Sunday, October 24, 2021

Review: Custom Love by Chantal Fernando

Author: Chantal Fernando
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 2021

Nadia has always been in charge of her life. As a private investigator, she makes her own hours and only takes on cases that she wants to work on. But when a family friend asks her to look into a case, she instantly regrets it—it hits far too close to home.

The last thing she wants to do is rip open old wounds. Especially Trade’s, the single father she’s been spending time with. It isn’t long before she’s falling not just for him, but for the kids he’s trying so hard to protect.

But the little voice in Nadia’s head tells her that something isn’t right, and she’s determined to find the truth. Using her connections to the Knights of Fury MC and the Fast & Fury motorcycle garage to gather evidence, Nadia uncovers evidence of a conspiracy that will leave everyone shaken—and force her and Trade to do whatever it takes to keep their new family safe.

Custom Love is the third book in the Fast and Fury series.  Nadia and Trade have appeared in previous books in the series.  The story starts a while after the murder of Trade's girlfriend and would be fiancé.  The mother of the man who was convicted of the murder asks Nadia to look into what really happened.  She is convinced her son is innocent.  Now Nadia faces the dilemma of potentially stirring up trouble by asking questions.

For me, this one was the best out of the three in the series so far.  This story took me completely by surprise regarding the solution to the mystery that Nadia was trying to solve.  Score one for the author!  I did not see that coming at all!  The other thing I loved about this book was Trade.  He has definitely made it onto my book boyfriend list.  I loved how honest and open he was about his feelings and hesitations.  I also loved his relationship with his children. I won't spoil the story.  GO read it.  I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Blog Tour: Excerpt of Trashlands by Alison Stine


Author: Alison Stine
ISBN: 9780778311270
Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Publisher: MIRA Books
Book Summary:
A resonant, visionary novel about the power of art and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love
A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.
In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club's violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.
Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.
When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent's journey, a story of community and humanity in a changed world.
Buy Links: 
Enjoy this excerpt:


Early coralroot

Corallorhiza trifida

Coral was pregnant then. She hid it well in a dress she had found in the road, sun-bleached and mud-dotted, only a little ripped. The dress billowed to her knees, over the tops of her boots. She was named for the wildflower which hadn’t been seen since before her birth, and for ocean life, poisoned and gone. It was too dangerous to go to the beach anymore. You never knew when storms might come.

Though they were going—to get a whale.

A boy had come from up north with a rumor: a whale had beached. Far off its course, but everything was off by then: the waterways, the paths to the ocean, its salt. You went where you had to go, where weather and work and family—but mostly weather—took you.

The villagers around Lake Erie were carving the creature up, taking all the good meat and fat. The strainer in its mouth could be used for bows, the bones in its chest for tent poles or greenhouse beams.

It was a lot of fuel for maybe nothing, a rumor spun by an out-of-breath boy. But there would be pickings along the road. And there was still gas, expensive but available. So the group went, led by Mr. Fall. They brought kayaks, lashed to the top of the bus, but in the end, the water was shallow enough they could wade.

They knew where to go because they could smell it. You got used to a lot of smells in the world: rotten food, chemicals, even shit. But death… Death was hard to get used to.

“Masks up,” Mr. Fall said.

Some of the men in the group—all men except Coral—had respirators, painter’s masks, or medical masks. Coral had a handkerchief of faded blue paisley, knotted around her neck. She pulled it up over her nose. She had dotted it with lavender oil from a vial, carefully tipping out the little she had left. She breathed shallowly through fabric and flowers. Mr. Fall just had a T-shirt, wound around his face. He could have gotten a better mask, Coral knew, but he was leading the crew. He saved the good things for the others.

She was the only girl on the trip, and probably the youngest person. Maybe fifteen, she thought. Months ago, she had lain in the icehouse with her teacher, a man who would not stay. He was old enough to have an old-fashioned name, Robert, to be called after people who had lived and died as they should. Old enough to know better, Mr. Fall had said, but what was better, anymore?

Everything was temporary. Robert touched her in the straw, the ice blocks sweltering around them. He let himself want her, or pretend to, for a few hours. She tried not to miss him. His hands that shook at her buttons would shake in a fire or in a swell of floodwater. Or maybe violence had killed him.

She remembered it felt cool in the icehouse, a relief from the outside where heat beat down. The last of the chillers sputtered out chemicals. The heat stayed trapped in people’s shelters, like ghosts circling the ceiling. Heat haunted. It would never leave.

News would stop for long stretches. The information that reached Scrappalachia would be written hastily on damp paper, across every scrawled inch. It was always old news.

The whale would be picked over by the time they reached it.

Mr. Fall led a practiced team. They would not bother Coral, were trained not to mess with anything except the mission. They parked the bus in an old lot, then descended through weeds to the beach. The stairs had washed away. And the beach, when they reached it, was not covered with dirt or rock as Coral had expected, but with a fine yellow grit so bright it hurt to look at, a blankness stretching on.

“Take off your boots,” Mr. Fall said.

Coral looked at him, but the others were listening, knot-ting plastic laces around their necks, stuffing socks into pockets.

“Go on, Coral. It’s all right.” Mr. Fall’s voice was gentle, muffled by the shirt.

Coral had her job to do. Only Mr. Fall and the midwife knew for sure she was pregnant, though others were talking. She knew how to move so that no one could see.

But maybe, she thought as she leaned on a fence post and popped off her boot, she wanted people to see. To tell her what to do, how to handle it. Help her. He had to have died, Robert—and that was the reason he didn’t come back for her. Or maybe he didn’t know about the baby?

People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.

She set her foot down on the yellow surface. It was warm. She shot a look at Mr. Fall.

The surface felt smooth, shifting beneath her toes. Coral slid her foot across, light and slightly painful. It was the first time she had felt sand.

The sand on the beach made only a thin layer. People had started to take it. Already, people knew sand, like everything, could be valuable, could be sold.

Coral took off her other boot. She didn’t have laces, to tie around her neck. She carried the boots under her arm. Sand clung to her, pebbles jabbing at her feet. Much of the trash on the beach had been picked through. What was left was diapers and food wrappers and cigarettes smoked down to filters.

“Watch yourselves,” Mr. Fall said.

Down the beach they followed the smell. It led them on, the sweet rot scent. They came around a rock outcropping, and there was the whale, massive as a ship run aground: red, purple, and white. The colors seemed not real. Birds were on it, the black birds of death. The enemies of scavengers, their competition. Two of the men ran forward, waving their arms and whooping to scare off the birds.

“All right everybody,” Mr. Fall said to the others. “You know what to look for.”

Except they didn’t. Not really. Animals weren’t their specialty.

Plastic was.

People had taken axes to the carcass, to carve off meat. More desperate people had taken spoons, whatever they could use to get at something to take home for candle wax or heating fuel, or to barter or beg for something else, something better.

“You ever seen a whale?” one of the men, New Orleans, asked Coral.

She shook her head. “No.”

“This isn’t a whale,” Mr. Fall said. “Not anymore. Keep your masks on.”

They approached it. The carcass sunk into the sand. Coral tried not to breathe deeply. Flesh draped from the bones of the whale. The bones were arched, soaring like buttresses, things that made up cathedrals—things she had read about in the book.

Bracing his arm over his mouth, Mr. Fall began to pry at the ribs. They were big and strong. They made a cracking sound, like a splitting tree.

New Orleans gagged and fell back.

Other men were dropping. Coral heard someone vomiting into the sand. The smell was so strong it filled her head and chest like a sound, a high ringing. She moved closer to give her feet something to do. She stood in front of the whale and looked into its gaping mouth.

There was something in the whale.

Something deep in its throat.

In one pocket she carried a knife always, and in the other she had a light: a precious flashlight that cast a weak beam. She switched it on and swept it over the whale’s tongue, picked black by the birds.

She saw a mass, opaque and shimmering, wide enough it blocked the whale’s throat. The whale had probably died of it, this blockage. The mass looked lumpy, twined with seaweed and muck, but in the mess, she could make out a water bottle.

It was plastic. Plastic in the animal’s mouth. It sparked in the beam of her flashlight.

Coral stepped into the whale.

Excerpted from Trashlands by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2021 by Alison Stine. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Author Bio: 

Alison Stine is an award-winning poet and author. Recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and received the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism. She works as a freelance reporter with The New York Times, writes for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 100 Days in Appalachia, ELLE, The Kenyon Review, and others, and has been a storyteller on The Moth. After living in Appalachian Ohio for many years, she now lives and writes in Colorado with her partner, her son, and a small orange cat.

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @AlisonStine
Instagram: @alistinewrites

Friday, October 22, 2021

Review: Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date October 2021

She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?
But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Maybe it was her fault. She shared too much, too fast. But isn't that always what women think—that they're the ones to blame? Soon she learns there were others. Girls who thought they were in love. Girls who later went missing. She had been looking for a connection, but now she's looking for answers. Chasing a digital trail into his dark past—and hers—she finds herself on a dangerous hunt. And she's not sure whether she's the predator—or the prey.

Last Girl Ghosted is one of the better thrillers that I have read this year. It's definitely a book that you are better off going into without knowing a lot about the plot.  There were a lot of twists.  There was also a point where I thought the story was over, but thankfully it kept going onto a better conclusion. The ending was perfect. The characters were compelling and I fund myself invested in all of them.   I liked how this story tied back to The Hollows, a place that has been the setting for a number of the author's books. Some familiar faces show up in this book and that was a bonus for me.

The only thing I didn't like was the mention of the pandemic whenever the main character listened to the news.  It kept taking me out of the story.  Because we are still in the middle of this mess, I don't want it in my fiction.  Despite that, I do recommend this one.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Spotlight: Excerpt of The Path Not Taken by Ruth Logan Herne


Author: Ruth Logan Herne
Publisher: Love Inspired
Publication Date: October 26, 2021

A second chance to follow her heart…
in this novel by USA TODAY bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne
She never thought she’d see him again…
Or tell him they have a son.
Ten years ago, Devlyn McCabe refused to let her secret—their child—be the reason Ryland Bauer stayed. Now Rye’s back to make an offer on her property, and she can’t keep hiding the truth. Rye will do anything to be part of his son’s life. But he’ll have to reveal the real reason he left if he wants them to become a family…

Buy The Path Not Taken by Ruth Logan Herne

Excerpt of The Path Not Taken by Ruth Logan Herne (Oct 26)
Love Inspired

 He was on his way to a meeting he couldn’t avoid because nestled in the middle of Smoky Mountain Development Corporation’s “over 55” neighborhood concept was a thirteen-acre property owned by Devlyn McCabe. His first love. Maybe his only true love. No one before or since had touched his soul like Devlyn, but that was a long time ago.
He swallowed a sigh, determined to think of something else. Anything else. The land. The project. But there was no separating the project from Devlyn or her land. Her acreage crested the rise of the ridge, giving Kendrick Ridge its vantage point and its name. Her land abutted his and linked his to two other neighbors. Phase One of the project would only go ahead with that middle parcel: Devlyn’s land.
That meant seeing her tomorrow. Rye never took the easy way first. The other property owners were already interested in selling. He knew that.
Dev would be different because his deal came packed with a whole lot of painful history.
He took the turn onto Route 321 and headed for B&B Cabins. A small town like Kendrick Creek didn’t offer hotel and motel lodging, but a smattering of cabin rentals had sprung up over the years. As long as it had a decent bed and Wi-Fi, he was good to go.
He wanted to settle in and plan how he was going to approach Devlyn the next day. One way or another this project would move forward. Hopefully with Devlyn’s land, but if he had to go to Plan B, he would. It wouldn’t be as pretty. Devlyn’s ridge allowed a magnificent view of the mountains east of the valley, and the lower land that bordered the northern edge of Rye’s farmland was thickly forested. The wooded land changed the dynamics of the homesites. Either way, he’d be here for several weeks to put a plan in motion.
He turned into the broad driveway for B&B Cabins and parked outside the manager’s small house, while a cat happily crunched on some kind of treat nearby.
His key was taped to the door in an envelope. “Had an errand. Make yourself at home. Cabin five. We’ll finish stuff up tomorrow. B. Taylor.”
God bless the small-town mentality that trusted he wouldn’t take advantage of the older lady who’d taken his reservation the day before.
He took the key, got back in his car and drove up the curving drive to cabin five. The yard was well lit with dusk-to-dawn lights. The cabin was typical: rustic and simple. A door was centered between two identical windows. Colorful pansies broke up the wood-on-wood of the small porch, wood railings and wooden steps, while different-colored tulips bobbed their heads in narrow rectangular plots in front of the porch.
He opened the cabin door before hauling things in from the trunk of his car. The souped-up sports car had been his reward for his first major financial success years ago. He had just taken it out of storage this week, another sign of the changing seasons.
He grabbed sheets and blankets and carried them inside to the small bedroom. He could honestly say he’d never stayed in a place where he had to provide his own linens before. Clearly there was a first time for everything.
He went back for his laptop case and suitcases as a small car rolled up the driveway. It drove by him and pulled into one of the two parking spots in front of the cabin next door.
He carried a suitcase in, set it down and headed back outside.
He glanced to the right.
And his heart stopped.
About the Author

Award-winning novelist Ruthy Logan Herne has written over 40 novels and novellas and pinches herself to see if this is real! She lives on a pumpkin farm in Western New York where the long, snowy winters allow Ruthy time to find a quiet spot and write her beautiful, critically acclaimed stories. With over twenty Love Inspired books to her credit, Ruthy loves to connect with her readers on facebook and through her newsletters. Visit or contact at:
Connect with the Author 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt of Speeding Hearts by Claire Wilder


Upon returning to his hometown, Dean Hughes makes a deal with his best friend Stella Archer. However the more time they spend together the more the lines between friendship and romance blur, will they risk their friendship to take a chance on love? Fall for this hard-working hottie in Speeding Hearts by Claire Wilder, a Friends to Lovers Romance, the next book in the Blue Collar Romance Series.
Read Now!

Stella Archer has never been afraid of a challenge.
She was the first woman mechanic in her hometown. She runs her own garage.
And when her best friend and fellow mechanic Dean announces he's moving back to his hometown, instead of being devastated, she jumps at the chance to work part-time at his uncle’s dirt track—and finally fulfill her dream of racing cars.
But with plenty of time to train with her best friend, for the first time in my life, Stella's scared. Scared that racing isn’t really what she wants.
Scared that Dean is.
Dean Hughes knows he can handle moving back to his hometown to care for his sick—and surly—father. He can even deal with returning to the scene of all his past mistakes.
The only thing he can't take is the idea of losing his best friend Stella.
Now that she's here in Oak Bend, she’s going to see what a screw-up he really is.
Worse, he might see the truth he's been hiding from himself: he wants more from Stella than just friendship.
And when Stella finds out?
There'll be no putting the brakes on what comes next.
Add to Goodreads!
My thoughts:

Speeding Hearts is the next book in the Oak Bend series.  This one is a friends to lovers story.  Dean and Stella are best friends. When Stella moves to his home town for the summer, they realize their feelings are much stronger. I thought this was a cute romance.  It did take a bit longer to get together than I would have liked. But they were right for each other.  

One thing I did love about the book was the racing storyline.  Stella has always wanted to drive race cars.  However, when she starts driving them, she begins to wonder if she really wants to do it.  Often people go through struggles like that.  They have a dream for a long time, yet when that dream becomes a reality it ends up not being what they had envisioned.  And that is OK.    This was a nice addition to the series.  I highly recommend it.

Copyright 2021 Claire Wilder
As it turned out, work kept me busy enough all day that I didn’t have time to think much about Dean at all.
Or at least, not much. I still felt the littlest fluttering in my stomach when I thought about tonight—he was going to come by the motel at seven-thirty and take me on a little tour of his hometown.
It almost felt like a date.
Except that it was my buddy, Dean.
But those thoughts only happened a few times that day. Most of the time, I concentrated on working my ass off.
By the time the closing time rolled around, I was shocked at where the day had gone. John gave me a begrudging nod as he left. He’d nitpicked my work all day, but before clocking out, he actually said, “You’re better than the last kid by a mile,” which I took to be the highest compliment.
Freddie showed me how to lock up, which I’d be doing on my own a couple days a week, and then, mercifully, I was on my own. Throughout the day, a couple of drivers had come by to practice on the oval, and each time, I’d looked up longingly at the sound of them but turned quickly back to whatever engine I was working on. It was imperative I showed Colin what I could do.
Now, with the track silent, I stood next to one of the nicer cars parked outside in the lot. I looked around. The place was completely deserted, and I happened to have the keys Freddie had handed me.
The keyring in my hand, I knew, contained the key for this particular car. I’d seen Freddie drive it around front earlier.
Colin had said I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere near the oval.
But he didn’t say anything about not test driving any of the cars.
I knew I was interpreting his words more liberally than his intention, but I was a grown adult, damn it. And what harm would there be in taking it in a circle around the lot?
Just slipping behind the wheel made adrenaline shoot through my stomach. When I turned it on, I was nearly sick. For a moment, the adrenaline running through me went cold and slick. What the hell was I doing? I’d never actually gotten this close to my dream of racing cars before. I’d driven nice cars in my career, sure. I’d topped the speed limit on the highway a hundred times over. But actually sitting in a street stock car with my hands wrapped around the wheel, my foot on the gas, the stick in neutral… I wondered for the first time if this dream of mine was really mine or something I’d cooked up to show everyone how tough I was.
No. This was mine. It had to be. Checking to make sure the car was in neutral, I revved the engine.
It roared under me, making me laugh with the thrill of it. I did it again.
Man, this felt better than sex.
Not quite, but in the moment, it felt close.
Then I chickened out. I cut the engine and got out, slamming the car door behind me. Then I raised my fists in mock triumph, imagining the crowd screaming around me. I even made the sound I used to make as a kid playing with my brothers. Then someone clapped behind me.
I couldn’t help it, I yelped.
Whirling around, my ponytail hit me in the eye just like it had the last time I was caught out here.
“Shit!” I swore, both at the sting in my eye and the mortification at getting caught by the boss playing make-believe.
But when I blinked, I saw it wasn’t Colin. The figure before me was tall. Broad across the shoulders. Covered in tattoos.
Looking at me with a grin that made my insides melt into taffy.

About Claire Wilder

I write steamy lakeside romance novels (and the occasional sweet & sexy short story). When I'm not writing I'm either reading, taking long walks by the ocean (which I consider a giant lake!), or frolicking in the trees with my husband and three kids.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt of The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski
On Sale Date: October 12, 2021
Trade Paperback
Graydon House
$16.99 USD
352 pages
For fans of Lisa Jewell, Aimee Molloy, and Joshilyn Jackson, an upmarket suspense novel from a multi-award-winning author about a tightknit group of suburban mothers who invite a new neighborhood mom into their fold, and the fallout the night of the annual block party, when secrets from the past come back to haunt them…
The annual block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul de sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plan the event for months.
Except the Ivy Five have been four for a long time.
When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet... until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.
As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They'll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.

My thoughts:

 The Mother Next Door is a suburban neighborhood thriller involving a group of mpothers who harbor a secret.  Theresa is the new mom on the street and the moms want her on their side.  She is the new principal's wife after all.  As Theresa settles in, she realizes she will do whatever it takes to be a part of the "in crowd".  

I actually ended up really enjoying this one. There were several times that I was surprised or I thought I had it figured out, but ended up being wrong.  It's full of twists and turns.  The story is told through alternating perspectives of Theresa, Kendra and "Ghost Girl".  I did guess the identity of Ghost girl pretty early on, but that is only one of the surprises.  While none of the characters were very likable, I found I didn't mind so much.  The mystery had me sucked in enough to let that go.  As a former PTA member, I will say that I am thankful I wasn't part of a group of women like the ones in this book.  I definitely recommend this, it's dark and twisty and one worth trying out.


Ladies and gentlemen, skulls and boys: by the time our Halloween block party is over tonight, one of us will be dead.               
And I don’t mean dead as in dull, or dead as in zombified. I mean dead as in gone. Dead as in expired. Killed.
You may be feeling distressed about this, knowing what you know about Ivy Woods—the great neighborhood it is, the sweet, loving families that live there. How could such a tragedy happen in such a wonderful place? You may have traveled here yourself, as a child or as a parent, lured in by the local fame of the street and its ghoulish decorations each year. The lights, the smoke, the gravestones, and the moaning. The witches, cackling and handing out candy. The swarms of little Frankensteins and cowboys and robots and ballet dancers lugging their pillowcases and plastic pumpkin buckets filled with sugar and junk.
But Ivy Woods isn’t perfect.
Far from it.
Look closer. Look under the makeup and the masks, look into the windows of the perfect houses. Dig under the surface of those freshly mowed lawns and you’ll find the worms. I’ve looked—believe me, I’ve looked. There’s something about this street. There are secrets. I know from watching through the windows, from hearing the hushed conversations, from lingering on their faces when they think everyone else has looked away.
Oh they think they are perfect. They pat themselves on the back for throwing such good parties, for raising such fine children, for living in such big houses.
But they are pretending.
They don masks on this one single night to dress up as someone or something else, but in reality they live their lives this way.
We all do.
We hate ourselves. We are too fat, or too thin. We should work hard, be smarter. We are lonely and depressed. We are worried about money. We are ashamed of the way that our friends and family treat us. But we lie about it all. We hide behind a protective façade, fragile glass figurines inside elaborate dollhouses designed to look like perfect, safe, happy places.
Tonight it will all shatter.
Watch closely and you’ll begin to see what I see. There’s trouble in the air, a cold wind blowing in from far away, and it’s settled on Ivy Woods Drive. The secrets and the lies we tell ourselves and others will emerge tonight like spirits of the dead. Lines will be drawn. Sides will be taken. Someone won’t make it out alive.
I can’t save that person, but I’ll tell the story. Turn over the rocks, expose the worms. Pull back the masks.
Because I know their secrets, secrets that will destroy them all.
If they don’t destroy themselves first.
Excerpted from The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski, Copyright © 2021 by Tara Laskowski. Published by Graydon House Books. 
Photo by Ron Aira

TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics' Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.

Author website:
Twitter: @TaraLWrites
Instagram: @taralwrites

Monday, October 18, 2021

Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Author: Megan Collins
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: August 2021

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

I was really looking forward to The Family Plot.  It seemingly had all of the right elements for a great mystery.  Sadly, it didn't really live up to my expectations.  Dahlia and her siblings have come back home for their father's funeral.  It's been years since they have been back.  A body is found buried in the grave intended for her father.  It turns out to be her long lost brother.  

As I said, I didn't love this one. I wasn't very surprised at the solution to the mystery.  I thought the characters were all unlikable and I couldn't find anyone to root for.  Especially the main character.  She was kind of whiny.  What her parents did to them growing up in terms of their education was outright child abuse. The book had a very YA feel, even though it is an adult novel. It could be because Dahlia was twenty-six, yet she acted like she was 15.  I hated the ending.  It was just so unrealistic to me.  This is the second book by this author that I have been disappointed with.  Maybe it's just me...

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Spotlight: Excerpt of The Duke is Wicked by Tracy Sumner

Author: Tracy Sumner
NarratorKimberly M. Wetherell
Length: 9 hours 16 minutes
Publisher: Tracy Sumner⎮2021
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: League of Lords, Book 3
Release date: Jul. 27, 2021

Victorian historical romance with a sexy splash of the supernatural.
Leagues and lives apart, Delaney and Sebastian navigate a world they're not destined for together. Can she let down her guard and learn to trust a WICKED Duke?
He's harboring a fiery secret...

The Duke of Ashcroft is determined to keep the League of Lords under wraps. After all, the group's supernatural gifts brought the mystical misfits together and nobody is going to tear them apart. Intelligent and wily, Sebastian knows better than to trust anyone—especially an impulsive and intrusive American woman.

She's looking for answers...
Competitive and confident, Delaney Temple is hellbent on uncovering the truth about the League. She'll stop at nothing to unearth the secrets they're burying. But when Sebastian is in trouble and Delaney comes to his rescue, their contempt turns to a burning desire. Suddenly, with their passion ignited, they can no longer deny their attraction.

A forbidden love..
Ready for the Duke of Ashcroft's story of forbidden love and intrigue? The Duke is Wicked is #3 in the steamy Victorian paranormal romance series Publishers Weekly calls, “A superpowered twist on Victorian romance!"

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About the Author: Tracy Sumner

Award-winning author Tracy Sumner’s storytelling career began when she picked up a historical romance on a college beach trip, and she fondly blames LaVyrle Spencer for her obsession with the genre. She’s a recipient of the National Reader’s Choice, and her novels have been translated into Dutch, German, Portuguese and Spanish. She lived in New York, Paris and Taipei before finding her way back to the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
When not writing sizzling love stories about feisty heroines and their temperamental-but-entirely-lovable heroes, Tracy enjoys reading, snowboarding, college football (Go Tigers!), yoga, and travel. She loves to hear from romance readers!

About the Narrator: Kimberly M. Wetherell

I’m Kimberly, an award-nominated SAG-AFTRA voiceover artist and director in Brooklyn, NY, specializing in audiobooks. When they let me, I do a little commercial VO and animation on the side.
My voice is best described as a bright, warm mezzo, and my range effortlessly spans from plucky tween to snarky Millennial to my own belovedly blasé GenX.
I’ve narrated for “Big Five” publishers Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, and I also direct audiobook productions for Macmillan and Penguin Random House. Additionally, I’ve narrated for Dreamscape Media, Tantor Audio, Deyan Audio, and OrangeSky Audio (among others), along with several independent authors through ACX and Findaway Voices.
My 30-year career in the Arts has made me a certifiable polymath. I’m a classically-trained actor, an award-winning filmmaker, an accomplished international opera director and producer, a professional pastry chef, an NYC reading series host, and not for nothin’, I’m a pretty decent shuffleboard player. Above all, however, I’m a life-long book nerd and I can’t believe I’ve finally figured out how to read books for a living!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Spotlight: A Delicious Dilemma by Sera Taino


Author: Sera Taino
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Publication Date: August 2021

Different worlds collide in Sera Taino's debut novel.
It's hard to remain enemies when you've broken bread together
Val Navarro’s first mistake: going out dancing after a bad breakup when the chef should be focused on her family business. Her second mistake? Thinking the handsome, sensitive stranger she meets could be more than a rebound – until she discovers he’s Philip Wagner of Wagner Developments. His father’s company could shut down her Puerto Rican restaurant and unravel her tight-knit neighborhood. When Philip takes over negotiations, Val wants to believe he has good intentions. But is following her heart a recipe for disaster?

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Excerpt of A Delicious Dilemma by Sera Taino (Aug 24)
Harlequin Special Edition

Val took a sip of her añejo, listening to the beats of a reggaetón mash-up as it boomed through the room. People made their way to the dance platform, dappled in colors from the strobe lights. Val loved the way the music blasted through her body, the reverberations of the pumping bass through her bones; it had been too long since she’d felt this loose.
Olivia, who had stopped to talk to people she knew, grabbed Val by the hand and pulled her onto the dance floor.
“I also forgot how much fun dancing could be,” Val shouted.
“Yeah, that Luke did a number on you,” Olivia shouted back.
Val waved her hands, indicating she didn’t want to talk about Luke or anyone else. She just wanted to enjoy the music, let her mind grow empty of everything except the lyrics and the beat. Reggaetón was a gift to someone like her—US born but every bit as Puerto Rican as a transplant could be without having lived on the island. It was the soundtrack of the vaivén, or the back-and-forth movement that characterized the migration of people going from the mainland to the island and back again.
Val danced until the song changed. Olivia’s face split into an uncharacteristically dazzling smile at her girlfriend’s arrival. Aleysha’s smooth, dark skin contrasted sharply with light brown eyes the color of burnished bronze that were shocking even from a distance.
Aleysha raced over to them, giving Val a glossy, messy kiss on her cheek before flinging her arms around Olivia. “Why didn’t you text me when you got here?”
Olivia shrugged. “I figured you’d be late, like always, so why stress you?”
“You’re one to talk. Let’s go sit with Malena.” She gave Val a wink. “She’s been seeing this one guy and he brought a friend of his.”
Ugh, not a spontaneous blind date. That was the last thing she needed tonight. But of course, before she could say no, Olivia spoke for her. “Why not?”
“I’m not really—” Val started but Aleysha put a hand on her shoulder.
“We’re just hanging out. No pressure, okay?”
She just wanted to dance, maybe catch a buzz and go home in peace. But Olivia and Aleysha were wrapped up in each other, so Val had no choice but to follow them. At the far end of the patio, she recognized Malena, who often stopped into her family’s restaurant for a late lunch. She sold real estate in one of the smaller boutique agencies in Wagner Financial Place. Malena was leaning into a good-looking man she introduced as Étienne, who said his name with a voluptuous, Creole accent.
At the end of the table, almost in his own orbit, sat Étienne’s friend.
“And this is Philip,” Aleysha said.
He was whispering something to Étienne, initially unaware of her, but when he turned, the overhead lights flashed, illuminating the most striking blue eyes she’d ever seen. They reminded her of the Caribbean lapping at the beaches of Ponce, where her family used to vacation when she was a child. Music skipped through the space between them before passing her by. How long had she been staring at him. A few seconds? Minutes?
She gave him a cursory wave, determined to cover her dazed reaction before taking the seat next to Olivia. He had the kind of face that was just shy of being too good-looking and it kept dragging at her attention. Through sheer force of will, she fixed her gaze on her cousin to tame her wayward eyes, focusing intensely on her conversation without re
About the Author

Debut romance author Sera Taíno has been selected for Harlequin’s Romance Includes You Mentorship, an initiative launched in 2019 to reach out to diverse communities of writers and bring more own voices stories to romance readers. Her unpublished, #ownvoices novel, Incomparable, will be published with Harlequin Special Edition in 2021 as part of the mentorship initiative. When she is not writing, she can usually be found teaching, traveling, or wrangling her family.
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