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Friday, August 12, 2022

Cover Reveal: Ship Happens by Kate Stacy

 


Join us for the cover reveal of Ship Happens by Kate Stacy, the first book in the Love at Sea Series. Keep reading for more details about this sexy, friends with benefits romance.
 
Title: Ship Happens
Author: Kate Stacy
Release Date: 9/5/2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Friends with Benefits, Friends to Lovers, Forced Proximity
 
Tate
Macy Carmichael has been my friend with mind-blowing benefits for a long time now. But, I’ve been craving more from her. More than she’s ready to give.

When my siblings book me on an all-inclusive cruise, I jump at the idea of a free vacation and a chance to get away for a while. Unfortunately, my meddling older sister left out a few important details—like the name of the cruise. Love at Sea. Is she for real?

If that’s not bad enough, she signed me up for a variety of activities and makes me promise that I’ll take part in every single one. She also failed to mention that she convinced Macy to book the same cruise.
Imagine my surprise when she sits down across the table from me during the speed dating event I didn’t even want to attend. All bets are off. I’ll be damned if some other man is getting close to what’s mine.

Macy
Desperate for a vacation and break from everyday life, I take the suggestion of one aclose friends and book myself a week-long cruise. I even go along with her recommendation.
The Love at Sea cruise aboard the Heart of the Deep. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea, even if the whole cruise is based around the finding and celebrating love.

But when my best friend with toe-curling benefits, Tate Thorne, shows up during the speed dating event, I know I’m in trouble. No matter what I do, it always comes back to him.

Maybe away from the hustle and bustle of our small town, we can finally explore something more. That is, if I can finally let go of all the “rules” of our previous arrangement.

Ship Happens is a friends to lovers romance, part of the Love at Sea multi-author series. Get ready to set sail through the Caribbean on Festival Cruises’ most alluring voyage with eight of your favorite authors - happily ever after guaranteed!

Experience everything the Love at Sea series has to offer. From speed dating to masquerades, guests are sure to enjoy the hot days and steamy nights. Explore hidden waterfalls, swim with dolphins, and watch as eight couples find their forever on the open ocean.
'
Pre-Order on Amazon
Amazon https://amzn.to/3SrOJbo
 
Add to Goodreads Here!
Goodreads https://bit.ly/39ES1qd
 
About Kate Stacy
 
Author of emotionally-gripping, contemporary romance, Kate Stacy’s novels feature sassy heroines, swoony heroes, life, love, friendship, and all the angst. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family and friends in small-town North Carolina, Kate can most likely be found nose deep in her Kindle. She stays up too late, swears too much, and loves too hard.
 
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Cover Reveal: The Hometown Dilemma by Julie Archer

 


We are so excited to share the cover reveal for The Hometown Dilemma by Julie Archer, the next book in the Meet Cute Book Club Series. Keep reading for more details about this sexy, return to hometown romance.

Title: The Hometown Dilemma
Author: Julie Archer
Release Date: 9/8/2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Trope: Return to Hometown Romance
 
Jaime
 
Who says you can’t go home?
 
Coming back to Abbott Ridge and starting over was my plan. But, just like everything in life, plans change. Especially when the interior design reality tv show I dreamed of being a part of gets canceled before filming even begins. Now I’m stuck without a job and forced to rethink how I’ll start my own company.
 
Insert, Wade Dempsey.
 
Owner of Dempsey’s bar, and one of my closest friends from college. He immediately offers me a temporary job working with him, like old times.
 
It's an offer I can't refuse. Oh, and did I mention that my new boss is even sexier than I remember?
 
Things between us are going great...until a call from New York presents me with a new offer that has me second guessing my stay in Abbott Ridge.
 
Wade
 
Home is where the heart is.
 
I’ve spent my whole life in Abbott Ridge, running in and out of my family's bar until I was finally old enough to take over. Now I’m in charge, but it’s a struggle to keep the place from going under. I need fresh ideas to compete with all the fancy bars and clubs popping up downtown.
 
Insert, Jaime Harlow.
 
Having Jaime back behind my bar seems like a good place to start. She’s an inspiration and a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one.
 
Old times, new feelings - and one stormy night - are all we need to ignite the desires I never realized existed.
 
When New York calls for Jaime and the only future I’ve known goes up in flames, we find ourselves faced with a huge dilemma that threatens our new found relationship. Can we really make this work when right now it feels like we can't even see eye to eye? There’s only one way to find out.
 
The Hometown Dilemma is a standalone, return to hometown romance that is part of the multi-author series, Meet Cute Book Club. Escape with this swoon-worthy collection of romances where meet-cutes don't only happen between the pages of romance novels and members find their own happily ever afters.


Pre-Order on Amazon
Amazon https://amzn.to/3oS0RF3
 
 
Goodreads https://bit.ly/3v07wzj
 
About Julie Archer

Author of contemporary romance featuring rock stars, small towns, a healthy dose of angst, some steamy times and always a happy ever after!

When not writing, I can usually be found binge watching teen drama series on Netflix, or supporting Spurs from my armchair, and running around after my two feline children, Corey and Elsa.

Follow me on Facebook or Instagram, see my latest releases on Amazon or drop me an email, juliearcherwrites@gmail.com.

Real Angst. Real Romance.
  
Follow: Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | BookBub | Website | Newsletter | Amazon
 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt fromThe Last of Seven by Steven Hartov

 


Steven Hartov
On Sale Date: August 9, 2022
9781335050106, 1335050108
Hardcover
$26.99 USD, $33.50 CAD
Fiction / Historical / WWII
368 pages

A spellbinding novel of World War II based on the little-known history of the “X Troop” – a team of European Jews who escaped the Continent only to join the British Army and return home to exact their revenge on Hitler's military.

A lone soldier wearing a German uniform stumbles into a British military camp in the North African desert with an incredible story to tell. He is the only survivor of an undercover operation meant to infiltrate a Nazi base, trading on the soldiers’ perfect fluency in German. For this man is not British born but instead a German Jew seeking revenge for the deaths of his family back home in Berlin.
As the Allies advance into Europe, the young lieutenant is brought to Sicily to recover, where he’s recruited by a British major to join to newly formed “X Troop,” a commando unit composed of German and Austrian Jews, training for a top-secret mission at a nearby camp in the Sicilian hills. They are all “lost boys,” driven not by patriotism but by vengeance.

Drawing on meticulous research into this unique group of soldiers, The Seventh Commando is a lyrical, propulsive historical novel perfect for readers of Mark Sullivan, Robert Harris, and Alan Furst.

Enjoy this sneak peek:

CHAPTER ONE

North Africa, Spring 1943

In the Sahara, the sun could make a man bleed.

It was hard to believe at first, especially if you’d ever trekked a frigid winter landscape somewhere, boots slogging through alpine snow, limbs shivering and aching bone deep. It was a challenge to imagine it, such a murderous sun, when December memory recalled teeth chattering like a Morse code key, toes and fingers numbed and raw, eyebrows stiff with frost, till all at once that blessed star emerged from charcoal clouds to save the day.

The sun was a holy thing then. The breath of God on your frozen face.

Ah, but in the vastness of that empty desert, when spring fell prey to cruel summer, when the cloudless sky was nothing but a silver mirror, the sand an iron griddle, and there was not a tree or cave or cactus to throw a shadow’s sliver. Nowhere to run from the sun. It was then that heaven’s jewel became a hunting thing, its furnace eye unblinking, merciless, and pounding.

You could shade your skull with a cap, drape your blistered neck with burlap, but still you had to see your path as your squinting eyes filled with flies who’d found the only liquid in the land. The lancing light bounced off the dunes to slowly broil your face, lips turned plaster white and split, and the oils of your nose and cheeks fried patches there like poultry on a spit. And then, the crow’s-feet wrinkles at the corners of your bleary vision turned to brittle parchment, until at last they cracked, and the most unnatural happened…

The man across the dunes was weeping tears of brine and blood. But they were not of sorrow or self-pity, for all of his emotions had hollowed out so many weeks ago. They were simply the last vestiges of all the fluid he had left, squeezed from the ducts by that relentless sun.

He was small there in the distance, and nearly weightless now, though from the way he moved it seemed he wore a yoke of iron. He was no more than an upthrust child’s thumb against the umber sands, shimmering in the steaming light of the fata morgana, an illusion where horizon met the sky.

He wore a Bedouin burnoose, tight about his oily blond curls and rough against his bristled jaw. His German staff sergeant’s tunic was girded with white salt lines of evaporated sweat, a single bandolier of ammunition, and the lanyard of a camel skin water bladder, now shriveled like an ancient’s scrotum, nothing left. One Feldwebel rank was on his collar, his Afrika Korps palm-tree shoulder patch was bleached into a ghost, and in one pocket were two lizard tails he’d chewed from time to time, though all the meat was spent. The right waist of his tunic was punched through with a bullet hole, its fringes black with dried blood, and in the left thigh of his trousers was another one just like it, the reason for his crooked limp.

In his dangling right hand, below a ragged sleeve, he clutched a German MP40 Schmeisser machine pistol, barrel down, its leather strap dragging through the sand. His left hand held nothing, the nut-brown fingers capped with broken nails with which he’d tried and failed to dig some water from the heart of a dying oasis. His breaths rattled like an asthmatic’s, yet he came on, another half an hour, another mile.

A pair of British soldiers from Montgomery’s Eighth Army watched him. They knelt behind a berm of sandbags, Tommy helmets buckled tight, sleeves rolled up and neat, shorts revealing sun-browned thighs above knee socks and tanker’s boots. They were alone, the western guards of a garrison south of Medenine, Tunisia, and they raised their bayoneted Enfield rifles to bear down on the stranger, like twins who often read each other’s minds.

At twenty feet the German sergeant stopped, unmoving, only breathing. The Cockney Tommy on the left aimed the rifle at his chest.

“Drop the bloody Schmeisser.”

The German jolted, as if surprised to hear a voice aside from his own mutterings to himself, unsure if these two Brits were real or cruel mirage. Yet he obeyed, as after all he knew it didn’t matter. The machine pistol was choked with grit and only the first shell would have fired. He opened his fingers and let the gun slip, like the hand of a dying lover, and it fell to the sand and was still.

The Tommy on the right said, “Hände hoch.” Hands up. He was a Scot and it came out as “Handerr hook.”

The German tried, but he couldn’t raise his arms higher than his waist, and his leather palms fluttered there above the sand like a maestro urging his musicians to play the passage pianissimo. His cracked lips formed a trembling “O,” though no sound emerged, and he mouthed Water, and then again—a goldfish with its face pressed to the glass of an aquarium. The Scot, keeping his Enfield trained, pulled a tin canteen from his battle harness.

“Don’t go near him, Robbie,” warned the Tommy on the left.

The Scot pitched the water bottle, cricket-style, where it pinged against a rock before the German’s boots. But the man could hardly bend his wounded leg and leaned in half a fencer’s lunge, snatching the canteen two-handed. He unscrewed the cap and brought it, shaking, to his mouth, and raised his face to heaven as the water gushed into his swollen gullet and dribbled from his filthy beard. His body trembled, and he looked at the two men and said, in nearly perfect British English, “I am not a German.”

The Tommies glanced at one another, then back at their intruder.

“You don’t say, Klaus?” the Cockney said to him.

“Looks like a bleedin’ Jerry to me, Harry,” the Scot growled to his partner.

“He’s bleedin’ all right, mate,” said Harry sideways. “Got a couple of nicks.”

“Nicks?” Robbie snorted. “Coupla hefty caliber holes. Can hardly see `em for the flies.”

Cockney Harry craned his neck to peer beyond the German’s head.

“You all alone, mate?”

“Six others,” the German managed in a brittle whisper.

“Don’t see ’em.”

“All dead.”

“Right,” said Robbie. “And where’d ye come from then?”

The German dropped the canteen. His fingers wouldn’t hold it.

“Borj el-Khadra, by way of Tobruk.”

“Bollocks,” Harry spat. “That’s three hundred miles.” He thrust his buckled chin above the sea of endless dunes. “Across that.”

For a long moment, the trio regarded one another like drunkards sizing up opponents for a brawl. The Tommies watched the German’s hands, for they hadn’t searched him yet, while for his part he struggled to stay upright. Cockney Harry gestured at Robbie the Scot, but only with his head.

“Fire the Very pistol, Robbie. Green flare, not red. Let’s have the captain up here for a chat.”

Aside from Robbie’s flare, which arced into the silver sky and fell to earth somewhere, the trio stayed immobile until at last a throaty engine loomed. A four-wheeled open command car appeared from the north, its peeling fuselage bristling with petrol jerrycans, pickaxes, and Bren light machine guns snouted at the sky. It spewed a cloud of dust as it hove to and an officer dismounted, his captain’s cap stained with sweat, Webley pistol lanyarded to a holster. His left hand tapped a swagger stick against his muscled calf while his right fingers smoothed a short mustache. His large driver followed close, hefting a Thompson submachine gun.

The captain ambled up and stopped, his bloodshot eyes squinting at the strange tableau. Robbie the Scot turned and dipped his helmet brim, but Harry kept his rifle trained, and there were no salutes.

“What’s all this then, lads?” the captain said.

“Captured us an Afrika Korps infiltrator, sir,” said Harry.

“Sneaky desert serpent,” Robbie sneered.

“Good show then.” The captain nodded and scanned the prisoner head to foot. “Right. Summon a firing party.”

Harry turned and looked at his commander.

“Execution, sir?”

“Affirmative, Corporal.” The captain flicked his stick toward a distant rise. “And let’s stake his corpse on that hill. Perhaps it shall keep the other vultures at bay.”

“Yessir,” said the captain’s driver, and he turned back for the car to muster up a firing squad.

The captain wasn’t barbarous, but more than worn and weary, and his men were not quite sure if he was serious or bluffing. In the past few weeks, despite the routing of the Germans in the westward push for Tunisia, spies of every kind had probed his lines, including one Bedouin woman. They were often followed by marauding Stuka fighter-bombers. He’d lost four men, most painfully his major whom he’d buried and replaced, and had a fifth now dying in a tent, legless and weeping for his mother. So much, he thought, for Erwin Rommel’s “Krieg ohne Hass,” war without hate.

“I am not a German.” The intruder spoke again, and his voice spasmed with the effort.

The captain raised his chin. His driver stopped and turned. The prisoner’s accent was British, yet with a certain Berlin curl.

“That’s quite a claim,” the captain said, “given your costume.”

“He told us that shite too, sir,” said Robbie.

“Says he hoofed it from Borj el-Khadra,” Harry said. “By way of Tobruk, no less.”

The captain raised a palm to hush his men and squinted at the prisoner.

“What are you, then?”

The prisoner tried to swallow. The water hadn’t been enough. It would never be enough. His body quaked in feverish ripples now, his ragged clothing fluttering like gosling feathers. It was the proximity of rescue, now turned to sudden death, coupled with his famish, thirst, and wounds.

“SIG,” he said, tunneling in his delirium for the words. “Combined Operations.”

The captain raised an eyebrow. Harry asked him, “What’s ess-eye-gee, sir?”

“Special Interrogation Group.” The captain stroked his mustache corners. “Top secret commando unit, attached to LRDG and SAS. Mostly German Jews, but they were all killed at Tobruk, and that was many months ago.”

“Not I,” the prisoner croaked. His right hand reached into his tunic. The captain fumbled for his Webley and the Tommies’ Enfields stiffened, as the prisoner fetched a pair of British identification disks, one green, one amber, like autumn leaves on a threadbare lanyard, and they fell against his chest.

The captain glanced at them, and at the hollow bearded face again.

“Tobruk, you say. And where’ve you been since then…allegedly?”

“Captured. Escaped a month ago, or two, perhaps, I think.”

“You think.” The captain closed his fists and put them to his garrison belt. “And why, pray tell, if you were in this uniform, were you not executed as a spy? Those are Hitler’s orders, after all.”

“Because I had tea with Erwin Rommel,” the prisoner said, yet without a hint of irony that the German field marshal would have thusly intervened.

“Had a pint meself with Churchill just last week,” the captain’s driver quipped. The Tommies laughed, but the captain didn’t. There was something in the prisoner’s eyes—a sincerity of madness, or truth.

“What’s your name and rank?” he asked.

“Froelich, Bernard, second lieutenant.” He pronounced his given name as “Bern-udd” and his rank as “left-tenant.” Then he added, “Six seven two, four five seven.”

The captain produced a small pad and pencil from his tunic pocket—ink was useless in the desert. He wrote the details down, tore the page off and flicked it over his shoulder for the driver, his eyes never leaving the desperate gleaming blue ones there before him. They were bleeding from the ducts, but he’d seen that once or twice before.

“Sergeant Stafford,” he ordered, “take this to the wireless tent and have Binks get onto Cairo. Tell them we’ll need our answer double quick.”

The driver sped off amidst a cloud of dust, but his return was far from quick. A grueling fifteen minutes passed, while the prisoner teetered on his feet. He could no longer keep his head erect, and he fought to stay awake and straight. He told himself he’d stood this way before, for hours in formations, and he dredged up images of bucolic pleasures, the Danube and the Rhine, and even Galilee. He longed for rain and felt its kisses on his face, while rivulets of something else crawled down his beard and touched the corners of his mouth. But he tasted only brine, and then the armored car returned.

He raised his chin as the driver handed back the paper to the captain, who perused it, then spoke again.

“Lieutenant Froelich, if that’s you,” he said, “do you remember your last passwords?”

“I shall try,” the prisoner whispered as he stumbled through his memory, unsure if he could find the thing to save him from a bullet.

“If I said Rothmans cigarettes,” the captain posed, “what would you say?”

The prisoner’s sunburned brow creased deeply like a cutlass scar.

“I’d tell you I don’t like them, sir…that I fancy Players Navy Cut instead.”

The captain nodded, and offered his first thin smile of the week.

“That is correct.”

And Froelich slumped to his knees in the sand, a collapsed marionette, strings cut. And then he slipped from consciousness and toppled forward, knuckles in the desert, his palms turned up to the sun he hated.

“Fetch a stretcher, lads,” the captain said. “It’s him. He’s the last of them. He’s the seventh.”


Excerpted from My Last of the Seven @ 2022 by Steven Hartov, used with permission by Hanover Square Press.




 
About the Author:
Photo Credit:
Robert L. Cunningham

Steven Hartov is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller In the Company of Heroes, as well as The Night Stalkers and Afghanistan on the Bounce. For six years he served as Editor-in-Chief of Special Operations Report. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX, and most recently the History Channel's Secret Armies. A former Merchant Marine sailor, Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper and special operator, he is currently a Task Force Commander in the New York Guard. He lives in New Jersey
 
Social Links:
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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Teaser Reveal: The Seaside Strategy by Elana Johnson

 
THE SEASIDE STRATEGY by Elana Johnson is coming in one week! Check it out and be sure to pre-order your copy today!
 
Title: The Seaside Strategy
Author: Elana Johnson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 16th
 
 
Lauren Keller understands strategies. She adores them and never enters a marketing meeting without Strategy A, B, and C tucked away in the back of her mind. She's one of the top executives at her firm...until it all comes crashing down with the news that her boss has been stealing money from their clients for almost a decade.
 
After narrowly escaping indictments herself, Lauren finds herself, at age 43, standing in the parking lot of her office building, a box with a stapler, a sad plant, and a couple of photos as her only companions.
 
She needs a new strategy, and she decides she can map everything out from the beaches of Hilton Head.
 
It's not an exit strategy.
 
It's a seaside strategy.
 
Relax more. Worry less. Find out what she really wants in her life.
 
While trying to do that, all with the ocean breeze and her friends for support, Lauren meets Blake Williams. The man is movie-star gorgeous, witty, and looking for someone to help him run his successful financial planning business on the island.
 
But Lauren doesn't want to work for him, especially not in strategic investments. She's had enough of the high-profile, corporate life. Can she strategically insert herself into Blake's life without compromising her seaside strategy and finally get what she really wants...love and a lasting relationship?
 

Pre-Order Your Copy!
 
Catching Up with the Series:
 


About the Author:


A USA Today Bestselling and Amazon Kindle All-Star Author, Elana writes clean and wholesome contemporary romance. She is well-known for her young adult dystopian romance series Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster). She writes clean beach romance in the Hawthorne Harbor Second Chance Romance series, the Getaway Bay Romance series, the Getaway Bay Resort Romance series,the Forbidden Lake Romance series, the Stranded in Paradise Romance series, the Hope Eternal Ranch Romance series, the Sweet Water Falls Farm Romance series, and the Carter's Cove Romance series.
 
Elana also writes inspirational western romances under the USA Today bestselling pen name of Liz Isaacson. Learn more at Liz's website.
 
Elana is the force behind Indie Inspiration, and you can find her books for writers, Writing and Releasing Rapidly and Writing Killer Cover Copy among others, and join her group and page on Facebook.
 
She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog, a co-founder of The League of Extraordinary Writers, and a co-organizer of WriteOnCon. She is a member of ALLi and NINC and a popular speaker for libraries, teens, and writer's conferences across the United States. To contact Elana to speak at your event, please see her contact page.
 
Connect with the Author:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | TikTok | Bookbub | Gmail
 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Review: Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

Author: Daka Hermon
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 2020

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?

Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend. Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee's welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.

One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.

Hide and Seeker is a middle grade horror that definitely satisfied my inner middle school self.  It involves a Justin, who attends a welcome home party after his best friend returns home after being missing for a year.  The biggest problem is that Zee is different.  When another party goer suggests playing Hide and Seek, things go very wrong.

 Adult me, enjoyed this one and middle school me would have devoured it.  It was creepy and honestly actually scary at times. I liked that the author was willing to put the kids in danger to a point that the reader isn't quite sure if they will survive the ordeal.  The characters were interesting and not annoying.  Each character has fears that they have to face in order to survive.  I'm not going to lie, they were all creepy.  I highly recommend this one.  It was a lot of fun and would be a great addition to any middle grade library.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Second First Chance by Mona Shroff

 


Author: Mona Shroff
ISBN: 9781335453464
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books

 For fans of Katherine Center's THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE and Jill Santopolo's THE LIGHT WE LOST, THE SECOND FIRST CHANCE is a deeply emotional romance about two neighboring families, the Voras and the Desais, who experience a devastating fire and the fallout it creates in their lives--particularly for Dhillon Vora and Riya Desai, who struggle to admit their feelings for one another.
On one terrible night, everything changed.

Riya Desai has struggled to move beyond the devastating fire that claimed the life of her brother, Samir, and set her on a path she never anticipated. Determined to keep other families from experiencing the loss that hers did, she's become a firefighter herself, but it hasn't been an easy road. The other firefighters are her fire hall are overwhelmingly white--and entirely male. As a rookie and as the only woman at the station, she has to keep proving herself, over and over, in a way her male colleagues never have to. Oh, and her other problem? Her family thinks she's a paramedic--they have no idea she's a firefighter, and she knows they won't be happy about her running into fires instead of away from them.
Dhillon Vora is a healer. After the fire that killed his father, he becomes a vet, his faithful dog Lucky--who survived the fire at the Voras' and Desais' townhouses--behind his side. On a visit to the fire hall across from his clinic, he is dumbfounded to find the girl next door, Riya Desai. Riya has become a firefighter? Dhillon is livid. And--though he can't really admit it--kind of impressed. Even though he knows, deep down, that he's never stopped loving Riya, he isn't sure he's ready to have her in his life again. Especially if he has to worry constantly about her safety.

THE SECOND FIRST CHANCE is not only a deeply moving tale of two people learning to love each other again, but an uplifting story of two families overcoming tragedy with hope, love, and the unbreakable bonds that keep us shining together even through our darkest hours.

 
Buy Links:
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Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Excerpt:


DHILLON

A dark brown Lab-pit mix puppy raised its head to look at Dhillon as he entered the exam room. Dhillon’s joy was instant, which was why he loved his job. His nurse, Shelly, was right behind him with the brief introduction.

“Dr. Vora, this is Scout. She is being brought in by today Firefighter Ian Walsh. Scout was found abandoned at one of their scenes and is currently under the care of the Howard County Fire Department.”

It was at the word firefighter that Dhillon tensed. He made eye contact with the man and extended his hand, anxiety flooding through his system, increasing his heart rate and beading sweat on his upper lip.

Shelly threw him a worried look. He ignored her.

“Good morning. I’m Dr. Vora.” Dhillon found his voice but focused on the leashed puppy as the man’s walkie-talkie emitted an irritating squeal. “Everything okay?” Dhillon nodded at the walkie-talkie. “We can reschedule if you have to go.” 

The Lab-pit puppy twitched her ears and raised her head at the squawk. Shelly made a cooing sound and went over to pet their patient. Any remaining anxiety Dhillon might have had melted away as he took in the befuddled pup. The firefighter didn’t even look at the puppy.

“Nah. It’s all good. I’m supposed to get the pup tended to, so let’s just do it.” The firefighter shook his hand.

Dhillon nodded to Shelly as she moved from the dog’s side to the computer so she could enter the information they had so far. He got down on the ground where the puppy had lain down. fallen asleep. “She looks like my Lucky.”

“You mean that older dog out front? With the scarring?”

“Mmm-hmm.” Dhillon picked up Scout and let her climb into his lap. He played with her a moment. He held a small treat out and watched her track it as he moved it from side to side. She lifted her mouth to grab it, but Dhillon made her wait another second before letting her have the treat and a scratch cuddle under her chin. Best part of being a veterinarian. He glanced at Walsh, who watched him with a scowl. “Lucky was caught in a house fire.” Dhillon tried to keep his voice neutral. It wasn’t this man’s fault that Lucky was burned. He stood, bringing Scout with him.

Her coat looked almost pure black, and her big brown eyes reminded Dhillon of Lucky’s when he’d been a puppy. For a moment, Dhillon was dragged back to the day he brought Lucky home from the SPCA. Best day of his life. Well, maybe second best.

“The vet at the time was the previous owner of this practice. He did excellent work. Shelly here used to work with him. That scarring barely reflects how bad his injuries were.”

Dhillon laid Scout on the rickety old exam table which stood in the middle of the room. Nice shiny coat, alert and playful. “How old is she?” 

“Uh…maybe ten weeks. I’m not entirely sure. We just got her. Our station’s new recruit found her on scene, no collar, nothing. She hasn’t even been chipped yet, as far as we know. We’re keeping her at the firehouse for now until we find her a home.” Ian shook his head and pursed his lips.

“Why not take her to the SPCA? They can help find her a home.”

Ian shook his head. “Our new recruit insists that’s not necessary. She thinks someone’s going to claim the little thing.” He shrugged. “My experience says not likely.”

Dhillon turned to Scout, the sight of the puppy putting a grin on his face again. “I know someone who’d say the same thing.” Or used to know, anyway. Sadness flitted through him for an instant before it was replaced with resignation. He’d given up his chance to keep knowing her long ago.

Dhillon scratched the puppy’s belly. “I can chip her today.” He held out a small treat and softly said, “Sit.” Scout flipped over and sat on the table. He rewarded her with the treat.

He looked in Scout’s ears and checked her teeth and paws, dictating his assessment to Shelly as he went along. The puppy looked cared for, healthy. Maybe three months old. Obviously, the guys at the firehouse had cared for her. “Does she eat well?”

Ian shrugged. “We have her dog food, but a lot of the guys spoil her, slipping her a bit of meatball, steak, hot dog. Not me, though. You can believe that.”

“Can any of you take her home?”

Ian shook his head. “But there’s always someone at the station because we do twenty-four- and forty-eight-hour shifts. She works out with us. The new recruit is teaching her to sit, stay, come. Even to go fetch gear. Like that’s practical.” Ian shrugged, as if taking care of a dog was really not his idea of firefighter work. “You know anyone who would want her?” 

Dhillon had a thought flash through his mind. Nah. She was likely too busy, and honestly, she might even have a dog already for all he knew. Running into her occasionally outside the house didn’t really give him much information about her life. “No. But I can keep an eye out.” He continued with his examination, prepping Scout’s shots as Shelly held her.

“Are you Indian?” Ian asked.

Dhillon sighed, knowing the reason for this question. Ian knew someone who was Indian. “Yes. Well, my parents are from India, but I was born here.” Dhillon barely afforded Ian a glance. He approached Scout and administered the shot. Scout gave a small yelp.

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Dhillon cooed softly. “Just one more.”

“Just asking because the new recruit—who’s all about this dog—she’s Indian.”

She? Dhillon snapped his attention back to Ian and could not refrain from raising an eyebrow. Interesting. An Indian woman firefighter? Didn’t see that every day.

“Maybe you know her?”

Dhillon did his best to not roll his eyes as he focused on administering the second shot, but a sigh escaped all the same, as did a small hmph from Shelly. Just because he and this firefighter were both Indian didn’t mean they knew each other. “I doubt it.” He ran a gentle hand over Scout’s head and body as if to soothe away her discomfort.

If someone he knew was a firefighter—male or female—he’d already know.

Scout turned a full circle, sniffing, then promptly peed on the table.

Ian scowled at the puppy and stepped back. Shelly made a move to grab the paper towels, but Dhillon was closer. He shared a look with Shelly as he cleaned up the mess. “Potty training can take some time. Helps if she has a crate, where she feels safe.”

Ian shook his head and put out his hands. “I saw a crate in the bunk area. Desai would know.”

Dhillon’s heart skipped a beat. “Desai?” It couldn’t be. Desai was a common-enough Indian last name. Could be anybody.

Right?

He stared at Ian, who continued, completely unaware of Dhillon’s rising panic, as blood pounded through his body, his heart rate increased. “The new recruit. Who wanted this dog. The Indian girl. Riya Desai.”

Of all the names Ian could have said, that was the absolute last one he wanted to hear.

It couldn’t be her. The Riya he knew would never run into a fire. As far as he knew, she had the same reaction to anything fire-related that he did: panic and anxiety.

But then again, he didn’t really know anything about her, did he? They never really talked anymore, outside of uncomfortable pleasantries when they were forced together. Riya avoided him, and he avoided Riya.

Dhillon’s heart hammered in his chest, and the blood drained from his head. He fought to maintain professional composure as he continued his examination of Scout. “It’s a common name.” Dhillon tried to sound casual, as if he really believed his own words. He needed to believe them.

“Brown skin, dark brown eyes.”

Really? That was his description? Dhillon took a breath so he wouldn’t lay into this guy. He fought fires, after all. Saved people.

Some people.

“She’s a paramedic, too. Which helps because we have to do EMT training.”

Dhillon’s stomach plummeted, and his head spun. It was his Riya. Dhillon clenched his jaw. Well, it was the Riya Desai that he knew.

She’d never been his.

He should have picked up on it when Ian said she was teaching Scout to get gear. It was exactly what she had taught Lucky to do when they were young teenagers. Go get their backpacks or books or whatever they had forgotten. Lucky would do it, too. For her. Even though Lucky was really his dog.

What the fuck was she doing going into fires? She’d never bring back what they’d lost.

Ian was still talking. “Between you and me? She’s hot. She has the sexiest mole just below her ear, and she is stacked.” Ian put his hands in front of his chest to indicate large breasts, and Dhillon saw red.

“You know, I actually do know her.” He stared Ian down. “She grew up next door to me. So you’ll want to shut up now.” He didn’t usually talk to patients this way, but this guy was asking for it, and technically Scout was his patient. And she seemed fine with it.

“Oh, dude, sorry. I didn’t know she’d be like a sister to you.”

“She’s not a sister to me. Just a neighbor.” Dhillon had spent too much time imagining kissing that mole to look at Riya like a sister. “Either way, isn’t she your colleague? Maybe show a little respect?”

Ian waved him off. “Whatever, she won’t last long. Doubt if she can do the job.”

Oh, she could do the job. Riya and Dhillon may not be best friends anymore, but one thing he did know was that Riya Desai was fantastic at whatever she put her mind to. If she was the rookie in the department, that meant she’d made it through the academy. Since she made it through the academy, Dhillon knew she had put her mind to becoming a firefighter a long time ago.

Dhillon finished up with little Scout and—reluctantly—handed her back to Ian. “Scout will need another set of shots in one month.” His mouth moved as if by rote as he doled out instructions, but his mind was spinning.

What the fuck had Riya gotten herself into now?


Excerpted from The Second First Chance by Mona Shroff. Copyright © 2022 by Mona Shroff. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.



Author Bio:

Mona is obsessed with everything romantic, so she writes romantic stories by night, even though she's an optometrist by day. If she's not writing, she's making chocolate truffles, riding her bike, or reading, and is just as likely to be drinking wine or gin & tonic with friends and family. She's blessed with an amazing daughter and loving son who have both gone to college. Mona lives in Maryland with her romance-loving husband.
  
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