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Excerpt From a Great Thriller! - First Cut

First Cut - Judy Melinek

PROLOGUE

Los Angeles
May

The dead woman on my table had pale blue eyes, long lashes, no mascara. She wore a thin rim of black liner on her lower lids but none on the upper. I inserted the twelve gauge needle just far enough that I could see its beveled tip through the pupil, then pulled the syringe plunger to aspirate a sample of vitreous fluid. That was the first intrusion I made on her corpse during Mary Catherine Walsh’s perfectly ordinary autopsy.

The external examination had been unremarkable. The decedent appeared to be in her midthirties, blond hair with dun roots, five foot four, 144 pounds. After checking her over and noting identifying marks (monochromatic professional tattoo of a Celtic knot on lower left flank, appendectomy scar on abdomen, well-healed stellate scar on right knee), I picked up a scalpel and sliced from each shoulder to the breastbone, and then all the way down her belly. I peeled back the layers of skin and fat on her torso—an ordinary amount, maybe a little on the chubby side—and opened the woman’s chest like a book.

I had made similar Y-incisions on 256 other bodies during my ten months as a forensic pathologist at the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, and this one was easy. No sign of trauma. Normal liver. Healthy lungs. There was nothing wrong with her heart. The only significant finding was the white, granular material of the gastric contents. In her stomach was a mass of semidigested pills.

When I opened her uterus, I found she’d been pregnant. I measured the fetus’s foot length and estimated its age at twelve weeks. The fetus appeared to have been viable. It was too young to determine sex.

I deposited the organs one by one at the end of the stainless-steel table. I had just cut into her scalp to start on the skull when Matt, the forensic investigator who had collected the body the day before, came in.

“Clean scene,” he reported, depositing the paperwork on my station. “Suicide.”

I asked him where he was going for lunch. Yogurt and a damn salad at his desk, he told me: bad cholesterol and a worried wife. I extended my condolences as he headed back out of the autopsy suite.

I scanned through Matt’s handwriting on the intake sheet and learned that the body had been found, stiff and cold, in a locked and secure room at the Los Angeles Omni hotel. The cleaning staff called the police. The ID came from the name on the credit card used to pay for the room, and was confirmed by fingerprint comparison with her driver’s license thumbprint. A handwritten note lay on the bed stand, a pill bottle in the trash. Nothing else. Matt was right: There was no mystery to the way Mary Walsh had died.

I hit the dictaphone’s toe trigger and pointed my mouth toward the microphone dangling over the table. “The body is identified by a Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s tag attached to the right great toe, inscribed LACD-03226, Walsh, Mary Catherine…”

I broke the seal on the plastic evidence bag and pulled out the pill bottle. It was labeled OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, and it was empty.

“Accompanying the body is a sealed plastic bag with an empty prescription medication bottle. The name on the prescription label…”

I read the name but didn’t speak it. The hair started standing up on my neck. I looked down at my morning’s work—the splayed body, flecked with gore, the dissected womb tossed on a heap of other organs.

That can’t be, I told myself. It can’t.

On the clipboard underneath the case intake sheet I found a piece of hotel stationery sealed in another evidence bag. It was the suicide note, written in blue ink with a steady feminine hand. I skimmed it—then stopped, and went back.

I read it again.

I heard the clipboard land at my feet. I gripped the raised lip of my autopsy table. I held tight while the floor fell away.

Great Story!

First Cut - Judy Melinek

This was an unexpected surprise. I am a true crime fan so I really got into the details in this book, especially since there are a few shows I watch that are from the MEs perspectives. I loved following Jessie around through this thriller. I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction! I can't wait for another book from these authors. I highly recommend.

Good Story and Good Characters

The Little Bookshop on the Seine (Once in a Lifetime: The Little Paris Collection - Book 1) (The Bookshop series) - Rebecca Raisin

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe. But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

The description on this book made me want to read it as soon as I was finished with it. When I started it though, I was afraid it was a bit whimsical for me. Once I got into it more, it made me compare it to Audrey Hepburn’s character in Sabrina and how Paris changed her life and I had a better appreciation for the book and it flowed well as I was introduced to the other characters. There were a few things in there I was scratching my head I knew they were no longer there, like the lock gate, but when I was pulling the info for this book, I saw it was originally published a few years ago, which explained those odd things. I also didn’t realize this was a continuation, which, while it wasn’t too relevant with Sarah’s situation in Paris, it would've helped me to get the relationship aspect with Ridge (as well as her friends) better. Overall, it was a sweet story about a woman who prefers to live in her books (don’t we all??) who goes to Paris and finds herself as well as her backbone. I recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Good Story and Good Characters

The Little Bookshop on the Seine (Once in a Lifetime: The Little Paris Collection - Book 1) (The Bookshop series) - Rebecca Raisin

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe. But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

The description on this book made me want to read it as soon as I was finished with it. When I started it though, I was afraid it was a bit whimsical for me. Once I got into it more, it made me compare it to Audrey Hepburn’s character in Sabrina and how Paris changed her life and I had a better appreciation for the book and it flowed well as I was introduced to the other characters. There were a few things in there I was scratching my head I knew they were no longer there, like the lock gate, but when I was pulling the info for this book, I saw it was originally published a few years ago, which explained those odd things. I also didn’t realize this was a continuation, which, while it wasn’t too relevant with Sarah’s situation in Paris, it would've helped me to get the relationship aspect with Ridge (as well as her friends) better. Overall, it was a sweet story about a woman who prefers to live in her books (don’t we all??) who goes to Paris and finds herself as well as her backbone. I recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Excerpt From a Cute Romance-The Little Bookshop on the Seine

— feeling grin
The Little Bookshop on the Seine (Once in a Lifetime: The Little Paris Collection - Book 1) (The Bookshop series) - Rebecca Raisin

 

CHAPTER ONE

October 

With a heavy heart I placed the sign in the display window. 

All books 50% off. 

If things didn’t pick up soon, it would read Closing down sale. The thought alone was enough to make me shiver. The autumnal sky was awash with purples and smudges of orange, as I stepped outside to survey the display window from the sidewalk. 

Star-shaped leaves crunched underfoot. I forced a smile. A sale wouldn’t hurt, and maybe it’d take the bookshop figures from the red into the black—which I so desperately needed. My rent had been hiked up. The owner of the building, a sharp-featured, silver-tongued, forty-something man, had put the pressure on me lately—to pay more, to declutter the shop, claiming the haphazard stacks of books were a fire risk. The additional rent stretched the budget to breaking level. Something had to change.

The phone shrilled, and a grin split my face. It could only be Ridge at this time of the morning. Even after being together almost a year his name still provoked a giggle. It suited him though, the veritable man mountain he was. I’d since met his mom, a sweet, well-spoken lady, who claimed in dulcet tones, that she chose his name well before his famous namesake in The Bold and the Beautiful. In fact, she was adamant about it, and said the TV character Ridge was no match for her son. I had to agree. Sure, they both had chiseled movie star cheekbones, and an intense gaze that made many a woman swoon, but my guy was more than just the sum of his parts—I loved him for his mind, as much as his clichéd six-pack, and broody hotness. And even better, he loved me for me.

He was the hero in my own real-life love story, and due back from Canada the next day. It’d been weeks since I’d seen him, and I ached for him in a way that made me blush.

I dashed inside, and answered the phone, breathlessly. “The Bookshop on the Corner.”

“That’s the voice I know and love,” he said in his rich, husky tone. My heart fluttered, picturing him at the end of the line, his jet-black hair and flirty blue eyes. He simply had to flick me a look loaded with suggestion, and I’d be jelly-legged and lovestruck.

“What are you wearing?” he said.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I held back a laugh, eager to drag it out. So far our relationship had been more long-distance than anticipated, as he flew around the world reporting on location. The stints apart left an ache in my heart, a numbness to my days. Luckily I had my books, and a sweeping romance or two helped keep the loneliness at bay.

“Tell me or I’ll be forced to Skype you and see for myself.”

Glancing down at my outfit, I grimaced: black tights, a black pencil skirt, and a pilled blue knit sweater, all as old as the hills of Ashford. Not exactly the type of answer Ridge was waiting for, or the way I wanted him to picture me, after so many weeks apart. “Those stockings you like, and…”

His voice returned with a growl. “Those stockings? With the little suspenders?”

I sat back into the chair behind the counter, fussing with my bangs. “The very same.”

He groaned. “You’re killing me. Take a photo…”

“There’s no need. If you’re good, I’ll wear the red ones tomorrow night.” I grinned wickedly. Our reunions were always passionate affairs; he was a hands-on type of guy. Lucky for him, because it took a certain type of man to drag me from the pages of my books. When he was home we didn’t surface until one of us had to go to work. Loving Ridge had been a revelation, especially in the bedroom, where he took things achingly slow, drawing out every second. I flushed with desire for him.

There was a muffled voice and the low buzz of phones ringing. Ridge mumbled to someone before saying, “About tomorrow…” He petered out, regret in each syllable.

I closed my eyes. “You’re not coming, are you?” I tried not to sigh, but it spilled out regardless. The lure of a bigger, better story was too much for him to resist, and lately the gaps between our visits grew wider. I understood his work was important, but I wanted him all to myself. A permanent fixture in the small town I lived in.

He tutted. “I’m sorry, baby. There’s a story breaking in

Indonesia, and I have to go. It’ll only be for a week or two, and then I’ll take some time off.”

Outside, leaves fluttered slowly from the oak tree, swaying softly, until they fell to the ground. I wasn’t the nagging girlfriend sort—times like this though, I was tempted to be. Ridge had said the very same thing the last three times he’d canceled a visit. But invariably someone would call and ask Ridge to head to the next location; any time off would be cut short.

“I understand,” I said, trying to keep my voice bright. Sometimes I felt like I played a never-ending waiting game. Would it always be like this? “Just so you know, I have a very hot date this afternoon.”

He gasped. “You better be talking about a fictional date.” His tone was playful, but underneath there was a touch of jealousy to it. Maybe it was just as hard on him, being apart.

“One very hot book boyfriend…though not as delectable as my real boyfriend—but a stand-in, until he returns.”

“Well, he better not keep you up half the night, or he’ll have me to answer to,” he faux threatened, and then said more seriously, “Things will slow down, Sarah. I want to be with you so much my soul hurts. But right now, while I’m freelance, I have to take whatever comes my way.”

“I know. I just feel a bit lost sometimes. Like someone’s hit pause, and I’m frozen on the spot.” I bit my lip, trying to work out how to explain it. “It’s not just missing you—I do understand about your job—it’s…everything. The bookshop sales dwindling, the rent jacked up, everyone going on about their business, while I’m still the same old Sarah.”

I’d been at this very crossroad when I’d met Ridge, and he’d swept me off my feet, like the ultimate romance hero. For a while that had been enough. After all, wasn’t love always the answer? Romance aside, life was a little stagnant, and I knew it was because of my fear of change. It wasn’t so

much that I had to step from behind the covers of my books, rather plunge, perhaps. Take life by the scruff of the neck and shake it. But how?

“You’ve had a rough few weeks. That’s all. I’ll be back soon, and I’m sure there’s something I can do to make you forget everything…”

My belly flip-flopped at the thought. He would make me forget everything that was outside that bedroom door, but then he’d leave and it would all tumble back.

What exactly was I searching for? My friends were getting married and having babies. Buying houses and redecorating. Starting businesses. My life had stalled. I was an introvert, happiest hiding in the shadows of my shop, reading romances to laze the day away, between serving the odd customer or two—yet, it wasn’t enough. In small-town Connecticut, there wasn’t a lot to do. And life here—calm, peaceful—was fine, but that’s just it, fine wasn’t enough anymore. I had this fear that life was passing me by because I was too timid to take the reins.

It was too hazy a notion of what I was trying to say, even to me. Instead of lumping Ridge with it, I changed tack. “I hope you know, you’re not leaving the house when you get home. Phones will be switched to silent, computers forgotten, and the only time we’re leaving the comfort of bed is when I need sustenance.” A good romp around the bedroom would suffice until I could pinpoint what it was that I wanted.

“How about I sort out the sustenance?” he said, his voice heavy with desire. “And then we’ll never have to leave.”

“Promises, promises,” I said, my breath hitching. I hoped this flash of longing would never wane, the sweet torture of anticipation.

“I have to go, baby. I’ll call you tonight if it’s not too late once I’m in.”

“Definitely call tonight! Otherwise, I can’t guarantee the book boyfriend won’t steal your girlfriend. He’s pretty hot, I’ll have you know.”

“Why am I jealous of a fictional character?” He laughed, a low, sexy sound. “OK, tonight. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

He hung up, leaving me dazed, and a touch lonely knowing that I wouldn’t see him the next day as planned.

I tried to shake the image of Ridge from my mind. If anyone walked in, they’d see the warm blush of my cheeks, and know exactly what I was thinking. Damn the man for being so attractive, and so effortlessly sexy.

Shortly, the sleepy town of Ashford would wake under the gauzy light of October skies. Signs would be flipped to open, stoops swept, locals would amble down the road. Some would step into the bookshop and out of the cold, and spend their morning with hands wrapped around a mug of steaming hot tea, and reading in any one of the cozy nooks around the labyrinth-like shop.

I loved having a place for customers to languish. Comfort was key, and if you had a good book and a hot drink, what else could you possibly need to make your day any brighter? Throw rugs and cushions were littered around seating areas. Coats would be swiftly hung on hooks, a chair found, knitted blankets pulled across knees, and their next hour or two spent, in the most relaxing of ways.

I wandered around the shop, feather duster in hand, tickling the covers, waking them from slumber. I’m sure as soon as my back was turned, the books wiggled and winked at one another, as if they were eager for the day to begin, for fingers of hazy sunlight to filter through and land on them like spotlights, as if saying, here’s the book for you.

Imagine if I had to close up for good, like so many other shops had in recent times? It pained me to think people were missing out on the real-life bookshop experience. Wasn’t it much better when you could step into a dimly lit space, and eke your way around searching for the right novel? You could run a fingertip along the spines, smell that glorious old book scent, flick them open, and unbend a dog-eared page. Read someone else’s notes in the margin, or a highlighted passage, and see why that sentence or metaphor had dazzled the previous owner.

Secondhand books had so much life in them. They’d lived, sometimes in many homes, or maybe just one. They’d been on airplanes, traveled to sunny beaches, or crowded into a backpack and taken high up a mountain where the air thinned.

Some had been held aloft tepid rose-scented baths, and thickened and warped with moisture. Others had childlike scrawls on the acknowledgment page, little fingers looking for a blank space to leave their mark. Then there were the pristine novels, ones that had been read carefully, bookmarks used, almost like their owner barely pried the pages open so loath were they to damage their treasure.

I loved them all.

Excerpted from The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin. Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Raisin. Published by HQN Books.

mixed feelings

A Cowboy Like You - Donna Grant

Danny Oldman, the handsome Lone Star sheriff, is still single. He tells himself, and anyone who asks, that he is married to his job—and what matters most is keeping the people of his beloved Texas hometown safe. The truth? Danny still hasn’t gotten over his high school crush. She moved away after graduation and took Danny’s heart with her. Skylar Long never thought she would have to flee Houston and return home—where it all began for her. But that’s what happened after the man of her dreams turned out to be an actual nightmare. Now, Skylar is desperate to escape her obsessive boyfriend. Nothing shocks her more than seeing Danny again and realizing that their long-ago attraction is more powerful than ever. But can she and Danny find a way to fight against Skylar’s wealthy, powerful ex who is dead set on tearing them apart?

This was a pretty decent book. I’ve read many of Donna Grant’s books, including all of the others in this series and usually love them all. Unfortunately, I had some problems with this one, mainly the premise/assumptions about who they were so long before in high school. It doesn’t deter how much I love this author’s writing though. I can’t wait to read more from her.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Story and Characters

Desire's Destiny (The Vespian Way #1) - Bethany Drake

Heather can’t believe she is the only person on Earth who can protect Storm, the ambassador from Vespia. It has something to do with some pheromone the Vespian males exude. Although everyone says she’s immune, she doesn’t agree. There is something about the man that makes her desire skyrocket whenever she is around him. Storm finds Heather fascinating; her bright violet eyes hold a world of emotions in them. He’s drawn to her and wants her with a depth he’s never experienced before. When she becomes the focal point of several kidnapping attempts, he realizes she’s going to need his protection: the perfect excuse to get to know her better.

This was a pretty good si-fi romance with plenty of adventure and steam. I liked both main characters and read through it quite quickly. I look forward to reading more from this author. I recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

mixed feelings

A Wicked Hunger - Kiersten Fay

Vampires run this city. Hell, they practically run the world. Despite her blurry past, Coraline knows just how dangerous they can be. All her life, she has strived to avoid them. But when her husband is murdered, and she finds herself targeted next, her survival suddenly depends on a devastatingly handsome vampire named Mason.

So, since I’m writing this a few months after I read the book, it took me a moment to remember the end, and then I remembered why I didn’t write the review at that point. The writing was good enough that I was ok with following the standard story and characters...and then the end happened. I don’t like cliffhangers and I didn’t like the twist that was thrown in and then no immediate conclusion. Since I did like it for the most part, I will most likely read the next part as long as it’s not another cliffhanger or crazy twist. 

 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Story and Characters

Ice Hard (New York Nighthawks #2) - Tracy Goodwin

Nick: As one of the New York Nighthawks, I’ve got it all: fame, success, wealth, plus I’m handsome as hell.

As for my relationships? They could be better.

I know how to do one-night stands, but I’m starting to crave something more.

Then I meet Camille Benetti.

She’s sexy, smart, sarcastic—totally my kind of girl.

The only problem? Cami doesn’t date hockey players.

But she’s never met me. . . .

 Cami: Nick George is impossible to resist. Not only is he scorching hot, he’s kind, he’s funny, and he wants me bad.

But I learned my lesson the hard way: no jocks.

So why do I agree to be Nick’s date to the wedding of the year?

One night . . . that’s our deal.

He is the best man, after all.

But Nick is crystal clear about his intentions. He wants a relationship.

And he’s tempting me to break all my rules. . . .

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to feel about this boo. This theme can go either way on the scale of good read vs. bad read, but I love the books with athletes (no idea why) so I try them when I see them. I really enjoyed this story. Nick is pretty much past the sleep around characters I hate and is ready for the long-term, a thing that made me really like him right from the start. I really liked Cami as well. I look forward to reading more from this author. I recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Story and Characters

The Merkabah Recruit - L.Z. Marie

One week earlier: The roundhouse kick sent the woman reeling to the edge. She staggered back and slipped on the algae. Her enemy lunged and swiped at her. The woman deflected the blow with her hand. Her other hand clutched the object that had the power to send her enemy to its doom. The enemy leapt high and two muscular legs shoved her over the edge into the jagged the jagged rocks below. The woman fought for breath, and her fingers were gripping the object she dared not let go on. It was her only weapon, one requiring time to reach critical mass. Time the woman didn’t have. Bouquets of wilted flowers lay on the mound of dank earth. There was no headstone no engraved script. A nameless grave for now. But the powerfully built man standing there knew . he knew secrets about the deceased noone would even have suspected . He strode from the grave. He had an appointment with the living . His heart felt like a two hundred pound weight sat on his chest. Not from guilt, but with an acute awareness of life’s futility as he arrived at his destination he realized only one solution would solve the problem caused by the death. He strode into the appointment and nodded to each of the six  somber faces already seated and waiting. A woman said she’s too young. The leader said obviously. Another woman said, “ you will endanger her life.” The leader said “No other choices are available.” Another said”we reviewed her file. The findings are impressive. She will be a valuable resource. But not now.” He nodded and said”I will handle this personally.” The room erupted in furious protests ..”.Failure means her certain death.” The leader replied he knew the cost. They ranted, scolded, and pled for almost an hour. The leader said he knew what he was doing. Friday- I saw red. Most people unwind from a long stressful work week. Not her. She was hunched over a stack of tragically written essays. No wonder she saw red. She decided to go home. She had heard footsteps than they slowed. A chill and a chill ran down her spine. She knew better than to work late in a building with no security. Someone had committed a brutal murder on the beach a week ago . Police said it roars of a drug deal gone wrong. The killing happened a few miles from the college. Than a voice said hello and a very handsome man filled her doorway. He said “ I need to speak to you Professor Daphne Sites.” he said “ I came to train you.” She said “Who are you?” He answered his name was S J. He set a small polished wood book on her desk and said “ You'll need this.” He said “I’m here to help you Daphney, please take the box.” S J said “ You don't trust me but this time  is wrong.” “I’m not dangerous… well not to you.” He then said he was sent to recruit her. She said “What university are you from?” he said “ I work for an organization that recruits and trains people with your particular skills.” S J said he knew she sensed the feelings and thoughts of others, he said she was an empath with special skills. He then said an empath feels others' emotions, but she did more than that. “You detect people in their true form. The time had come to perfect her ability. We know you perceive strange creatures in human form.” I really loved this book, It was fast paced with a great plot. I loved that a fairly ordinary woman who was an assistant English professor who is the one to fight a monstrous creature to save the world. I loved that the killing creature was a mystery for quite awhile. I didn’t want to put this down. The book caught my attention from the beginning and held it until the last page. I loved the action and mystery. There is a lot in this book: an almost English professor, bickering sisters, an ex hubby who wants to get her back, aman eating neighbor, demons, otherworldly news, mystery, danger, powers, a murdering creature, romance, and so much more.Oddly i felt a little bad for the creature when I found out why he does what he does. I loved the characters and the twists and turns of this book and I highly recommend it.

Great Story and Characters

The Billionaire’s Christmas Fiancée (Christmas with the Denton Billionaires Book 1) - Leslie North

Amelia was Joshua/Josh  Denton’s assistant. Amelia was his right hand woman and had been for two years. Josh told Amelia he needed her help planning an upcoming trip Josh and Amelia spoke probably fifty times a day , five times a day a week . It was the other two days a week that always left Josh curious about her- what she did, who she saw whether she was still sucking up the ice tea in the comfort of her own home. Amelia was any Chief Development Officer’s dream and he knew better than to mess up by probing too far into her personal life. If there was anything Joshua excelled at it was focus and the quickest way to ignore how attractive his effective assistant came through, hyper-focus on the task at hand . He told her cedar Grove Hotel and Spa was what they were working on. He pulled his browser open to the listings. He stalked these things daily, sometimes hourly.  It was the only way to get the jump on exciting new business properties to help expand his family empire. This one was particularly exciting . Joshua said it was his personal favorite Christmas destination as a child. Amelia said she knew that place, that she grew up down the street. The hotel was family owned and obviously the couple was looking for just the right buyer. So no matter the amount of money Josh was prepared to offer didn’t matter at all. They wanted a family oriented buyer. Josh asked if she knew the owners of the Cedar Grove Hotel. She said she didn’t personally but she thought their youngest had been a few years ahead of her. Than Josh asked if she were single. She said yes. The plans he wanted Amelia to make were for him to visit Cedar grove and woo the owners himself. He included Amelia in the mix and what if they happened to think she was his doting fiance? He started with she needed to hear him out. He wanted her to come with him and pretend to be her fiance. He said he would give her compensation when she protec=sted it was her home town and everyone knew her there. Amelia said Josh he wanted her to lie . Amelia said she wanted a promotion and wanted to be a location scout. Than Josh said he’d hate losing her but he knew the day would come. Josh said he’d give her the promotion. Amelia than told Josh they had a deal. Staying normal around Josh required a fair degree of compartmentalization. The guy was  sex on legs, and didn’t even know it. Her job was cushy and she was gunning for the upper echelon. Besides if she got out from under the penetrating stormy blue gaze of Josh, she might be able to find any other man attractive again and maybe even find a boyfriend. Until than she’d continue beating back her attraction for him. If there was anything Amelia strove to protect in her life, it was the fact that her career was her life and everything else came later. Amelia knew Josh better than a lot of other people in his life. Amelia decided having a hot fiance wasn’t so bad after all. For now at least. But Amelia did admit to herself she was in love with her boss.

I loved this book. I loved Amelia and Josh together and how they interacted. I was so happy when Josh told Stabn the truth. I loved that Josh didn’t want to hold Amelia back but wanted her with him. I loved the pace and the plot. I read this in one sitting as I couldn’t put this down. I loved how Amelia and her family were so close. I loved everything about this book and found nothing to criticize in it happily. I loved the characters and the ins and outs of this book and I highly recommend it.

Excerpt From A Highly Recommended Book

The Kill Club - Heard,  Wendy

THE CEILING ABOVE the crowd sparkles with strings of golden lights. They twinkle just bright enough to illuminate the faces. I adjust a microscopic issue with my toms and run my fingers through my bangs, straightening them over my eyes. The guys are tuning up, creating a clatter of discordant notes in the monitors. When they’re done, they approach my kit for our usual last-minute debate about the set list. Dao humps his bass in his ready-to-play dance, black hair swishing around his shoulders. “Dude, stop,” Matt groans and readjusts the cable that connects his Telecaster to his pedal board.

“Your mom loves my dancing,” Dao says.

“You dance like Napoleon Dynamite,” Matt retorts.

“Your mom dances like Napoleon Dynamite.”

Andre raises his hands. “Y’all both dance like Napoleon Dynamite, and so do both your moms, so let’s just—”

I wave a stick at them. “Guys. Focus. The sound guy is watching. We’re three minutes behind.” I have no patience for this shit tonight. This all feels extra and stupid. I should be doing something to help Joaquin. His dwindling supply of insulin sits at the front of my brain like a ticking clock.

The guys get into their spots, the distance between them set by muscle memory. Andre leans forward into the mic and drawls, “Arright DTLA, lez get a little dirty in here.” His New Orleans accent trickles off his tongue like honey.

The room inhales, anticipates, a sphere of silence.

“Two three four,” I yell. I clack my sticks together and we let loose, four on the floor and loud as hell. I’m hitting hard tonight. It feels great. I need to hit things. My heart beats in tempo. My arms fly through the air, the impact of the drums sharp in my joints, in my muscles, the kick drum a pulse keeping the audience alive. This is what I love about drumming, this forcing of myself into the crowd, making their hearts pound in time to my beat.

Dao fucks up the bridge of “Down With Me” and Andre gives him some vicious side-eye. The crowd is pressed tight up against the stage. A pair of hipsters in cowboy hats grabs a corresponding pair of girls and starts dancing with them. I cast Dao an eye-rolling look referring to the cowboy hats and he wiggles his eyebrows at me. I stomp my kick drum harder, pretending it’s Carol’s face.

The crowd surges back. Arms fly. A guy in the front staggers, falls. A pair of hands grips the stage, and a girl tries to pull herself up onto it.

Matt and Dao stop playing. The music screeches to a halt.

“What’s going on?” I yell.

“Something in the pit,” Dao calls back.

Andre drops his mic and hops down into the crowd. Dao and Matt cast their instruments aside and close the distance to the edge of the stage. I get up and join them. Together, we look down into the pit.

A clearing has formed around a brown-haired guy lying on the floor. Andre and the bouncer squat by him as he squirms and thrashes, his arms and legs a tangle of movement. Andre’s got his phone pressed to his ear and is talking into it urgently. The bouncer is trying to hold the flailing man still, but the man’s body is rigid, shuddering out of the bouncer’s grip. He flops onto his back, and I get a good look at his face.

Oh, shit, I know this guy. He’s a regular at our shows. He whines and pants, muffled words gargling from his throat. Some of the bystanders have their phones out and are recording this. Assholes.

The man shrieks like a bird of prey. The crowd sucks its whispers back into itself, and the air hangs heavy and hushed under the ceiling twinkle lights.

Andre is still talking into his phone. The bouncer lifts helpless hands over the seizing man, obviously not sure what to do.

I should see if Andre wants help. I hop down off the stage and push through the crowd. “Excuse me. Can you let me through? Can you stop recording this and let me through?”

I’m suddenly face-to-face with a man who is trying to get out of the crowd as hard as I’m trying to get into it. His face is red and sweaty, his eyes wild. “Move,” he orders me.

Dick. “You fucking move.”

“Bitch, move.” He slams me with his shoulder, knocking me into a pair of girls who cry out in protest. I spin, full of rage, and reverse direction to follow him.

“Hey, fucker,” I scream. He casts a glance over his shoulder. “Yeah, you! Get the fuck back here!”

He escalates his mission to get out of the crowd, elbowing people out of his way twice as fast. I’m smaller and faster, and I slip through the opening he leaves in his wake. Just before he makes it to the side exit, I grab his flannel shirt and give him a hard yank backward. “Get the fuck back here!” I’m loose, all the rage and pain from earlier channeling into my hatred for this entitled, pompous asshole.

I know I should rein it in, but he spins to face me and says, “What is your problem, bitch?” And that’s it. I haul back and punch him full in the jaw.

He stumbles, trips over someone’s foot and lands on his ass on the cement floor. His phone goes clattering out of his hand, skidding to a stop by someone’s foot. “The hell!”

“Oh, shit,” cries a nearby guy in a delighted voice.

“Fucking bitch,” the guy says, and this is the last time he’s calling me a bitch. I go down on top of him, a knee in his chest. I swing wild, hit him in the jaw, the forehead, the neck. He throws an elbow; it catches me in the boob and I flop back off him with a grunt of pain. He sits up, a hand on his face, and opens his mouth to say something, but I launch myself off the ground again, half-conscious of a chorus of whoops and howls around us. I throw a solid punch. His nose cracks. Satisfaction. I almost smile. Blood streams down his face.

“That’s what you get,” I pant. He crab-shuffles back, pushes off the ground and sprints for the exit. I let him go.

My chest is heaving, and I have the guy’s blood on my hand, which is already starting to ache and swell. I wipe my knuckles on my jeans.

His phone lights up and starts buzzing on the floor. I pick it up and turn it over in my hand. It’s an old flip phone, the kind I haven’t seen in years. The bright green display says Blocked.

Back in the pit, the man having a seizure shrieks again, and then his screams gurgle to a stop. I put the phone in my pocket and push through the onlookers. I watch as his back convulses like he’s going to throw up, and then he goes limp. A thin river of blood snakes out of his open mouth and trails along the cement floor.

The room echoes with silence where the screams had been. A trio of girls stands motionless, eyes huge, hands pressed to mouths.

The flip phone in my pocket buzzes. I pull it out, snap it open and press it to my ear. “Hello?”

A pause.

“Hello?” I repeat.

A click. The line goes dead.

A set of paramedics slams the stage door open, stretcher between them. “Coming through!” They kneel down and start prodding at the man curled up on the concrete. His head flops back. His eyes are stretched wide and unseeing, focused on some point far beyond the twinkling ceiling lights.

Next to him on the concrete lies something… What is it? It’s rectangular and has red and—

It’s a playing card.



Excerpted from The Kill Club by Wendy Heard, Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Heard. Published by MIRA Books.  

 

Unexpectedly Great Book

The Kill Club - Heard,  Wendy

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time. Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good. All she has to do is kill a stranger.

When I started reading this book, I was a little apprehensive. I’d never heard of the author and the last two books I just read by favorite authors were disappointing. I was really glad I started it though, because when I started to get into it, I really enjoyed it and didn’t put it down until I was finished. I really liked Jazz and enjoyed following her as everything in her life became unraveled. This book wasn’t anything I’d expected from a harlequin and I loved it! I highly recommend. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Holiday Books to Read-Cowboy Christmas Redemption Excerpt

— feeling amazing
Cowboy Christmas Redemption - Maisey Yates

 

From Chapter Two

Caleb Dalton hadn’t had much to smile about for a long time. It had been a bear of a few years, since his best friend’s death, and while time might ease a wound, it wouldn’t ever bring Clint back.

But that permanence made space for movement, around the grief, around the pain. And finally toward a future he’d been planning for a long time.

Clint had been, honest to God, one of the best men on earth. The hole he’d left behind had been huge, and Caleb had dedicated himself to caring for his friend’s widow and child in his absence.

That had been his life, his whole life, for nearly five years. And it was fair, because it had been Ellie’s life, too.

He cared for Ellie. A hell of a lot. He’d met her because of Clint, but she’d been in his life now for more than ten years.

His feelings for Ellie were complicated. Had been from the beginning. But she’d been with Clint. And there was no doubt Clint was the better man. More than that, Clint was his brother. Maybe not in blood, but in every way that counted.

Caleb had never claimed to be a perfect friend. Clint was one of those people who’d drawn everyone right to him. He was easy to like. Caleb’s own parents had been bowled over by Clint from the time they were kids. 

And Caleb’s jealousy had gotten the better of him once when they’d been younger. Something that made him burn with shame even now.

He hadn’t let it happen when they’d been adults. No matter how tempting it had been. No matter how much he’d…

A muscle in his jaw ticked.

He gave thanks that there was a space in front of the Gold Valley Saloon, and he whipped his truck there up against the curb, ignoring the honk that came from behind him.

He turned around and saw Trevor Sanderson in his Chevy, giving Caleb the death glare.

“Hold your damn horses, Trevor,” he muttered as he put his truck in Park.

He should have been quicker.

Hell, that was life in a nutshell. Sometimes, you were just too late. For parking spots, and for women.

He’d tried to get that image out of his head. More times than he could count over the past decade. Had tried to erase that first time he’d seen Ellie.

It was at his parents’ barbecue. Late one summer afternoon.

He’d been talking and laughing with his brothers, and he’d lifted a beer to his lips and looked out away from the party. Then he’d frozen.

It was like the world had slowed down, all of it centering on the beautiful blonde walking toward him. The golden light from the sun illuminated her hair like a halo, and her smile seemed to light him up from the inside out.

As she’d gotten closer, he’d taken in every last detail. The way the left side of her cheek dimpled with that grin; her eyes, a mix of green and blue and a punch in the gut. Her lips were glossy pink, and he wondered if it was that stuff that women wore that smelled and tasted like cherries. He couldn’t decide if he hoped that it was or not.

Twenty years old, more experienced with women than he probably should be, and ready right then and there to drop down to his knees and propose marriage to the one walking in his direction.

It took him a full minute to realize that the beautiful blonde was holding hands with someone.

And that that someone was Caleb’s best friend on earth.

It was a surreal moment. It had been a sea change in his soul. When his feelings for Ellie had tipped over from nothing to everything.

A revelation he hadn’t been looking for, and one he sure as hell hadn’t enjoyed.

It was like the whole world had turned, then bucked, like a particularly nasty-ass bull, and left him sprawled out on the ground.

It had been the beginning of a thorny, painful set of years. As he’d gotten to know Ellie, as his feelings for her had become knit deep into his heart, into his soul. She’d become more than his friend’s woman, and more than a woman he’d desired. She’d become a friend to him.

In many ways he was thankful for the depth of the feeling, because it was the reason he’d been able to put aside the lust. The idea that he’d fallen in love with her at first sight.

When Clint had first started dating her, she’d been in school, so she hadn’t been around all the time. But during the summers, and on breaks, she came around with Clint. 

Went to the lake with them. Went fishing. Came to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The summers at the lake, though, that had been a particular kind of torture. All of them swimming out in the water, her and her swimsuit. A tiny bikini that had left little to the imagination.

And he had been so very interested in imagining all the things that it did conceal.

And he’d felt like the biggest, most perverse asshole.

Then there had been the time that Clint had asked him to take her out riding.

Just the two of them.

Because Clint trusted him. Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he trust his best friend? So he’d done it.

Had taken her out on the trails that wound behind the Dalton family property, up to the top of a mountain. And he looked over at the view with her, watched the sunset. And everything in him had wanted to lean over and kiss her on the mouth. To act on the feelings that were rioting through his chest.

For just a breath she’d looked back at him, met his eyes. And he’d thought maybe she’d wanted it, too.

Yeah, it would have exploded his relationship with Clint, but for a minute it seemed like it might be worth it.

Then she’d looked away. And then he’d come back to himself.

Clint was his brother. In every way but blood.

And he couldn’t betray his friend like that.

Anyway, Ellie loved Clint.

She didn’t love Caleb.

And no matter how much he might not want to, he had to respect that.

So he hadn’t kissed her. They had ridden back down that mountain, and nothing happened between them. But late at night, Caleb had taken himself in hand and fantasized that it had.

Two days later Clint and Ellie had been engaged.

Caleb had agreed to be the best man.

She’d married Clint. And while his feelings for her had remained, they’d shifted. As they’d had to.

He wasn’t perfect. He’d never touched Ellie. Not like a man touched a woman, though that hadn’t stopped him from going over the accidental brush of fingertips, of their elbows touching, over and over in his mind if it had happened on accident.

It hadn’t stopped him from keeping and cherishing secrets with her, even when he knew he shouldn’t. Hadn’t stopped him from pushing some boundaries that not even Ellie had realized he’d been pushing at.

Ellie was the one who’d realized, for the first time, that he was dyslexic. And he’d sworn her to secrecy. And in that secrecy had come secret reading lessons.

And he’d…well, he’d lost control of his own feelings again. And once he’d recognized that, he’d cut them off. Cut her off.

But then Clint had died, just a month later. And everything changed again.

Since then, his relationship with Ellie was about their coming together to try and fill the gap Clint had left behind. His helping where she needed it.

Helping with the house, with her grief, with Amelia.

That was all.

 

Excerpted from Christmas Cowboy Redemption by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2019 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

Great Holiday Read!

Cowboy Christmas Redemption - Maisey Yates

Cowboy Caleb Dalton has loved single mom Ellie Bell, and her little daughter, Amelia, for years. But since Ellie is his best friend’s widow, Caleb’s head knows Ellie will always be strictly off-limits. If only his heart got the memo. So when Caleb discovers that Ellie has a Christmas wish list—and hopes for a kiss under the mistletoe—he’s throwing his cowboy hat into the ring. If anyone’s going to be kissing Ellie and sharing this magical time with her and her daughter, it’s him. Ellie has dreaded the holidays since losing her husband. But this year, she’s finally ready to make some changes. She never expects the biggest change to be the heart-stopping kiss she shares with Caleb. For almost five years, Caleb has been her best friend, her rock, her salvation. This Christmas, can Caleb prove he’s also the missing puzzle piece of Ellie’s and Amelia’s hearts?

I’ve read stories from this author and have enjoyed each book. This one was no different. I enjoyed following both main characters through their journey. I highly recommend. 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

Great Story and Characters

Somebody To Love - Wendy Vella

There was a lot in life Joe couldn’t stomach like grocery shopping, brussel sprouts.Bit asked Joe if he was ok and he told her he just wanted a guy’s shampoo. Joe studied the tiny woman standing at his side. He’d only ever known her as bit but she was actually Mrs. Rosemary Yardley. Bailey Jones had made an impression in his life the two years she was in it. But it had been fifteen years years and it was time to let her go. Then he realized it was Bailey and she realized it was Joe and said hello. He still remembered the last words she had said to him. Bailey had been the best friend he ever had and at thirteen Bailey understood him better than anyone.She had been the one person who believed in him. She had tired eyes now. He asked if she was here for a vacation and she said yes but she wasn’t sure for how long yet. They were strangers now. Of all the scenarios he had thought about this day if it ever came. It hadn’t played out like this. Joe thought they’d laugh, discuss the past like old friends. Instead they were uncomfortable with each other. Joe said he knew she was in Boston by Maggie who was proud of her famous friend.  Bailey said once famous that now she didn’t do that now. Joe shot her a puzzled look and saw that she wasn’t as composed as she seemed. Her eyes were darker, a sure sign she was emotional. Joe remembered that and so much more. Now she was a twenty eight year old beautiful woman. Joe said he heard she was wooing crowds. Bailey said no not for months. She also said she was taking a break. His friend Fin came up to him after Bailey had thanked him for his help. They had been friends for awhile, both had pasts that were best left behind. Joe had a feeling his life was about to be flipped on its head after leaving the store. Bailey tried to regroup after she left the store. She was no longer the thirteen year old girl who thought the sun rose and set because of joe. Friends for life he had said but eventually she’d realized how foolish she was to believe him. Maggie had kept in touch with her childhood friend Maggie by writing a letter each week. She had never asked about Joe because no one knew what they meant to each other. A year ago, her life had derailed and she’d been unsettled ever since. Three months ago she packed her things and took to the road but in her heart she knew she was heading here. Joe’s inner peace had been shattered two days ago when he found Bailey on the grocery store. Joe had open and now owned a bar. He bought the place five years ago and ran it. 

I loved this romantic read. I loved that Bailey found the strength to get out from under her grandfather. This was well written I rooted for Bailey and Joe from the minute they ran into each other in the store and even more so when she stuck up for Joe, each holding back how they really felt for each other. I loved the mystery and intrigue in this book. I loved that Joe’s and bailey’s connection was still there with sexual heat thrown in. there was a lot to this book: romance, danger, a controlling grandfather, drama , murder, ex fiances, intrigue, fame, villain, bad boy turned good, abuse, and soulmates. This had my attention from beginning to end.  I loved the characters and the ins and outs of this book and I highly recommend it.