off far too easy.

He was making a fortune, but Harper didn’t want to fight. She was still in love with him. As soon as he’d made it clear that he didn’t want to be married to her anymore, that he was no longer willing to try to work through their differences, she’d settled for the first figure his lawyer had thrown out. Otherwise, she was afraid the media would start to claim they were going through a “bitter” divorce. As she’d told Karoline, she’d make it on her own somehow, even though she hadn’t worked in an official capacity since the first three years of her marriage, when Axel was trying so hard to get a start in show business and he’d needed her to cover their basic living expenses.

Maybe she was a fool to be so accommodating. But she couldn’t imagine Axel would consider keeping the family together if she turned into a bitch. Besides, she didn’t even know who he was anymore, he’d changed so much. She couldn’t decide what she had a right to demand. Had she let Axel down? Or had he let her down? He’d always suffered from anxiety and depression. Maybe she hadn’t done enough to help him—

“Is everything okay?”

She forced herself to look up. The waitress working the counter had paused in front of her, obviously wondering if there was something wrong with the food.

“Fine,” Harper mumbled. She hadn’t really come to eat. She just needed some time alone, couldn’t face going back to her

sister’s quite yet. As nice as it was of Karoline to provide a refuge during this difficult month, being with her only sibling wasn’t much easier than being alone, because now she had to constantly explain and justify her actions. And with her emotions zinging all over the place, she wasn’t being consistent, couldn’t be consistent. Most of the time, she wasn’t even making a whole lot of sense.

Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” came on the sound system as the waitress moved on to her other customers.

Harper took a sip of her coffee and braved a quick glance around. Although she liked this restaurant, she didn’t feel she belonged in Silver Springs. Why wasn’t she in Denver, where she and Axel had lived after their college days at Boise State?

Because as much as she and Axel had once believed that they’d be the exception to the rule, that nothing could come between them, they’d been wrong. Slowly but surely, Axel had lost all perspective and started caring more about his work than he did his family. Fame had destroyed their relationship like so many celebrities before them.

With a sigh, she took the bill the waitress had put near her plate and paid at the register. She owed her sister more respect than to make her worry. She had to go back and face Karoline whether she wanted to or not.

Harper hadn’t put on makeup for weeks, hadn’t done anything with her hair, either, other than to pile it in a messy bun on her head, so it didn’t bother her that it was raining. She was cold, though; couldn’t seem to get warm. Tightening her oversize coat—a castoff of Axel’s from the good old days when they were first married—she pushed out of the warm café into the bad weather.

Putting her head down, she stared at her feet, bracing against the gusts of wind that whipped at her hair and clothes while stepping over two or three puddles to reach the Range Rover 

Axel had let her keep when they split. If she got desperate, she supposed she could sell it. It had cost a pretty penny.

She was opening the driver’s door when she noticed a tall, lanky man with longish dark hair crossing the lot toward her.

“Don’t be frightened,” he said, lifting one hand in a gesture intended to show he wasn’t being aggressive. “I just… I saw you inside and…”

Prepared to rebuff him, she set her jaw. She was not in the mood to be hit on. But when she met his eyes, something about his expression told her that wasn’t what this was about. Taking a long-stemmed white rose from inside his coat, he stepped forward to give it to her.

“Hang in there. It’ll get easier,” he said. Then he walked off before she could even ask for his name. 

 

Good Holiday Read!

Christmas in Silver Springs - Brenda Novak

So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson. The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming. Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.

I’ve seen this author’s name many times over the years but hadn’t had a chance to read any of her books so I was happy to get the opportunity to try this one. This was about two people who have gone through a lot that need each other to find happiness in the end. I really enjoyed the story and highly recommend. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Holiday Books To Ready-Coming Home for Christmas Excerpt

Coming Home for Christmas - RaeAnne Thayne

 Chapter One 

This was it. 

Luke Hamilton waited outside the big, rambling Victorian house in a little coastal town in Oregon, hands shoved into the pockets of his coat against the wet slap of air and nerves churning through him. 

Elizabeth was here. After all the years when he had been certain she was dead—that she had wandered into the mountains somewhere that cold day seven years earlier or she had somehow walked into the deep, unforgiving waters of Lake Haven—he was going to see her again. 

Though he had been given months to wrap his head around the idea that his wife wasn’t dead, that she was indeed living under another name in this town by the sea, it still didn’t seem real. 

How was he supposed to feel in this moment? He had no idea. He only knew he was filled with a crazy mix of anticipation, fear and the low fury that had been simmering inside 

him for months, since the moment FBI agent Elliot Bailey had produced a piece of paper with a name and an address.

Luke still couldn’t quite believe she was in there, the wife he had not seen in seven years. The wife who had disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving plenty of people to speculate that he had somehow hurt her, even killed her.

For all those days and months and years, he had lived with the ghost of Elizabeth Sinclair and the love they had once shared.

He was never nervous, damn it. So why did his skin itch and his stomach seethe and his hands grip the cold metal of the porch railing as if his suddenly weak knees would give way and make him topple over if he let go?

A moment later, he sensed movement inside the foyer of the house. The woman he had spoken with when he had first pulled up to this address, the woman who had been hanging Christmas lights around the big, charming home and who had looked at him with such suspicion and had not invited him to wait inside, opened the door. One hand was thrust into her coat pocket around a questionable-looking bulge.

She was either concealing a handgun or a Taser or pepper spray. Since he had never met the woman before, Luke couldn’t begin to guess which. Her features had lost none of that alert wariness that told him she would do whatever necessary to protect Elizabeth.

He wanted to tell her he would never hurt his wife, but it was a refrain he had grown tired of repeating. Over the years, he had become inured to people’s opinions on the matter. Let them think what the hell they wanted. He knew the truth.

“Where is she?” he demanded.

There was a long pause, like some tension-filled moment just before the gunfight in Old West movies. He wouldn’t have been surprised if tumbleweeds suddenly blew down the street.

Then, from behind the first woman, another figure stepped out onto the porch, slim and blonde and…shockingly familiar.

He stared, stunned to his bones. It was her. Not Elizabeth. Her. He had seen this woman around his small Idaho town of Haven Point several times over the last few years, fleeting glimpses only out of the corner of his gaze at a baseball game or a school program.

The mystery woman.

He assumed she had been there to watch one of the other children. Maybe an aunt from out of town, someone he didn’t know.

Luke had noticed her…and had hated the tiny little glow of attraction that had sparked to life.

He hadn’t wanted to be aware of any other woman. What was the point? For years, he thought his heart had died when Elizabeth walked away. He figured everything good and right inside him had shriveled up and he had nothing left to give another woman.

Despite his anger at himself for the unwilling attraction to a woman he could never have, he had come to look forward to those random glimpses of the beautiful mystery woman who wore sunglasses and floppy hats, whose hair was a similar color to his wife’s but whose features were very different.

For the first time since he had pulled up to Brambleberry House, he began to wonder if he had been wrong. If Elliot had been wrong, if his investigation had somehow gone horribly off track.

What if this wasn’t Elizabeth? What if it was all some terrible mistake?

He didn’t know what to say, suddenly. Did he tell them both he had erred, make some excuse and disappear? He was about to do just that when he saw her eyes, a clear, startling blue with a dark, almost black, ring around the irises.

He knew those eyes. It was her.

There was nervousness in them, yes, but no surprise, almost as if she had been expecting him.

“Elizabeth.”

She flinched a little at the name. “No one has…called me that in a very long time.”

Her voice was the second confirmation, the same husky alto that had haunted his dreams every single night for seven years.

The other woman stared at her. “Sonia. What is going on? Who is this man? Why is he calling you Elizabeth?”

“It is…a really long story, Rosa.”

“He says he is your husband.”

“He was. A long time ago.”

The anger simmered hotter, flaring up like a controlled burn that was trying to jump the ditch. He did his best to tamp it down. He would not become his father, no matter the provocation.

“I’m still your husband. Nothing has changed. Until we divorce or you are declared dead, we are very much still married in the eyes of the law.”

Her mouth opened again, eyes shocked as if she had never considered the possibility. Maybe as far as she was concerned, her act of walking away without a word had terminated their marriage.

It had in every way except the official one.

“I…guess that’s probably true.”

“That’s why I’m here. I need you to come back to Haven Point so we can end this thing once and for all.” He was unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “It shouldn’t be that hard for you. You know the way. Apparently you’ve been back to town plenty of times. You just never bothered to stop and say hello to me or your two children.”

Her skin, already pale in the weak December afternoon light, seemed to turn ashen, and Luke was immediately ashamed at his cruelty. He tried to be better than that, to take the higher ground in most situations. He was uncomfortably aware that this unwanted reunion with his long-missing wife would likely bring out the worst in him.

The other woman looked shocked. “You have children? I don’t understand any of this, Sonia.”

She winced. “It’s so complicated, Rosa. I don’t know…where to start. I… My name isn’t Sonia, as you’ve obviously…figured out. He is right. It is Elizabeth Hamilton, and this…this is my husband, Lucas.”

The other woman was slow to absorb the information, but after a shocked moment, her gaze narrowed and she moved imperceptibly in front of Elizabeth, as if her slight frame could protect her friend.

It was a familiar motion, one that intensified his shame. How many times had he done the same thing, throwing his body in front of his mother and then his stepmother? By the time he was big enough and tough enough to make a difference, his father was dead and no longer a threat.

“Are you afraid of this man?” Rosa demanded. “Has he hurt you? I can call Chief Townsend. He would be here in a moment.”

Elizabeth put a hand on the other woman’s arm. It was clear they were close friends. The wild pendulum of Luke’s emotions right now swung back to anger. Somehow she had managed to form friendships with other people, to completely move on with her life, while he had been suffocating for seven years under the weight of rumor and suspicion.

“It is fine, Rosa. Thank you. Please don’t worry about me. I…I need to speak with…with my husband. We have…much to discuss. Go on inside. I’ll talk to you later and…and try to explain.”

Rosa was clearly reluctant to leave. She hovered on the porch, sending him mistrustful looks. He wanted to tell her not to waste her energy. He’d spent years developing a thick skin when it came to people suspecting him of being a monster.

“I’m here,” she said firmly. “I’ll wait inside. You only have to call out. And Melissa is in her apartment as well. We won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Nothing is going to happen to me,” Elizabeth assured her. “Luke won’t hurt me.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” he muttered, though it was a lie. Some might think him a monster but he suspected Elizabeth knew he could never lay a hand on her.

First of all, it wasn’t in his nature. Second, he had spent his entire life working toward self-mastery and iron control—doing whatever necessary to avoid becoming his father.

After another moment, Rosa turned around and slipped through the carved front door, reluctance apparent in every line of her body. On some level, Luke supposed he should be grateful Elizabeth had people willing to stand up and protect her.

“How did you…? How did you find me?”

He still didn’t know everything Elliot had gone through to locate her. He knew the FBI agent had spent long hours tracking down leads after a truck driver came forward years later to say that on the night Elizabeth disappeared, the trucker thought she gave a woman resembling Elizabeth’s description a ride to a truck stop in central Oregon.

Somehow from that slim piece of information, Elliot had undergone an impressive investigation on his own time and managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together. If not for Elliot, Luke wouldn’t be here in front of this big oceanfront Victorian in Cannon Beach and this familiar but not familiar woman.

Thinking about Elliot Bailey always left him conflicted, too. He was grateful to the man but still found it weird to think of his former best friend with Megan, Luke’s younger sister. After several months, he was almost used to the idea of them being together.

“I didn’t.” He jerked his attention back to the moment. “Elliot Bailey did. That’s not really important, is it? The point is, now I know where you are. But then, I guess you were never really lost, were you? We only thought you were. You’ve certainly been back to Haven Point in your little disguise plenty of times over the years.”

It burned him, knowing he hadn’t recognized his own wife. When he looked closer now, knowing what he did, he could see more hints of the woman he had loved. The brows were the same, arched and delicate, and her lips were still full and lush. But her face was more narrow, her nose completely different and her cheekbones higher and more defined.

Why had she undergone so much plastic surgery? It was one more mystery amid dozens.

“What do you want, Luke?”

“I told you. I need you to come home. At this moment, the Lake Haven County district attorney’s office is preparing to file charges against me related to your disappearance and apparent murder.” 

 “My what?”

“Elliot has tried to convince the woman you’re still very much alive. He hasn’t had much luck, especially considering he’s all but a member of the family and will be marrying my sister in a few months. The DA plans to move forward and arrest me in hopes of forcing me to tell them where I hid your body.”

“Wait—what? Elliot and Megan are together? When did that happen?”

He barely refrained from grinding his teeth. “Not really the point, is it? This has gone on long enough. I’m going to be arrested, Elizabeth. Before the holidays, if my sources are right. The district attorney is determined to send a message that men in her jurisdiction can’t get away with making their wives disappear. I’m going to go to jail, at least for a while. Our children have already spent enough Christmases without one parent. Do you want them to lose the other one?”

“Of course not.”

He didn’t know whether to believe her or not. How could he? He didn’t even know this woman, despite the fact that she had once been closer to him than anyone else on earth.

“Then grab your things and let’s go.”


Excerpted from Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnn Thayne. Copyright © 2019 by RaeAnn Thayne. Published by HQN Books.

Cute Holiday Read

Coming Home for Christmas - RaeAnne Thayne

Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them. But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?

This was a sweet holiday story that feels like it’s a basis for a Hallmark movie! I wasn’t sure I'd like the book when I got it, but I really enjoyed it. It loosely reminds me of an old Cary Grant movie I watched a long time ago. I highly recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

mixed feelings

Shadows & Dreams - Alexis Hall

The Sorceress raised her hand to the sky. Kate raised her sword and put it through the Sorceress’s throat. Kate had been having these dreams since she swore fealty to Nimsue. But Nim had given her help when Kate needed it. There was a knock at her door “It’s eight oclock Miss Kane”. Elisa had been fostered on Kate by a crazy rat god for some vague information . She turned out to be an animated statue . She brews coffee and fixed Kate’s washing machine. They were just wrapping up a case than very little to do until after Christmas. Kate was looking forward to spending some time with her vampire girlfriend. Than Tash Than tash walked into Kate’s office. She’d pulled Tash at the Candy Bar about three months ago but never called her. Kate never expected to see Tash again. Tash said she needed Kates help. Kate was a P I that had a lot of paranormal cases. Tash’s brother Hugh had disappeared . he had broken his leg and went to the hospital and then disappeared. They had called the police and it’s been more than two days and Tash is worried Hugh isn’t answering his phone and no one has seen him. Tash doesn’t know what to do. Kate asked who saw Hugh last and Tash said she wasn’t sure probably someone at the hospital. H had no signs of depression or personal problems. After visiting the going to the hospital about Hugh, Kate was picked up by some vampires and locked in the cellar and was to stand trial for the murder of thier Prince Of Swords. 

I liked this book but didn’t like the F/F aspect as I don't like to read M/M or W/W love aspect or sexual aspects. Just not my thing. I do think this was well written and bypassed the sexual scenes as well as I could. This book had a lot to it: vampires, vampire princes - that aren’t necessarily male- a werewolf model, mystery, evil, rituals, action, a ninja nun, a vampire hunter, a psychopath, witches, and undead wizards and just so much more. I chuckled a couple times reading this. Kate can sure get her self in some situations. I advise you to read the books in this series in order for a better read. So you can see I do have mixed feelings about this book.

Holiday Books to Read-Christmas From The Heart Excerpt

— feeling happy
Christmas from the Heart - Roberts,  Sheila

1

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart 

Date: 2-14-19 

To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises 

Subject: Holiday Joy

 

 Dear Ms. Thompson, 

Happy Valentine’s Day to you! I’m following up our January newsletter with a special greeting as this is, of course, the month for love. Love for our sweethearts, our family and friends, and for those in need. As you could see from the newsletter, we put the money our loyal supporters donated to us to good use. So many families benefited from your generous donation to Christmas from the Heart last year and I just wanted to remind you that, even though the holidays seem far away they will be here before we know it. I hope we can count on Hightower Enterprises again this year. We have such a history together. Let’s keep up the good work! 

Warmly, 

Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart 

Giving from the heart makes all the difference



From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises 

Date: 2-14-19 

To: Ms. Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart 

Subject: Holiday Joy

 

Dear Ms. Berg, 

 

Thanks for reaching out. Our fiscal year is just ending and I haven’t yet received word as to how our charitable donations will be dispersed this year. I will keep you apprised. 

 

Best, Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises



From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 2-14-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Subject: Holiday Joy

 

Thank you so much. Looking forward to hearing from you! 

 

Olivia Berg 

Christmas from the Heart 

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-1-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Subject: Happy May Day!

 

Dear Ms. Thompson, just wanted to wish you a happy May Day. The flowers here in Pine River are now in full bloom, and our organization has been busy helping people make their dreams bloom, as well. As you know, while our focus is primarily the holidays, Christmas from the Heart tries to help people all year round when needs arise. Of course, Christmas is our big thrust, and as there is no other organization working in this area, we are much needed. As are your kind contributions. I still haven’t heard and I do hope we can count on you.

 

Warmly, 

Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference



From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson

Subject: Just checking

 

Reaching out again in case my last email went astray. I’m wondering if you have any news for me regarding Hightower’s involvement with our cause for this coming year.

Thanks!

 

Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference



From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Olivia Berg

Subject: Just checking

 

Ms. Berg, sorry I haven’t been able to get back to you sooner. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. It appears that the company is going to be scaling back on their charitable giving this year and funds have already been budgeted for other causes. I’m aware of the fact that in the past we’ve donated to your organization and I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you. I do wish you all the best in your search for other funding.

 

Best, 

Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises



From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson

Subject: Just checking

 

There must be some sort of misunderstanding! Hightower has always donated to Christmas from the Heart. The company’s founder, Elias Hightower, was my great-grandmother’s first contributor, and he promised her that Hightower would always be there for this organization. This is a company tradition! Please speak to your director.

 

Hopefully, 

Olivia Berg 

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference



From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Olivia Berg

Subject: Just checking

 

I’m sorry. The decision is out of my hands.

Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises



From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Marla Thompson

Subject: Just checking

 

Then please tell me who I need to talk to. Who’s your CFO?

Olivia Berg 

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference




From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

Date: 5-5-19

To: Ms. Olivia Berg

Subject: Just checking

 

Our CFO is Guy Hightower, and his email is ghightower@hightowerenterprises.com

Good luck!

Marla Thompson 

CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart

Date: 5-5-19

To: Guy Hightower, CFO, Hightower Enterprises 

Subject: Please reconsider

 

Dear Mr. Hightower, I understand from your corporate social resources director that Hightower isn’t planning on making any donation to Christmas from the Heart this year. There must be some mistake! Surely you’re aware of the long-standing relationship between your company and our organization. I’m sure I can count on you for some small amount. 

Best, Olivia Berg

Christmas from the Heart

Giving from the heart makes all the difference

 

Guy Hightower frowned when he saw the email from Olivia Berg in his in-box. Marla Thompson had been forwarding her emails to him, keeping him abreast of Olivia Berg’s varied begging tactics, and had finally even come into his office, trying to dump the load of guilt the woman had laid on her from her shoulders to his.

“Don’t open it,” he told himself. He opened it anyway. Then he read it and swore.

Actually, he’d been swearing ever since meeting with his brothers to discuss the budget back in December. If either of them had listened to him three years ago, they wouldn’t be having to pull the company belt so tight now. This was the problem with being the youngest. It didn’t matter how many degrees you had, how smart you were or what your job title was. Big brothers never listened.

Hard to listen when you were going through your third divorce.

That was Mike’s excuse. What was Bryan’s? Oh yeah. He was a wuss. He always agreed with Mike, no matter what. And Mike hadn’t wanted to change directions. Never mind that the company was struggling, keep on doing the same thing. The definition of insanity.

Sorry, Little Miss Christmas. Times were tough all over. Hightower had kept its commitment to the more visible causes and turned the little fish loose. And that was how it worked in the corporate world.

He typed his reply.

 

Dear Ms. Berg, I regret that Hightower can’t help you this year. We’ve had to reassess our commitments to various causes. I’m sure you’ll understand.

Then he signed off with the time-honored adios: Respectfully, Guy Hightower.

And if she didn’t understand, well, not his problem. He had his hands full trying to keep the family company afloat. Maybe now Mike would be ready to take his advice and diversify.

 

Olivia Berg—Livi to her family and friends—read the email from Guy Hightower a second time. Yes, the message was the same. Really? Really? Who was this man, Ebenezer Scrooge the Second?

She plowed her fingers through her hair, the birthstone ring Morris had given her for her birthday catching in the curls. She was so angry she barely noticed.

With a snarl, she began to type.

 

You should be ashamed. Your great-grandfather is probably turning in his grave right now. What’s the matter with you, anyway, you selfish bastard?

She pulled her fingers off the keyboard with a gasp. What was she thinking? Was this any way to get someone to contribute to her cause? And what kind of language was this? Her great-grandmother would be turning in her grave right now, along with Elias. Adelaide Brimwell had been a lady through and through. So had Livi’s grandmother, Olivia, as well as Livi’s mom. 

The thought of her mother made her tear up. How she wished Mom was still around to advise her. They’d always planned that Livi would take over running the organization one day, but neither had dreamed that day would come so soon. Her mother’s heart attack had struck like lightning. Livi’s brother had left town, moving to Seattle, which was just far enough south to keep the memories at bay. Livi had stayed put, holding on to every single one, weaving them together into a lifeline to cling to as she kept Christmas from the Heart afloat.

Oh, Mom. What should I do?

Try again came the answer.

Yes, her mother never gave up. She’d chased one potential donor for two years before he finally came through. Livi still remembered the day her mom left the house, clad in a Mrs. Santa costume she’d created—requisite white wig along with a frilly white blouse and a red skirt topped with a red-striped apron. She’d taken with her a batch of home-baked cookies nestled in a red basket and returned home with a check for five hundred dollars. The man had been a loyal contributor ever since. Livi still took him cookies every year.

“Persistence pays,” she told herself as she deleted what she’d typed.

She started over.

 

I’m asking you to reconsider. Your company is our major donor, and without you so many people will have little joy this Christmas. Any amount you can give will be greatly appreciated.

There. He’d have to be a heartless monster not to respond to that.

Guy trashed the guilt-inflicting email. What was he, Santa Claus? He had his hands full keeping his company solvent.

But then, people like Olivia Berg never considered the fact that a company might have needs of its own. What made them feel so entitled to sit at the edge of the salt mine while a man slaved away and then greet him with their hands out when he emerged broken and bruised? Maybe some of those people always begging for money should get out there and actually earn a living. Let them work their tails off, putting in seventy-hour weeks. Sheesh.

Anyway, the company had already met their good deed quota for the year. The only cause Guy was interested in now was Hightower Enterprises.

 

By the end of the workday, Guy Hightower still hadn’t responded to Livi’s last email. “You are a heartless monster,” she grumbled, glaring at her empty email in-box.

“No word yet?” her part-time assistant, Bettina Thomas, asked as she shut down her computer.

Livi sighed and shook her head.

“That is so wrong,” Bettina said in disgust.

It sure was. “They’ve been our major donor ever since my great-grandmother founded Christmas from the Heart. Without their contribution how will we put on the Christmas dinner at the community center? How many families won’t have presents under the tree or Christmas stockings or a Christmas turkey?” There was no Salvation Army in Pine River, no Toys for Tots— none of the usual organizations serviced this area. There had been no need. Christmas from the Heart had it under control.

Until now.

“We’ve had to reassess our commitments,” Livi quoted. The words left a bad taste in her mouth and she frowned. “It sounds like something your boyfriend says when he’s dumping you.”

“They are dumping us,” Bettina pointed out. “But don’t worry. We have time. We’ll find someone else to come through.”

“Not like Hightower. There must be something I can do,” Livi mused.

“There is. Go home and eat chocolate.”

And try not to think bad thoughts about Guy Hightower.

In all fairness, he probably didn’t grasp the situation. She’d call him the next day and invite him to come to Pine River for a visit so she could let him see the need, show him a little of what Christmas from the Heart did for the community. She could take him to lunch, introduce him to some of the people in town, put a face—or better yet, several—to Christmas from the Heart. She’d top it all off by following in her mother’s footsteps and baking him cookies. Then how could he help but catch the vision his great-grandfather and her great-grandmother had shared?

Yes, that would do it. Sometimes you had to be a little patient, give people a second chance.



Excerpted from Christmas From the Heart by Sheila Roberts. Copyright © 2019 by Roberts Ink LLC. Published by MIRA Books. 

 

Cute Holiday Read

Christmas from the Heart - Roberts,  Sheila

Olivia Berg’s charity, Christmas from the Heart, has helped generations of families in need in Pine River, Washington, but this year might be the end of the road. Hightower Enterprises, one of their biggest donors since way back when Olivia’s grandmother ran the charity, has been taken over by Ebenezer Scrooge the Second, aka CFO Guy Hightower, and he’s declared there will be no more money coming to Christmas from the Heart. Guy is simply being practical. Hightower Enterprises needs to tighten its belt, and when you don’t have money to spare, you don’t have money to share. You’d think even the pushy Olivia Berg could understand that. With charitable donations dwindling, Olivia’s Christmas budget depends on Hightower’s contribution. She’s focused her whole life on helping this small town, even putting her love life on hold to support her mission. When Guy’s Maserati breaks down at the edge of the Cascade foothills, he’s relieved to be rescued by a pretty young woman who drives him to the nearby town of Pine River. Until he realizes his rescuer is none other than Olivia Berg. What’s a Scrooge to do? Plug his nose and eat fruitcake and hope she doesn’t learn his true identity before he can get out of town. What could go wrong?

This was a decent read. The story itself was really cute and it moved along at a good pace. My only problem was that I didn’t really like Olivia that much. I look forward to trying more books from this author. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Story and Characters

Matriarch - J.M. Davis

Layla Carson always walks the path her father paved for her. But working in Greater Hope Hospital's research laboratory doesn't bring her joy. However her life shifts into overdrive when she hears a mysterious voice in the lab begging for help. The voice names her the "Matriarch", and she appears destined for greatness, a leader in the animal kingdom and shifter world. But she's hunted by those who want her only for what's within her–extraordinary DNA. She must quickly determine who is friend and who is foe. Including the sexy Roland Stone. Roland's pack is interested in her DNA, but he is drawn to her in a primal way. He watches as she hones her newfound abilities to wage battle against those determined to destroy her. Unleashing her inner beast, she's soon ready to carve her own path. Now he must convince her that he is worthy to walk by her side.

This was a great new story from an author I’ve not read before. I really enjoyed the story and loved following Layla around as her world changes and she adapts. I can’t wait to read more from this author. I highly recommend. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Holiday Story

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming - June Faver

Zach Garrett is home from war, haunted by PTSD, trying to fit in to what has become an alien world. With the holidays fast approaching, his uncle Big Jim Garrett offers him a place on the family ranch. Zach isn't sure he's up for a noisy, boisterous Garrett Christmas...until he meets beautiful Stephanie Gale, and all his protests go up in flames. Firefighter and EMT Stephanie Gale is ready for anything. She's got her life under control...until she locks eyes with Zack and realizes her heart's in a whole new kind of danger. But with a little help from Zack's long-lost army dog, maybe he and Stephanie will be able to make this a Christmas of new beginnings after all.

This was a cute holiday story about two people who have put their lives on the line for the greater good. It had a good pace and just warms your heart. I recommend. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Holiday Books to Read-An Alaskan Christmas

— feeling amazing
An Alaskan Christmas (Wild River #1) - Jennifer Snow

 

CHAPTER ONE

Her arms full of patient files, Dr. Erika Sheraton tipped her head back as Darren, her premed intern, poured a double shot of espresso down her throat. The hot liquid delivered the instant adrenaline boost she needed to get through the rest of her fourteen-hour shift.

Dinner? A quick glance at the clock on the wall above the nurses’ triage station revealed it was almost nine. A late dinner.

“How are you not vibrating? That’s your third in two hours.” Darren crumpled the paper cup and tossed it into a recycle bin as they walked.

“Caffeine stopped affecting me a long time ago. Now’s it’s about the taste,” she said, only half kidding. Double course loads and all-nighters in college and then med school had prepared her for the long hours she put in now as a general surgeon and caffeine had been her best friend.

The twentysomething looked like he could use a cup himself, as he stifled a yawn. His sandy blond hair poked up in the back as though he’d crawled out of bed at the last possible minute and his hazel eyes were bloodshot. If he was tired now after only eight hours on shift, he’d be reconsidering this particular profession by midnight. The staff at Alaska General Hospital never rested. The revolving doors at emergency constantly rotated with broken bones, heart attacks and bleeding patients filing in. No day was ever the same. Unpredictability kept Erika alert and on her toes.

“After these rounds, I’m going to need you to check in on Mr. Franklin—he’s in recovery. His family is wondering when they can see him.” The man’s entire extended family was camped out in the surgical ward waiting room—fifteen or sixteen of them at least. They couldn’t see the man, but they all refused to leave. Each one took turns driving the nurses on duty crazy. “Make sure they know only immediate family can go in. He needs his rest.”

Darren nodded, but a look of hesitation appeared behind his dark-rimmed glasses.

“What?” She checked her watch.

“I just… Well, shouldn’t you talk to them? I know his wife wanted to thank you…”

Erika shook her head. “Keeping him on the low-cholesterol, low-sodium diet I’ve prescribed—and off my operating table—will be thanks enough,” she said, scanning the top folder on her stack.

“Okay, but…”

She shot him a look.

“No problem. I’ll check in on him.”

“Thank you.” She continued down the hall toward the next high-priority patient.

“Don’t forget, your dad still wants to see you,” Darren said, struggling to keep up to her half sprint.

“I know.” And she could do without the hourly reminders. Her father rarely requested her presence during her rounds, so whatever it was wouldn’t be good. If she put him off long enough, maybe he’d forget. 

 “Top chart—Mr. Grayson. He’s scheduled for an appendectomy in a few hours,” she said, approaching the man’s hospital room.

Darren nodded as he smiled. “This old guy is hilarious. Did you know he was a stunt motorcycle driver in the circus in the ’80s?”

“No.” She knew he had an inflamed appendix and had waited far too long to come in. She knew his vitals and that in an hour, they’d be prepping him for surgery. Knowing personal details of a patient’s life didn’t make her job any easier or guarantee a better outcome. She juggled the files on one arm as she reached into her pocket for a new set of sterile gloves.

“Hey, before we go in there, can I talk to you?” Darren asked, stopping her outside the room. He stared at the checked patterned floor tiles.

Damn. “You’re requesting a transfer to a different physician.” He wasn’t the first medical student who’d gotten reassigned. She’d made it a month with Darren—a new record.

Another intern bites the dust.

He nodded, obviously relieved that he hadn’t had to vocalize it himself. “You’re amazing, Dr. Sheraton, and I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to work with you, but you’re also very busy and unavailable…”

The sharp sting of the words was familiar. She’d heard the same speech from interns and boyfriends alike. She’d successfully eliminated the problem in one group right after her first year of residency…interns were hospital assigned and therefore out of her control.

“I mean I just need all the training I can get and between patients and your research work…”

She didn’t need an explanation. She was busy. Too busy to have someone following her around in fact. This was totally fine with her. “I understand.”

“You’re not upset?”

“Only about having to get my own coffee from now on,” she said.

The joke missed its mark and the intern’s eyes widened. “I can still do that…”

Wow, was she really that scary? She was demanding and expected the students to put in the hours she did. She may not be the friendliest doctor on staff, socializing after work and remembering birthdays and such, but she gave these interns a real picture of their future in medicine. Wasn’t that what they were there for? “I was kidding, Darren.”

“Oh…right.”

“Dr. Sheraton, please report to emergency. Stat.”

The call over the hospital intercom had her handing Darren the stack of folders. “Please take his heart rate and blood pressure,” she said, practically running to the elevators. “And don’t forget Mr. Franklin.”

“Got it,” he called after her.

The quiet twenty-six-second elevator ride to the first floor was the closest thing she got to a spa day. It was the only time she was forced to slow to a pace other than her own usual breakneck speed. But even that half a minute was too long. It gave her time to think. Think about her previous surgeries and replay the details—what went right, what went wrong, what she could do better next time. Constantly reevaluating herself made her a better surgeon, but too often it left her feeling like she was coming up slightly short of her potential. Her type A personality left little room for failure or complacency. 

Checking her phone in her lab coat pocket, she scanned her schedule for the rest of the evening, evaluating what she could push back if this emergency demanded her immediate attention. The number of things marked urgent made her will the elevator to move quicker. She’d be lucky to get out of there by 2:00 a.m.

A text popped up from Darren.

If you change your mind about Mrs. Franklin…

She wouldn’t. She ignored the text from her intern—former intern—and put the phone away.

As the elevator stopped, she took a deep breath, expecting to see a flurry of organized chaos as the doors opened. Stretchers, ambulance lights flashing and sirens wailing outside, paramedics and nurses… Instead, she ran square into her father.

No emergency, just his six-foot-three frame and his usual neutral expression. It was impossible to read her father, as his face gave nothing away. His emotions were never too high or too low, just infuriatingly balanced no matter the circumstance. His calm presence and rational thinking made him fantastic at his profession, but sometimes he was irritating as shit as a father.

“Hi. I was just coming to see you.” Eventually.

“Walk with me,” he said, turning on his heel and nodding.

Her jaw clenched so tight her teeth might snap. This was so like him—assuming she could drop everything at his command. He may run the hospital, but he often had no idea how hectic her schedule was. “Can we talk as I do my rounds, Darren is…” 

 

“More than capable,” he said, leading the way to his first-floor corner office. “And requesting to be transferred, I see.”

His tone made her palms sweat. He should be happy that she was pushing these interns to their limits. What awaited them once they graduated wasn’t for the faint of heart. Better to get used to grueling days and nights now, performing on little to no sleep, living on caffeine and leftover Halloween chocolate bars, than to realize they couldn’t cut it when lives were in their hands.

Unfortunately, he didn’t always agree with her beliefs . He wanted the interns to feel at home at Alaska General so they’d apply here once they graduated. The hospital was short staffed and more doctors would benefit everyone, but Erika preferred to work alongside the best.

Her father had an open-door policy—literally—so when he closed the office door behind her, she knew the head of General Surgery hadn’t called her in to discuss Thanksgiving dinner plans.

She glanced at his wall calendar as she sat. Especially since Thanksgiving was a week ago.

“Dad, this intern thing is just ridiculous…”

He held up a hand. “This isn’t about your inability to effectively manage others.”

Kick to the gut delivered and received. She clamped her lips together.

He opened his desk drawer and handed her a letter as he sat in the plush, leather chair behind his oversize mahogany desk.

Her eyes widened, seeing the Hospital Foundation logo on the top of the page. “Is this the final approval from the board for the clinical trials?” They’d submitted the application six months ago to start trials on a new antirejection drug after years of research, and they were waiting on the formal go-ahead to start with a test group.

Would Darren reconsider staying with her if he knew he could be part of a medical breakthrough? He’d been a lot of help in the past month.

“Just read it,” her father said.

She scanned the letter from the board of directors, feeling her excitement fade and anxiety rise with each word. “Recommended vacation? What is this?”

“I don’t like it either, but the board is reviewing policies and making sure we are following them,” he said, the edge indicating he’d been outvoted in this decision. He certainly didn’t believe in time off and had never encouraged her to take any. Her life was her career, just like him.

“But any day now we will be starting clinical trials on the new drug.” It had taken her father and his team almost three years to get the experimental antirejection product approved for testing on organ transplant patients and they’d finally gotten it. They’d worked around the clock for a year to make sure they did. Subjects were undergoing assessment right now to be ready for the trials.

Now was not the time to take a break.

Her father looked as though he’d made the same argument to the hospital board. “The team will have to handle it.”

So recommended actually meant forced. “Why now? I’m fine. I don’t need a break.” At twenty-nine, she was eager to prove herself as one of the top general surgeons in the state. Between her surgical success record and the research time she’d invested in this new drug, she was close. Helping her father get one step closer to winning the Lister Medal was high on her priority list. “Come on, Dad, you know I’m good. My last two operations were impossible surgeries…”

Improbable surgeries.”

Erika clamped her lips together again, forcing her argument to stay put. It wouldn’t do any good. Three years working alongside her father and she’d yet to prove herself. Despite two back-to-back improbable surgeries that she’d performed successfully, he still doubted her abilities. His micromanagement over her research team had driven her insane, but he’d reluctantly agreed to let her run her own set of clinical trials on the antirejection drug, and she’d foolishly believed she was making progress with him.

Now she was being forced into taking a break.

What the hell was a break? She hadn’t had one since starting university. She’d graduated with her bachelor’s in three years instead of four by doubling up on courses and then had applied directly to med school. She’d interned at Alaska General and secured a position there shortly after graduation. She couldn’t remember the last day she had off, let alone…she glanced at the letter. Two weeks?

What the hell would she do with all that free time?

 

Excerpted from An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow, Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Snow. Published by HQN Books.

 

Great Story and Characters

Weekend Fling - Stacey  Lynn

 Willow was living back at her childhood home. If anyone had ever told her she’d be back there after living on her own for several years she would have laughed in their face. But everything in her life had been upended in the last six months. Working two jobs, keeping her mother in the only home Willow had ever lived in was zapping all her energy these days. But the only thing Willow can do is keep trying and hope she doesn’t fail. Her mother isn’t doing too well since Willow’s father walked out on their thirty year marriage almost a year ago. Her mother continually lost motivation to do anything.  What Willow needs is someone to convince her mother she had to go back to work. Or she had to do something herself back to who she used to be. She would have been with Scott if he hadn’t walked into their townhouse and said their relationship was over, he was bored, wanted something different, essentially kicked her out. Willow had been with Scott for five years. She had given up everything for him. At work Molly said the hottie who worships you is back. The hottie was Trey Kollins multimillionaire. Molly’s nutty, sweet, naive, and the most incredible artist Willow had ever seen. Trey unsettles Willow so her avoidance is her preferred method of handling that. Than Trey asked Willow if she was ready for that date with him yet? Willow groans at his invite and the mess of strawberries she had just made. Molly-her co-worker- chimes in and adds she’s off this weekend Trey than responded with “is that so?” Willow answered “Im busy and I’m not interested.” “Oh, that's not true” Trey chides and even though he’s teasing he’s right.  He’s also arrogant with a side of yummy deliciousness. Willow replied” How would you know?” Trey replied “ A little birdie told me you were.” Molly said “You work too hard and you could use some fun.” Willow again told Trey she wasn’t interested Willow went outside to talk to another creditor that threaten to take the car and gave her one more week. Either three thousand or the car would be taken. When she looked up Trey was there, he told her he wanted to try for that date again. Then he told his best friend Caitlin was getting married in San Diego this weekend. He wanted Willow to come with him . Trey was a self made millionaire. On the covers of local magazines in poses that made all single women and her guess most of the married ones drool over his body and wealth. It was tempting but she told Trey she had to work. Trey said Molly said you had the weekend off . Willow replied yeah at this job and then returned inside. She became friends with Cara who she met at the gym. The one thing Willow refused to give up was her membership at the gym, it kept her sane. Trey though of how women don’t tell him no . He’s rich and good looking and a stand up guy. Willow’s constant dismissal over the last few months had him questioning everything. Yet it makes him all the more attracted to her. And he’s been attracted to her since the first time he saw her. So Trey went to get some help from Catlin. One fault trey did have when he’s in the workzone everything else goes to the wayside. Caitlin will be working while she’s on her honeymoon scheduling alerts to go off on his calendar so he doesn’t forget to eat, shower or do laundry. He wasn’t exactly proud of it, but he never cared enough to work on changing it. After talking to cara Willow decides to let Trey know she changed her mind and would go for the weekend. Corbin and Trey had met Caitlin in a stairwell, bleeding from her lips screaming while a guy tried to shove his fingers up her skirt. That and the fact that her family didn’t believe her essentially made them the only family she has, outside  of her fiance Jonas, so they tend to be very protective. Trey had the urge to punch whoever it was that made Willow distrust men, because she definitely looked at him with doubt in her eyes for awhile now. Like she can’t believe good guys exist, now Trey got a sense of what he was dealing with, he could make his game plan.

Excellent book and I totally loved it. This was an easy romantic read with a lot of emotions shot in.  I loved Trey and Willow together and how they interact. My heart broke for Willow and all she was going through. I loved the relationship between  Cara and Willow as well as Trey, Corbin, and Caitlin. I loved the pace and the plot. I read this in one setting as I didn't want to put this down. I felt like I was there with Willow and Trey and the rest of their group. I was happy to see how easily Trey’s friends accepted Willow and liked her. Just an all around good book. I love the characters and the ins and outs of this book and I highly recommend it.

Good Holiday Read!

An Alaskan Christmas (Wild River #1) - Jennifer Snow

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds. Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts…

Instead of watching 24/7 marathons of the Hallmark channel, this year I decided to sign up for a number of holiday books to read. This was the first one I decided to read. I had a love/serious dislike with it. Because of my dislikes, it really should be a 3.5 but since it's the holidays and a holiday book, I decided to round up instead of down (go me!). My likes are the two main characters. I really liked both Erika and Reed. I just thought Reed was a great guy and, except for plot reasons, didn’t see why he was single. I liked Erika too and for most of the book, really felt bad for her and the invisible expectations she was trying to live up to. I was very happy when they finally got their HEA. Yes, everything was pretty predictable but since I liked the characters and the flow, didn’t bother me at all. My problems with the book: Everything to do with Erika and the hospital situation. This is most likely because I work in a hospital so I couldn’t just go with the flow and accept it’s a holiday read, but none of this, from the beginning to the end, never would’ve happened in a real hospital nor would she have legally been allowed to work as often as she does. That right there took a star off the rating. The other big thing was (without giving away spoilers) the very end with her father. Just no (and yes my inner Grinch might be coming into play here). A (very) small issue was that the author seemed to throw everything and anything at them and I’m not sure if it was to give numerous situations or to make the book longer, which it definitely did to the point where I was skimming a bit just to finally finish it. That said, I did truly enjoy the book and could totally find it popping up on the hallmark channel! I recommend for anyone who enjoys these types of books. 

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Great True Crime Story

Manhunters - Murphy,  Steve, Pena,  Javier

This was a pretty good book. It was very detailed and gives you a great history of the men determined to bring down a criminal drug lord. It was very well written with a lot of great information. I think the only issue I had was, while I thought it was great that it was in chronological order, for someone born as this was happening (or someone much younger than me), the only thing I really know about Pablo Escobar was a few references in movies years ago and haven’t watched the Netflix show about it, so it would’ve been a little helpful to get some background history on him at the beginning of the book. Regardless, I really enjoyed it. I highly recommend. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Story and Characters

Fever - Donna Grant

For centuries, the Dragon Kings have lived among mortals, forsaking their true selves. But for Kelton, hiding in the realm of shadows—and existing only in the world of dreams—is no longer an option. A human woman claims to know that he, like other dark warriors of his kind, is real. That the legends about these powerful, seductive men with hearts ablaze are true. And that, with just one embrace, Kelton could destroy her…or love her until the end of time.

Bernadette Davies is an anthropologist who knows better than to fall into the arms of a Dragon King. But how can she resist Kelton when he’s so willing to share his secrets and bare his soul? He hasn’t met a beautiful, trustworthy woman like Bernadette in…forever. But once they give into their mutual desire, their worlds will never be the same. Soon Bernadette must face her dilemma: Should she expose the truth about Kelton in the name of science? Or join him in his battle with the dark forces—in the name of love?

Knowing this is the 2nd to last book in the Dragon Kings series, I couldn’t wait to read this! While I liked Kelton and Bernadette, the book wasn’t really about them. A good portion of it was basically summarizing the series and just when I was getting to ready to chalk it up as a release for those new to the series, we finally got to the good stuff I didn’t think was going to happen until the final book! I can’t wait until the last book!! I highly recommend.

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Great Story and Characters

The Earl of Mine - Kate Bateman

Shipping heiress Georgiana Caversteed is done with men who covet her purse more than her person. Even worse than the ton’s lecherous fortune hunters, however, is the cruel cousin determined to force Georgie into marriage. If only she could find a way to be . . . widowed? Georgie hatches a madcap scheme to wed a condemned criminal before he’s set to be executed. All she has to do is find an eligible bachelor in prison to marry her, and she’ll be free. What could possibly go wrong? Benedict William Henry Wylde, scapegrace second son of the late Earl of Morcott and well-known rake, is in Newgate prison undercover, working for Bow Street. Georgie doesn’t realize who he is when she marries him—and she most certainly never expects to bump into her very-much-alive, and very handsome, husband of convenience at a society gathering weeks later. Soon Wylde finds himself courting his own wife, hoping to win her heart since he already has her hand. But how can this seductive rogue convince brazen, beautiful Georgie that he wants to be together…until actual death do they part?

Going into this book, I really didn’t have any expectations. With historical romances (and any romances actually) there are only so many plots that can be used so it’s nice to find new authors who write books I really enjoy. I really liked both Georgie and Benedict. I loved following them on their adventure. There was actually a lot crammed into this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next book. I highly recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Excerpt From This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman!

— feeling big smile
The Earl of Mine - Kate Bateman

Chapter 1.

 

London, March 1816.

 

There were worse places to find a husband than Newgate Prison.

Of course there were.

It was just that, at present, Georgie couldn’t think of any.

“Georgiana Caversteed, this is a terrible idea.” Georgie frowned at her burly companion, Pieter Smit, as the nondescript carriage he’d summoned to convey them to London’s most notorious jail rocked to a halt on the cobbled street. The salt-weathered Dutchman always used her full name whenever he disapproved of some- thing she was doing. Which was often.

“Your father would turn in his watery grave if he knew what you were about.”

That was undoubtedly true. Until three days ago, en- listing a husband from amongst the ranks of London’s most dangerous criminals had not featured prominently on her list of life goals. But desperate times called for desperate measures. Or, in this case, for a desperate felon about to be hanged. A felon she would marry before the night was through.

Georgie peered out into the rain-drizzled street, then up, up the near-windowless walls. They rose into the mist, five stories high, a vast expanse of brickwork, bleak and unpromising. A church bell tolled somewhere in the darkness, a forlorn clang like a death knell. Her stomach knotted with a grim sense of foreboding.

Was she really going to go through with this? It had seemed a good plan, in the safety of Grosvenor Square. The perfect way to thwart Cousin Josiah once and for all. She stepped from the carriage, ducked her head against the rain, and followed Pieter under a vast arched gate. Her heart hammered at the audacity of what she planned. They’d taken the same route as condemned prisoners  on the way to Tyburn tree, only in reverse. West to east, from the rarefied social strata of Mayfair through gradually rougher and bleaker neighborhoods, Holborn and St. Giles, to this miserable place where the dregs of humanity had been incarcerated. Georgie felt as if she

were nearing her own execution.

She shook off the pervasive aura of doom and straightened her spine. This was her choice. However unpalatable the next few minutes might be, the alternative was far worse. Better a temporary marriage to a murderous, unwashed criminal than a lifetime of misery with Josiah. They crossed the deserted outer courtyard, and Georgie cleared her throat, trying not to inhale the foul-smelling air that seeped from the very pores of the building. “You have it all arranged? They are expecting us?”

Pieter nodded. “Aye. I’ve greased the wheels with yer blunt, my girl. The proctor and the ordinary are both bent as copper shillings. Used to having their palms greased, those two, the greedy bastards.”

Her father’s right-hand man had never minced words in front of her, and Georgie appreciated his bluntness. So few people in the ton ever said what they really meant. Pieter’s honesty was refreshing. He’d been her father’s man for twenty years before she’d even been born. A case of mumps had prevented him from accompanying William Caversteed on his last, fateful voyage, and Georgie had often thought that if Pieter had been with her father, maybe he’d still be alive. Little things like squalls, ship- wrecks, and attacks from Barbary pirates would be mere inconveniences to a man like Pieter Smit.

In the five years since Papa’s death, Pieter’s steadfast loyalty had been dedicated to William’s daughters, and Georgie loved the gruff, hulking manservant like a second father. He would see her through this madcap scheme— even if he disapproved.

She tugged the hood of her cloak down to stave off the drizzle. This place was filled with murderers, highway- men, forgers, and thieves. Poor wretches slated to die, or those “lucky” few whose sentences had been commuted to transportation. Yet in her own way, she was equally desperate.

“You are sure that this man is to be hanged tomorrow?” Pieter nodded grimly as he rapped on a wooden door. 

“I am. A low sort he is, by all accounts.”

She shouldn’t ask, didn’t want to know too much about the man whose name she was purchasing. A man whose death would spell her own freedom. She would be wed and widowed within twenty-four hours.

 

From This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.