Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Spotlight: Without a Hitch by Avery Maxwell

Author: Avery Maxwell
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: July 27, 2022
Tagline: Never fall for the bridesmaid.
“A wedding is the beginning of the end.” —Lochlan Blaine
Look, I’ve seen firsthand what marriage does to a man. I’m not interested. You want to take the leap? Fine. But have the decency to elope. Leave me out of it.
And then I see her. The happily-ever-after-loving bridesmaid at the wedding I couldn’t get out of.
This flower-wielding bombshell is all wrong for me. But one night together is enough to convince me that she could be the answer to my problem. All I need is three weeks with her…
“Weddings are magic.” —Tilly Camden
I love love. And weddings. That’s how I land the best job in the world: professional bridesmaid. Brides hire me to make sure their big day goes off without a hitch…usually while dressed in taffeta.
I can’t wait until I find the one. The cranky, three-piece-suit-wearing Adonis who smirks at the idea of happily ever after is definitely not him. Lochlan Blaine has “heartbreaker” written all over him.
I should know better. But when a panty-melting one-night stand turns into an offer I can’t refuse, what’s a bridesmaid to do? It’s only three weeks. It’s just business.
I can’t possibly get my heart broken. Can I?
Buy Links: Kindle Unlimited
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon UK
Amazon AU
Author Bio:
An American Romance Author, Avery loves wine, sexy stories, pizza, and her family.
Avery is a hot mess of a mom to four wildly sweet mini-humans and two fur babies. She spends far too much time in her pj's and trips over herself multiple times a day. Accident-prone is probably a fair assessment.
Having grown up in small-town Vermont, Avery often jokes about being the most naïve person in the room. Luckily, she's used that small-town charm to write character-driven contemporary romances that have you laughing one minute, and crying the next.
When she isn't refereeing (three little boys require a lot of whistle blowing), or cuddled up with her real-life Prince Charming, you can find her tucked away with a bottle of wine (because those steamy scenes don't write themselves!), or coaching her daughter's basketball team.
Avery now lives in North Carolina where she brings life, love, and a happily ever after to every character she writes.
Social Media Links:

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

August Mini Musings

The Fire Thief:  This is the first book in a new to me series.  It takes place in Hawaii.  I liked the main character.  I feel like I could continue with the series as long as she is the protagonist.  The mystery was solid.  I would recommend this one.

Guilty Pleasures:  This is also the first in the "Guilty" series.  It was OK.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.  Honestly, I wasn't sure really how the hero fell for the heroine.  Or vice versa.  He was kind of an ass to her most of the time.  And she only seemed to be attracted to his looks.  I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series.

The Woman in the Library:  I thought this was a good twisty msytery.  I was definitely kept guessing.  However, I didn't really love any of the characters. The beta reader letters were weird and I'm not sure I loved that part of the book.  The ending also kind of ruined things for me. I detest ambiguous endings.  I would have been a lot happier had I not read that last scene.

A Very Mountain Man Halloween:  If you are good with very insta-love short stories with super alpha males, then this is for  you.  I liked it about as much as the first was fine.  It was a quick read so there is that.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Cover Reveal: The Book Boyfriend by Kate Stacy

We are so excited to share the cover reveal for The Book Boyfriend by Kate Stacy, the final book in the Meet Cute Book Club Series. Keep reading for more details about this sexy, return to hometown romance.
Title: The Book Boyfriend
Author: Kate Stacy
Release Date: 9/22/2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Trope: Wrong Side of the Tracks Romance, Opposites Attract, Blue Collar Romance
Escape with the Meet Cute Book Club, where meet cutes don't happen only between the pages of romance novels, and one by one, all the members find their own happily ever afters.

I never thought I’d have a real-life meet cute, but the minute Crossland Parker walks into my life, it starts feeling like I’m living in the pages of a romance novel.

He sweeps me off my feet, and I find myself calling fast and hard for the rough around the edges mechanic. He’s a troubled bad boy with a heart of gold.

Cross fits into my life effortlessly, even sharing my love of books. He’s everything I didn’t know I wanted in a man. Attentive, sweet, a little bit possessive. He’s also my biggest source of support when I decide I want to buy the building next door so I can expand my business. So what if he has a criminal record? No one is perfect.

Unless you ask my stepfather. He expects nothing less than perfection, but not even I could ever come close.

After spending too many years wandering when I was released from prison, I came back to Abbott Ridge to start over.

I wasn’t expecting Mila Santos to fall into my arms, but I’m irrevocably drawn to the curvy little beauty who owns the bookstore. She’s a good girl, too good for a guy like me.

Our relationship develops faster than most, but I spent too many years of my life locked up. Now that I’m out, I refuse to waste a single second. I’m still not sure I deserve someone as sweet as Mila, but if she accepts me and all my faults, there’s no way I’m letting her go. Only a fucking fool would do that.
My past is no secret, and I knew the day would come when someone would try to use it against me. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

Is happily ever after possible when a good girl falls for the guy from the wrong side of the tracks?
The Book Boyfriend is a standalone, wrong side of the tracks romance that is part of the Meet Cute Book Club multi-author series.

Pre-Order on Amazon
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.
Follow: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads | BookBub | Website | Newsletter | Amazon

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Blog Tour: Excerpt from The Thread Collectors by Shaunna J. Edwards & Alyson Richman


Authors: Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman
ISBN: 9781525899782
Paperback Original 
Publication Date: August 30, 2022
Publisher: Graydon House

“An unforgettable story of female strength, hope and friendship. This collaborative work is magnificent—a true revelation!” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman with the Blue Star

“A brilliant story brimming with unexpected friendships and family ties. Historically sound and beautifully stitched, The Thread Collectors will stay with you long after the last page is turned.” —Sadeqa Johnson, international bestselling author of Yellow Wife  

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.
As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us. Loosely inspired by the authors' family histories, this stunning novel will stay with readers for a long time.

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble
McNally Jackson
Enjoy this excerpt:

New Orleans, Louisiana March 1863

She opens the door to the Creole cottage just wide enough to ensure it is truly him. Outside, the pale moon is high in the sky, illuminating only half of William’s face. Stella reaches for his sleeve and pulls him inside. 

He is dressed to run. He wears his good clothes, but has chosen his attire thoughtfully, ensuring the colors will camouflage in the wilderness that immediately surrounds the city. In his hand, he clasps a brown canvas case. They have only spoken in whispers during their clandestine meetings about his desire to fight. To f lee. The city of New Orleans teeters on the precipice of chaos, barely contained by the Union forces occupying the streets. Homes abandoned. Businesses boarded up. Stella’s master comes back from the front every six weeks, each time seeming more battered, bitter and restless than the last.

William sets down his bag and draws Stella close into his chest, his heartbeat accelerating. He lifts a single, slim finger, slowly tracing the contours of her face, trying to memorize her one last time.

“You stay here, no matter what…” he murmurs into her ear. “You must keep safe. And for a woman like you, better to hide and stay unseen than venture out there.”

In the shadows, he sees her eyes shimmer. But she balances the tears from falling, an art she had been taught long ago—when she learned that survival, not happiness, was the real prize.

Stella slips momentarily from William’s arms. She tiptoes toward a small wooden chest. From the top drawer, she retrieves a delicate handkerchief with a single violet embroidered in its center. With materials in the city now so scarce, she has had to use the dark blue thread from her skirt’s hem to stitch the tiny flower on a swatch of white cotton cut from her petticoat.

“So you know you’re never alone out there,” she says as she closes William’s fingers around the kerchief.

He has brought something for her, too. A small speckled cowrie shell that he slips from a worn indigo-colored pouch. The shell and its cotton purse are his two most sacred possessions in the world. He puts the pouch, now empty, back into his pocket.

“I’ll be coming back for that, Stella.” William smiles as he looks down at the talisman in his beloved’s hand. “And for you, too… Everything will be different soon.”

She nods, takes the shell and feels its smooth lip against her palm. There was a time such cowries were used as a form of currency for their people, shells threaded on pieces of string exchanged for precious goods. Now this shell is both worthless and priceless as it’s exchanged for safekeeping between the lovers.

There is no clock in her small home. William, too, wears 

no watch. Yet both of them know they have already tarried too long. He must set out before there is even a trace of sunlight and, even then, his journey will be fraught with danger.

“Go, William,” she says, pushing him out the door. Her heart breaks, knowing the only protection she can offer him is a simple handkerchief. Her love stitched into it by her hand.

He leaves as stealthily as he arrived, a whisper in the night. Stella falls back into the shadows of her cottage. She treads silently toward her bedroom, hoping to wrap herself tightly in the folds of the quilt that brings her so much comfort.

“You alright?” A soft sound emerges in the dark.

“Ammanee?” Stella’s voice breaks as she says the woman’s name.

“Yes, I’m here.” Ammanee enters the room, her face brightened by a small wax candle in her grip.

In the golden light, she sits down on the bed and reaches for Stella’s hand still clutching the tiny shell, which leaves a deep imprint in her palm.

“Willie strong,” Ammanee says over and over again. “He gon’ make it. I know.”

Stella doesn’t answer. A flicker of pain stabs her from the inside, and she finally allows her tears to run.

Author Bios: 
Phtot Credit:
Ron Contarsy-Highmark Studios

SHAUNNA J. EDWARDS has a BA in literature from Harvard College and a JD from NYU School of Law. A former corporate lawyer, she now works in diversity, equity and inclusion. She is a native Louisianian, raised in New Orleans, and currently lives in Harlem with her husband. The Thread Collectors is her first novel. Find her on Instagram, @shaunnajedwards.

Shaunna Edwards 
Facebook: Author Shaunna Edwards
Instagram: @shaunnajedwards
Photo Credit:
Jeanine Boubli

 is the USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of several historical novels, including The Velvet HoursThe Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture. Alyson graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history and Japanese studies. She is an accomplished painter and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research, and travel. Alyson's novels have been published in twenty-five languages and have reached bestseller lists both in the United States and abroad. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children, where she is currently at work on her next novel. Find her on Instagram, @alysonrichman.

Social Links:
Alyson Richman - Author Website 
Twitter: @alysonrichman
Facebook: Author Alyson Richman
Instagram: @AlysonRichman

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Review: Never Coming Home by Kate Williams

Author: Kate Williams
Publisher: Delacourte Press
Publication Date: June 2022

Everyone knows Unknown Island—it’s the world’s most exclusive destination. Think white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and luxury accommodations. Plus, it’s invite only, no one over twenty-one allowed, and it’s absolutely free. Who wouldn’t want to go?

After launching with a showstopping viral marketing campaign, the whole world is watching as the mysterious resort opens its doors to the First Ten, the ten elite influencers specifically chosen to be the first to experience everything Unknown Island has to offer. You know them. There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.

What they don’t know is that they weren’t invited to Unknown Island for their following—they were invited for their secrets. Everyone is hiding a deadly one, and it looks like someone’s decided it’s payback time. Unknown Island isn’t a vacation, it’s a trap. And it’s beginning to look like the First Ten—no matter how influential—are never coming home.

If you are a fan of And Then There were None, then you should enjoy this one.  It involves a bunch of online influencers who get invited to a remote island to be the first guests as n exclusive resort.  Only when they get there, it's not what they were expecting. 

Never Coming Home ended up being a lot of fun.  It has everything you would expect in a teen slasher book/film.  The death scenes are gruesome, the teens are fairly unlikable and the atmosphere was creepy.  All of the teens have secrets of course.  I was pleasantly surprised at the ending and didn't call any of the secrets.  It's not the best I've ever read, but it was still a good time.  I do recommend it.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Cover Reveal: That Ship Has Sailed by HM Thomas


Join us for the cover reveal of That Ship Has Sailed, the next book in the Love at Sea Series. Keep reading for more details about this sexy, widow romance.
Title: That Ship Has Sailed
Author: HM Thomas
Release Date: 9/19/2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Widow Romance, No Strings, Second Chance Romance, Vacation Fling
Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, clearly had never lost their spouse.

Courtney Fowler was living proof of that.

After her husband’s death, she swore off love and relationships, too afraid of being hurt again.
Then her best friend tricks her into a singles cruise where Courtney runs into hotshot firefighter and snowboarder - Seth Mitchell.

With a dangerous job and the threat of one day never making it back home, Seth is everything Courtney has tried to avoid - and everything she secretly wants.

When they find themselves ditched by their friends, they decide to make the best of their time on the cruise ship and enjoy each other’s company – no strings attached.

But what happens when the cruise is over and it’s time to return to the real world? Can Seth teach Courtney to love again and convince her that together they’re worth the risk or has that ship sailed?

That Ship Has Sailed is a widow/finding love again 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.

HM Thomas grew up in a southern town creating worlds bigger and more dramatic than her own. She credits her dad’s nightly story times for her love of the written word and her mom’s devotion to Days of Our Lives for her love of dramatic fiction.
HM was writing fan-fiction long before it was a thing, taking the characters from her mom’s soaps or her own books and creating even more twists and turns for them. As she got older, she wrote her own friends into the plots. Some of them are still there.
After graduating from Clemson University, HM got her own Happily Ever After and decided to start writing them for her characters as well. She began focusing on romance, oftentimes mixed with suspense.
When not writing, HM enjoys traveling and hiking with her husband, three children and rescue dog. On a good day, she can be found with a book in her hand. On a really good day, there will be a campfire.
Follow: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok| Goodreads | BookBub | Website | Newsletter | Amazon

About The Love at Sea 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.
Each story features a brand new couple and a fun trope from our amazing line up of authors including: Kate Stacy, HM Thomas, Mari Sol, S.A. Clayton, T.L. Anderson, Karigan Hale, Susan Renee, and A.M. Williams.
This promotional event is brought to you by The Indie Pen PR

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Cover Reveal: The Accidental Bride by Christina Hovland

Author: Christina Hovland
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release Date: 5/23/2023

USA Today bestselling author Christina Hovland returns with a sparkling romantic comedy that proves that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas—especially when he’s the sexy stranger you just accidentally married…

About Christina Hovland

USA Today Bestselling Author Christina Hovland lives her own version of a fairy tale—an artisan chocolatier by day and romance writer by night. Born in Colorado, Christina received a degree in journalism from Colorado State University. Before opening her chocolate company, Christina’s career spanned from the television newsroom to managing an award-winning public relations firm. She’s a recovering overachiever and perfectionist with a love of cupcakes and dinner she doesn’t have to cook herself. A 2017 Golden Heart® finalist, she lives in Colorado with her first-boyfriend-turned-husband, four children, and the sweetest dogs around.

Tour Links:

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Blog Tour: Excerpt from The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein

The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein Banner

The Potrero Complex

by Amy L Bernstein

August 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein

Journalist Rags Goldner is battle-scarred and heartbroken after covering a devastating pandemic that rages in Baltimore for five years. She leaves the city with her partner in search of a simpler life in small-town Maryland—only to discover nothing in Canary is simple. A teenager is missing, and it falls to Rags to fight the forces of apathy, paranoia, and creeping fascism to learn the shocking truth about Effie Rutter’s fate—and the fate of thousands like her.

Praise for The Potrero Complex:

“Anyone immersed in the experience and possible outcomes of social change after this pandemic will find The Potrero Complex frightening and hard to put down, presenting thought-provoking insights on the progress and erosion of freedom in the name of safety and social preservation.”

D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Bernstein sets us in a post-pandemic time just the barest bit beyond our own, on the way to a dystopia that feels too frightening and too familiar. A thoughtful, complex, well-executed novel—not a who-done-it? but a much scarier what-in-the-hell-is-happening?”

Robert Kanigel, author of Hearing Homer’s Songand The Man Who Knew Infinity

“An intelligently conceived tale of an unthinkable yet credible future. A novel of dark deeds in dark times.”

Karen S. Bennett, author of Beautiful Horseflesh

“A complicated tale of post-pandemic times in the not-so-distant future, where share cars, data phones, and respies figure into a plot that is scarily believable.”

Avery Caswell, author of Salvation

“Richly textured, with many evocative threads [that] explore the culture of a post-pandemic small town—a town that camouflages its disturbing secrets. A cautionary tale.”

Kathy Mangan, Professor Emeritus, McDaniel College, author of Taproot

“A scarily prescient novel that deftly explores the fraught connections between individuality, society, public policy, and technology.”

Courtney Harler, Harler Literary LLC

“An emotional, haunting tale leaves you with more questions than answers, and that’s a good thing. A memorable and timely reminder that there are no easy solutions when fear and conspiracy feed like hungry beasts and the innocent exist simply for the taking.”

PJ McIlvaine, screenwriter, author of My Horrible Year

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Regal House Publishing
Publication Date: August 2nd 2022
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 1646032500 (ISBN13: 9781646032501)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Regal House Publishing

Read an excerpt:

MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky, blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.

The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner, Flint Sten, arrived in Canary.

The girl’s name was Effie and she was sixteen.

Effie’s pixelated image beamed down at Rags like a celebrity unaware that her fifteen minutes of fame were up.

Rags refused to give a damn about the missing girl who, after all, she didn’t know. Nor did she know much about the town, Canary, where the driverless ShareCar she and Flint had leased for their move had brought them. But missing kids make news, and as Canary’s newly imported one-and-only newspaper editor, Rags knew she’d be expected to do something about it. Which meant she wouldn’t control the news hole on day one. Which meant all kinds of people would come at her to do one thing or another.

Rags hadn’t been in town five minutes and already she could tell things were going to get complicated—and complicated was the very thing she and Flint were trying to get away from. Damn all the politicians and peacekeepers and their gatekeeping bullshit, she thought.

As the car made a final turn toward its programmed destination, Rags’s twitch flared up: the muscles in her upper left cheek and the outer corner of her left eye performed an uncontrolled little dance. “Ah, crap,” she said. “Turning Main Street into Times Square won’t help them find the girl. What a waste. And all that light pollution.” She stretched her face, willing the twitch to stop.

Flint held up his dataphone and aimed it at one of the digital posters as they cruised by. The static image of Effie sprang into augmented-reality motion: she turned her head, blinked, and laughed.

“Stop doing that, Flint,” Rags said. “Just don’t.” No way that girl, out there somewhere, is smiling.

“Don’t get spun up so fast.” Flint looked over at her for the first time in hours. Their connection was like a faulty wire, fritzing on and off. “Give yourself some room to ramp up,” he said, putting his hand on top of her head in a familiar gesture: simmer down. It helped. The twitching nearly stopped. “We haven’t even come to a full stop yet. Pace yourself.”

“Well, look,” Rags said. “They’ve plastered her face everywhere. Probably been like that for weeks.”

“You think the story about this girl has gone cold, right?” Flint said. “What do you call that?”

“Beat up. I’m guessing the story’s beat up. The first thing I’m going to hear is that they want me to flog it some more. Remind me, why are we doing this?”

“Let’s not,” Flint said, looking back down at his screen. “Anyway, it was your idea.”

As the ShareCar rolled noiselessly down Main Street, Rags saw just one person hanging around the deserted downtown: a woman standing on a corner who appeared to be waiting. For what? Rags wondered. As they slowly passed by, Rags caught a dead look in the woman’s eyes. A block further on, Rags watched a man and a woman, both in shabby coats, as they appeared to argue, their faces contorted with anger. The man handed the woman a bicycle pump. She handed him in return a loaf of bread. What kind of town is this?

The ShareCar parked curbside at 326 Main Street. For well over a century, the little brick building, sandwiched between other little brick buildings, had housed the Canary Courant. A chatty little newspaper, the Courant, as Rags knew from her research, printed anything and everything within the bounds of what people once called ‘common decency’ about the town of Canary, a tiny hamlet in the northwestern corner of Maryland, not far from the Pennsylvania border. The kind of town that flew under the radar for anyone who did not live there.

The fact that the Canary Courant was still a going concern in 2030 was astounding, even mysterious, and a key reason that Rags was here. Though perhaps not the only reason. The paper’s survival was even more of a puzzle when one considered that the town itself, which had been shriveling for decades, was now skeletal. The pandemic, which everybody called The Big One, had raged for nearly five years. It hollowed out an already hollowed out place, killing off over two-thirds of the elderly population living out their days in Canary. Those folks never knew what hit them—their dreams of slipping into gracious idleness on their front-porch rockers, eating breakfast on the cheap at the town diner, destroyed in an agony of fever and blood.

On Canary’s rural outskirts, on their way into town, Rags had seen the crematorium, a hulking cinderblock rectangle erected for one single purpose: to incinerate the infected dead into piles of decontaminated black ash. She was sure Flint missed it— though it was very hard to miss, rising up from a flat expanse of undeveloped land—just as he’d missed seeing Effie until she pointed it out. Like I’m his goddamn tour guide.

Now, nearly two years after The Big One had been officially declared over, Rags suspected that Canary’s survivors were like a mouth full of missing teeth—families broken by a plague that took not merely the elderly but also children and their parents with a seemingly vicious and terrifyingly random determination. With an emphasis on random. Survivors everywhere were known as “Luckies,” though Rags only ever used that term in its most ironic sense.

And yet, even in a near ghost town like Canary, in a still-brittle economy, in a world where print media was a rare novelty, the ink-on-paper edition of the Canary Courant lived on, as quirky and creaky as Miss Havisham in the attic, each folded issue tossed at sunrise every Wednesday and every other Sunday into doorways and onto walkways by a young father and son living on gig income.

Rags deliberately suppressed her own journalistic instincts when it came to figuring out how this newspaper managed to keep going years past its natural expiration date. Turning a blind eye to its improbable existence was both expedient and convenient for her. She knew that income from print ads—about as old-fashioned as you could get—was the sole reason the paper was able to keep going. It surely wasn’t due to subscription revenue. But she didn’t know why anyone would buy print ads in a tiny newspaper serving a dying community in a digital world. There’d be time, she figured, to get to the bottom of that.

The main thing was that this improbable job as the Canary Courant’s editor came her way at a time when she and Flint were looking for an escape hatch that would take them away from the exhausting hysteria and suffocating autocracy that made post-pandemic, big-city living unbearable in countless ways. They came to Canary in search of a simpler life—though Rags, if pressed, could not readily have defined what that would look like. Freedom from fear? Freedom to forget? She kept these notions to herself because she did not think Flint would admit to any of it—let alone acknowledge the possibility.

Rags had worried before they arrived that an out-of-the-way place like Canary might have borne an influx of people seeking—or imagining—that this place would prove to be some kind of oasis. But from the little she’d seen so far, there was nothing oasis-like about this town. The garish and intrusive billboards of the missing Effie radiated an anxious thrum, nothing like a small-town welcome.

Rags and Flint left the ShareCar with programmed instructions to continue on and wait for them at the house they were renting a few blocks from Canary’s minuscule town center. The entire move, including Rags’s new job, had been planned remotely, so this was their first time actually in Canary. In the grand scheme of things, given the terrifying and unpredictable upheavals they’d already lived through, moving hundreds of miles away to a new place sight unseen didn’t feel at all risky.

From the outside, the newspaper office mimicked the virtual reality images Rags had already seen online. A plate-glass window with old-fashioned gold lettering rimmed in black spelled out Canary Courant. Since 1910. Rags doubted there was anything very “current” about it; the very name advertised its status as a relic with a pretentious echo of French. Rags wondered who else knew that courant in French had more than one meaning— not just “current” but also “ordinary.” Someone must have had the lettering on the window repainted many times over the years—and who even knew how to do that sort of thing, anymore?—but this was a line item Rags wasn’t going to worry about. She was here on purpose yet still felt faintly ridiculous about the whole thing.

All this ye-oldy feel-good yester-year crap, she thought. Some kind of amusement park for blinkered folks. A post-apocalyptic Disneyworld? Or maybe Westworld—a place where you could trick yourself into relaxing, just for a moment.

Yet here she was, along with her IT-guru partner Flint, a software developer steeped in AI arcana, who was definitely not the ye-oldy type. Fitting in, for both of them, was beside the point. Rags figured they’d both settle for some kind of new equilibrium. She waved her dataphone in front of the digi-lock and the heavy front door swung open. The newspaper office was a step up from the threshold because, Rags learned later, the floor had been reinforced a century ago to support the heavy metal printing presses that used to take up a third of the space with their loud, clackety racket.

As Rags entered the square-shaped newsroom, the old floor creaking, a woman likely more than twice Rags’s age—a surprise in and of itself, in this day and age—stood up quickly from a battered wooden desk, her chair scraping against the floor. Rags knew only her first name, Merry. She was tall with broad shoulders, like a swimmer, dressed in loose-fitting wrinkled clothes, her hair silver-gray and so long it touched her buttocks.

“You’re here,” Merry said with a slightly accusatory edge that did not escape Rag’s notice, as though she’d been doing something she shouldn’t.

“Yup,” Rags said as she scanned the room. She made a quick mental list of all the things she intended to change. Rags hated clutter the way healthy people hate cancer: it was offensive, invasive, and should be eliminated quickly and surgically. The heavy furniture would have to go, and the old-fashioned filing cabinets, and the shelf of tacky journalism awards—the fake-gold winged angels, the stupid quill pens mounted on blocks of glass. Rags guessed that most if not all of the people who’d won those awards were long dead, one way or another. She’d call someone as soon as possible to haul all this crap away. The place looked like a mausoleum, for chrissakes. And that told her all she needed to know about Merry, who radiated the territorial energy of a fox guarding its cubs.

“I’ve got tomorrow’s front page made up on screen,” Merry said, standing rigidly by her desk. “I suppose you want to see it.” Rags saw Flint make a tiny, familiar gesture: flicking on his ear discs (he’d insisted on upgrading from old-school earbuds), so he could drown out the voices around him and listen to the soundtrack of his choice. With this personal sound cushion enveloping him, Flint glided around the room like a restless ghost, ignoring the two women, fingering every piece of tech there was, and there wasn’t much. Rags turned her attention to Merry—watching her watching Flint, to see how much this invasion of Merry’s claimed space unsettled her. Rags didn’t bother to introduce them, as Flint wasn’t likely to visit the newsroom again.

“Is it all about the missing girl?” Rags asked.

“Is there another big story in town I’ve missed?” Merry asked, her blue-gray eyes staring icily at Rags. “Because if so, be my guest. You’ve got two whole hours until we send the file to the printers.” Merry stepped away from her desk, as if inviting Rags to step in. Rags read the gesture as it was intended: What the fuck do you know?

Well, this wasn’t going to be pretty. In that moment, Rags had to admit to herself that while she thought she longed to live in a place where she could pursue small stories of no consequence, instead of big ones that traded in life and death, she was never going to check her personality at the door. She wouldn’t look for trouble, but she wouldn’t back away from a fight, either, especially if she knew going into it that she had the upper hand. She was editor-in-chief, after all, not Merry—a holdover from a previous regime with an ill-defined job, as far as Rags knew.

Rags sat down at a battered desk nearly identical to Merry’s and began opening drawers, which contained random bits of long-obsolete office junk: Post-It notes, ballpoint pens, paperclips, a box of peppermint Tic-Tacs. Rags popped a Tic-Tac in her mouth and bit down hard; it was stale and tasteless.

“That’s Freddy’s desk,” Merry said. “You mean it was,” Rags said.

“For a long time, yeah. He was a damn good copy editor.

Nothing got past Freddy. That’s what everybody said.”

“Except The Big One, I’m guessing,” Rags said, without an ounce of sympathy. “Snuck right up on him.”

“Yeah, it did,” Merry said flatly, turning back to her screen.

“So what’s your plan, Polly?”

“Don’t call me Polly. Call me Rags.”

“I was told the new editor-in-chief is named Polly,” Merry said, as if trying to catch Rags in a lie. “I wasn’t told anything about somebody named Rags.”

“Yet here I am,” Rags said, rising from Freddy’s chair. She stood behind Merry and looked at the screen. “How many stories on this girl, Effie, have you run this month, Merry?”

“We try to post something every week.” “Why?” Rags asked.

“Why? Because we’re trying to flush out new leads, Pol—


“Are there any?” Rags asked, scrolling around the digital home page of the Courant. Merry hovered over her, as though she feared Rags would break something.

“Not in over a week,” Merry said.

“So it’s a beat-up story but you keep milking it for, what, sympathy?”

“No!” Merry said, turning red. “You don’t have any children, do you? Because if you did, you’d—”

“Bury it,” Rags said.

“You want me to bury the lead story? And replace it with what?” Merry’s cheeks flushed. She bit her lower lip. Rags noted how little it would take to get her really and truly riled up.

By this point, Flint had found an ancient PC from 2010 sitting on a dusty windowsill and he was taking it apart, down to the motherboard and its old components. Rags knew he was going to wait her out, and this would keep him happily occupied until she was good and ready to leave. He was patient in this type of situation, which Rags appreciated; his tolerance of her own need to press on, push hard, was essential to balancing them out. Maybe here, finally, she’d find a way to press less, though the situation was not promising in that respect.

Rags touched Merry’s screen to scroll through the pages of the main news well. It was only a couple of pages long before you hit sports, the crossword (unkillable), and then those unaccountably robust print ads listing everything from flying lessons to bizarre personals. She told Merry to make the lead a story she’d spotted about a leaking septic tank and to bury the Effie story right before the sports section. The need for the switch was obvious. The Effie story had had its day, and anything that remotely threatened public health, like a septic tank problem, belonged well above the fold. It was a thin fold, in any case, despite the ads.

“And when the next kid goes missing, you want us to bury

that too?” Merry asked.

“What do you mean, the next kid?” Rags asked. “It’s going to happen,” Merry said, biting her lip. “You don’t know that.”

“You don’t know anything,” Merry said.

“Then tell me, Merry. Tell me what I don’t know.”

Rags could see Merry’s chest rising and falling, as if she was struggling to hold something in. But Merry said nothing.

“Switch the stories,” Rags said. There was no way she’d back down and let Merry have her way. And besides, if there was nothing new to report on the Effie case, then there really wasn’t a compelling reason to give the story the banner headline for the week. Rags had no qualms about her decision. “Flint, let’s go find our new home.”

Flint had his head deep inside the guts of the old PC he’d found. She called to him again. He straightened up, dusted off his hands, and followed Rags out without a word to Merry, leaving the deconstructed computer in bits and pieces on the desk.


Excerpt from The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein. Copyright 2022 by Amy L Bernstein. Reproduced with permission from Amy L Bernstein. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Amy L Bernstein

Amy L. Bernstein writes stories that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, Dreams of Song Times, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. When not glued to a screen, she loves listening to jazz and classical music, drinking wine with friends, and exploring Baltimore’s glorious neighborhoods, which inspire her fiction.

Catch Up With Amy L Bernstein:
BookBub - @Amy5705
Instagram - @amylbernstein
Twitter - @amylbernstein
Facebook - @AmyLBernsteinAuthor
TikTok - @amylbernsteinauthor



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Monday, August 22, 2022

Review: Cults by Max Cutler and Kevin Conley

Author: Max Cutler and Kevin Conley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 2022

Cults prey on the very attributes that make us human: our desire to belong; to find a deeper meaning in life; to live everyday with divine purpose. Their existence creates a sense that any one of us, at any time, could step off the cliff’s edge and fall into that daunting abyss of manipulation and unhinged dedication to a misplaced cause. Perhaps it’s this mindset that keeps us so utterly obsessed and desperate to learn more, or it’s that the stories are so bizarre and unsettling that we are simply in awe of the mechanics that make these infamous groups tick.

The premier storytelling podcast studio Parcast has been focusing on unearthing these mechanics—the cult leaders and followers, and the world and culture that gave birth to both. Parcast’s work in analyzing dozens of case studies has revealed patterns: distinct ways that cult leaders from different generations resemble one another. What links the ten notorious figures profiled in Cults are as disturbing as they are stunning—from Manson to Applewhite, Koresh to Raël, the stories woven here are both spellbinding and disturbing.

Cults is more than just a compilation of grisly biographies, however. In these pages, Parcast’s founder Max Cutler and national bestselling author Kevin Conley look closely at the lives of some of the most disreputable cult figures and tell the stories of their rise to power and fall from grace, sanity, and decency. Beyond that, it is a study of humanity, an unflinching look at what happens when the most vulnerable recesses of the mind are manipulated and how the things we hold most sacred can be twisted into the lowest form of malevolence.

I'm a big fan of true crime, well who isn't?  I was really looking forward to reading Cults.  I haven't listened to the podcast, but I expect it's as well researched as this book.  The book is comprised of well known cults and some not so well known. at least by me.  

I did, for the most part, like the book.  It covers the well known cult leaders like Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Jim Jones. I have read a lot of material and watched a lot of documentaries on the well known cults so I didn't feel like I learned anything really new.  But the ones that I had not heard of were an interesting read.  I think this is a fairly good comprehensive summary of  each of the cults.  I felt like they did delve into the motivations of the leaders fairly well.  This is a book you could skip around fairly easily if you want to skip the cults you have heard about.  I would recommend it.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt of Would You Rather by Allison Ashley


Author: Allison Ashley  
ISBN: 9780778386490
Paperback Original 
Publication Date: August 23, 2022
Publisher: MIRA/ HarperCollins 

Would you rather play it safe in the friend zone, or risk it all with a modern marriage of convenience?
Noah and Mia have always been best friends, and their friendship is the most important thing to them. Life is going great for Noah and he’s up for a promotion in a job he loves. But Mia’s life is on hold as she awaits a kidney transplant. She’s stuck in a dead-end job and, never wanting to be a burden, has sworn off all romance. So when the chance of a lifetime comes to go back to school and pursue her dream, it’s especially painful to pass up. She can’t quit her job or she’ll lose the medical insurance she so desperately needs.
To support her, Noah suggests they get married—in name only—so she can study full-time and still keep the insurance. It’s a risk to both of them, with jobs, health and hearts on the line, and they’ll need to convince suspicious coworkers and nosy roommates that they’re the real deal. But if they can let go of all the baggage holding them back, they might realize that they would rather be together forever.

" me all the feels, and I love every one of them!"—Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis  
“Ashley makes favorite rom-com tropes feel new again with a pitch-perfect friends-to-lovers story.”  —Publishers Weekly starred review
Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble

Read an excerpt:

Mia Adrian stared at her phone screen, wondering what in the hell she’d just read.

Noah: Would you rather—text message edition. Daily messages with strange animal facts OR positive affirmations?

What kind of question was that? She frowned and leaned one elbow on the arm of her chair before tapping out a one-handed response.

Mia: ???

Noah: It’s a question. Would you rather receive daily animal facts or positive affirmations?

Mia: Um.

Mia: Neither?

Noah: Both it is.

Mia: Don’t you dare.

A banner appeared at the top of her screen, alerting her to a message from an unknown number.

When I breathe, I inhale confidence and exhale timidity.

She groaned and waited, hoping for some additional message that would give her instructions to opt out of whatever service he’d just signed her up for. Her gaze darted to her computer screen for a second, then back to the phone.


Would she seriously get something like this every day? How the hell was she supposed to stop them?

The text alert dinged again. Another unfamiliar number.

Elephants are the only animal that can’t jump.

She pressed a fist to her forehead.

Mia: I’m going to kill you.

Noah: Should have done it before you taped a banana under my desk. I’ve been wondering what the smell was for days.

She couldn’t help the laugh bubbling up, and glanced around to make sure no clients were around. Noah might be her best friend, but they teased each other at the office like elementary school rivals. She liked her job, but it was still work—and their games usually helped her get through until five o’clock.

This, though? This was her personal cell phone.

He’d taken it one step too far.

Mark my words, Noah Agnew. I’ll get you back for this.

Yet another chirp sounded, but this wasn’t a text message. It was the alert reminding her she needed to leave in fifteen minutes for her weekly infusion appointment.

She smiled at the thought that followed. Thursday meant a trip to the infusion center, but more importantly, it also meant chicken wings for dinner.

She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. What would it be today? Louisiana Rub? Lemon Pepper? Maybe she’d go wild and try the Mango Habanero.

They all sounded good—but which sounded best?

When it came to food—chicken wings in particular—Mia didn’t mess around.

“You’re thinking about chicken wings, aren’t you?”

Mia’s eyes popped open and she lurched to a sitting position. Noah stood on the other side of her desk, arms folded across his broad chest.

He had on the baby blue dress shirt. Blue always had been her favorite color on him—she’d told him so no less than fifty times. And yet he only wore the hue once a month, maybe not even that often.

She didn’t mention the ridiculous text messages. Best to let him think they didn’t bother her that much and get him back when he least expected it.

She flicked invisible lint from her black skirt. “It’s Thursday, is it not?”

“It is. But even if it wasn’t, I’d still know. Nothing else puts that look on your face.”

“What look is that, exactly?”

He slid his hands into his pockets. “Pure, unadulterated longing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Only every Thursday for the last nine years.” She leaned forward and dropped her elbows to the desk. “It’s your fault, you know. You’re the one who introduced me to them.”

Noah reached out and moved her nameplate several inches to the left. It drove her crazy.

No matter, she’d rearrange the items on his desk tomorrow morning before he came in.

“I didn’t know I was creating a monster.”

Mia laughed. “Too late for hindsight. Want me to bring some over tonight?”


She didn’t have to ask what flavor he wanted. Noah was as consistent as her doctor’s appointments. When he found something he liked, he stuck with it. Long ago she’d noticed he usually ordered something he’d had before when they went out to eat, and once asked him why he never branched out.

“What if I try something new, and it’s not as good?” he’d said.

“What if it’s better?” she’d returned.

But he wouldn’t be swayed. Wasn’t worth the risk, he maintained, and she’d let it go.

She made a mental note to add a ten piece of plain wings to her order tonight, and swiveled aimlessly in her chair. “How’s your day been?”

“Boring. Full of client meetings, but you know that.”

“If not, I’d be the world’s worst administrative assistant.

Speaking of meetings, you’ve got one more in—” she checked her watch “—ten minutes.”

“I do?”

“Darcy Lane, here to discuss her new fitness center.”

“Right.” He put his palm flat on the desk and leaned in a little. His eyes brightened with excitement. “So I had lunch with my dad today.”

She smiled, ignoring the pang of jealousy at his casual mention of spending time with his dad. There was a time she and her parents got together for regular meals, too. Now, she couldn’t even remember the last time. “Yeah?”

“He’s going to announce his plans to retire. This week, probably.”


They’d been expecting it. Mr. Agnew had been dropping hints about retiring for the last three years. Mia didn’t blame him—he was in his sixties and had built an impressive architecture firm of fifty employees that had become known around Denver for modern, sustainable designs. He’d earned a break.

“Yep. Said the principals would look to promote one of the associates after he left.”

When Mia had started this job many years ago, it had taken her a while to learn the titles and hierarchy structure of architects at the firm. CEO, principal, associate, architect, intern…but eventually she’d gotten it straight.

Mia rubbed her hands together. “Which means a junior principal position will open up, and it will have your name on it.”

He shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t want them to pick me just because I’m the founder’s son.”

She snorted. “Son or not, you’re the best candidate. No contest.”

“Thanks,” he said, chewing on his lower lip. “I’d love the opportunity. And I know it would make my dad proud.”

He ran a hand through his hair, leaving an errant lock sticking straight up in the back.

“Noah,” Mia scolded. She stood and beckoned him to lean over. He obeyed and she smoothed his hair down, a ritual they performed at least twice a week. “Better.”

“Thanks.” He turned toward his office. “You’d better get out of here.”

“I will as soon as your three o’clock arrives.”

He started down the hall to his office just as Julia and David, both architects like Noah, came from the opposite direction.

Julia paused and flashed him a smile. “Hey, Noah.”

He offered a polite greeting but kept moving, and Mia scowled at his back. No matter how many times she brought it up, he always brushed off the suggestion Julia was interested in him.

Julia, looking poised and elegant in a gray dress and heels, veered off into the break room while David turned to where Mia sat. “I can’t find the Trodeau file.”

She blinked, disarmed by his clipped tone. She shouldn’t have been, though, because he always spoke to her like that. “Um, I thought I filed it last week. Did you check the black file cabinet?”

He looked at her like she’d just asked if he knew right from left. “Of course.”

“Oh. I’m sorry, I might have misplaced it,” Mia said, unease filling her stomach. Every time she messed up—which wasn’t often—it always seemed to involve David. The man thought she was a complete idiot. “I’ll find it.”

David just stood there and arched a sardonic brow.

Mia glanced to the side, then forced herself to regain eye contact. “I can’t do it right this minute, I’m about to leave—”

“Right,” David said disapprovingly. “It’s Thursday. Make sure it’s on my desk first thing tomorrow. It’s important.”

“Yes, I can do that. I’ll get it to you tomorrow.”

He didn’t reply and went back the way he’d come.

A subtle chime sounded, alerting Mia to a newcomer in the office. A young woman with long brown hair stepped into the foyer, and Mia stood.

“Good afternoon.” She smiled, trying her best to shake off the interaction with David.

The woman came forward. “Oh, hello. I’m Darcy Lane—I have an appointment?” It came out like a question.

“Yes, at three o’clock with Noah.” She should probably refer to Noah as Mr. Agnew to clients, but that had always been what she called Noah’s father. “I’ll just let him know you’re here. Can I get you anything? Water, coffee?” Serving and chatting with clients while they waited was one of Mia’s favorite parts of her job.

“I’m okay, thank you.” The woman sat in the chair farthest from Mia and pulled out her cell phone.

Guess she wouldn’t be one of the chatty ones, but that was probably best since Mia had to leave, anyway. She picked up her desk phone and hit number one on her speed dial.

“Client’s here?” Noah asked by way of greeting.

“Yep. Should I set her up in the conference room?”

“Not yet. I need a couple of minutes to get her stuff together. I’ll come get her when I’m ready, you need to head out.”

“Relax. I won’t be late.”

“You will be if you don’t leave now.”

“Okay, okay. See you tonight.” She hung up and locked her computer screen. Just as she was about to turn to the woman, she heard Noah’s voice and looked up to see his head poke around the corner.

“Darcy? I’m Noah. I’m just finishing something up, and I’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

The woman seemed stunned for a second as she looked at Noah, blinking several times. “Um, sure. Yes, that’s fine. I know I’m a little early.”

Mia smiled to herself. The woman had no idea how much Noah appreciated that. Tardiness drove him crazy.

“I look forward to our meeting.” Noah’s expression was polite and businesslike, and he ducked back into his office.

Mia forwarded her phone to the office manager and gathered her purse. She went around the desk and stopped in front of Darcy. “I have to head out for an appointment, are you sure there’s nothing you need before I go?”

Darcy’s cheeks were flushed. “No, thank you.”

This wasn’t the first time a woman had become flustered around Noah. The firm did mostly commercial design, and the majority of their clients were men. But occasionally women came through, and they’d had several female interns. It was quite clear the effect Noah had on women, even if the man himself was oblivious.

Despite their long-standing friendship, Mia could still admit her best friend was hot.

Really hot.

Author Bio: 
Photo credit:
Ashley Porton

Allison Ashley is a science geek who enjoys coffee, craft beer, baking, and love stories. When she's not working at her day job as a clinical oncology pharmacist, she pens contemporary romances, usually with a medical twist. She lives in Oklahoma with her family and beloved rescue dog.

Social Links:
Author Website 
Twitter: @AllisonAuthor 
Facebook: Author Allison Ashley
Instagram: @authorallisonashley