Friday, April 19, 2024

Blog Tour: Review of Dirty Books by Carissa Knight

Dirty Books
Carissa Knight
(The One Night Stand Club, #2)
Publication date: April 12th 2024
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance


Carlie Taylor, a shy and (often clumsy) erotic romance author, decides to walk on the wild side at Club Nocté’s latest event – a masquerade party. What’s the harm in a little anonymous fun? Well, when that fun leaves you with flashbacks of a stranger’s kiss and the world’s most baffling case of déjà vu, things get interesting.

Enter Adam, a personal trainer with abs that deserve their own Instagram account (oh wait, they have one). When he starts training Carlie, the sparks fly—but not just from the workout burn. There’s something strangely familiar about those biceps, but where could she have seen them before…?

Cue the drama: Adam’s Insta-famous life is like a soap opera, complete with a villainous ex who could give Cruella a run for her money. As Carlie and Adam’s flirty banter turns into something more, the world watches, likes, and comments. But can their fledgling romance survive the glare of the spotlight and the ghost of masquerades past?

The plot thickens like a good protein shake when Carlie has her ‘aha!’ moment. That mysterious, dreamy guy from the club? Yup, it’s Mr. Six-Pack himself. Now, the question isn’t just about enduring a tough gym session, but whether they can flex their hearts into accepting that their one-night stand might just be the real deal.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

My thoughts:

Dirty Books is the second book in the One Night Stand Club series.  It works well as a stand alone book.  This one is Emma and Adam's story.  Adam is a personal trainer who takes Emma on as a client.  She isn't the most graceful in the gym, but her enthusiasm more than makes up for it.  Both of them feel a strong pull to the other. I thought this was an adorable romance.  I really loved spending time watching Adam and Emma fall for each other.   I loved that they spent time on page having conversations and getting to know each other. The 3 "first times" was really cute.  Adam has definitely made it onto my book boyfriend list.   I highly recommend this one!

Author Bio:

Carissa Knight is all about bringing the heat in every romance she writes, but making the journey as angsty and awkward as possible. (Because come on! What could be more fun than making the characters squirm?)

While she’s a new kid around the romcom block, Carissa’s actually been kicking out books for over a decade as award-winning & international bestselling author, Carissa Andrews. If you like paranormal or urban fantasy, check her out.

In the meantime, get ready for her brand new steamy romcom series, “The One Night Stand Club!”

Be sure to sign up for Carissa’s email list to stay on top (wink, wink) of her releases!

Website / Instagram / Goodreads

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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review: No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall

Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 2024

Emma hasn't told her husband much about her past. He knows her parents are dead and she hasn't spoken to her sisters in years. Then they lose their apartment, her husband gets laid off, and Emma discovers she's pregnant―right as the bank account slips into the red.

That's when Emma confesses that she has one more asset: her parents' house, which she owns jointly with her estranged sisters. They can't sell it, but they can live in it. But returning home means that Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to her husband: that the house is not a run-down farmhouse but a stately mansion, and that her parents died there.

Were murdered.

And that some people say Emma did it.

Emma and her sisters have never spoken about what really happened that night. Now, her return to the house may lure her sisters back, but it will also crack open family and small-town secrets lots of people don’t want revealed. As Emma struggles to reconnect with her old family and hold together her new one, she begins to realize that the things they have left unspoken all these years have put them in danger again. 

No One Can Know finds Emma returning to her childhood home with her husband.  She hasn't been back since high school when her parents were murdered.  The entire town think she is responsible but no one could prove it.  Now that she is back, she decided she wants to figure out what really happened that night and how her sisters are involved.  Finally, I have a thriller this year that Ii can say I really enjoyed.

The story was really good.  I was kept guessing and didn't call what really happened.  I kept changing my mind and, in the end, was completely wrong.  I thought the use of "then" and "now" was really effective in laying out what happened that night.  I also liked that we get a perspective from all three sisters.  Surprisingly, I wasn't annoyed by any of them.  The one person I didn't care for is murdered and I wasn't upset about it. I do recommend this one and suggest going into it with out knowing to much about it. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cover Reveal: Sunny in Vegas by Theodora Taylor

Releasing: May 4, 2024
The Ruthless Magnate Will See You Now
Someone I love did a truly terrible thing, and I’m working three jobs on top of my one as a showgirl at the Benton Las Vegas Grand to make up for it before anyone finds out—too late.

Cole Benton III, the ruthless CEO of the Benton Worldwide hotel empire, calls me into his glass office overlooking the Vegas skyline, demanding to know why I stole all the money from one of his grandmother’s charity funds.

I can’t tell him that.

“You are aware that I could have you fired, arrested, or worse,” he asks, his voice like black ice. Clearly dangerous.
Gulp. There’s a reason everyone calls him Triple Ice behind his back, and it goes way beyond the three Roman numerals behind his name. Rumor has it that he’s BFFs with the leader of a local cartel and that he’s not afraid to call him for favors.
But I can’t answer—not if it means throwing the real thief under his “or worse.”
I keep my mouth clamped closed.

And Triple Ice stares at me, his malevolent ice-chip eyes glittering with contempt.
Then he opens his desk drawer and pulls out…. a wedding ring???

Wait. What?!

This seriously spicy romantic comedy contains…
A suspicious Ice King of a CEO
A totally innocent showgirl Cinderella
Grandma blackmail (she’s ready for great-grandbabies)
A sexy contract with special terms and conditions,
Vegas level stakes, and…
A fake engagement that just might lead to real love.
Pre-order your copy today!
Apple Books:
Google Play:
Add to Goodreads:
Meet Theodora
After logging time as a music journalist, playwright, and radio writer, Theodora Taylor began writing hot books with heart in 2012. With thirty plus romances published to date, she has earned four KDP All-Star bonuses. Known for writing alternative heroes and smart, feisty heroines, Theodora's 50 Loving States series has become a one-click stop for an ever-growing number of rabid readers. When not thinking of ways to write and sell even more hot books with heart, she enjoys spending time with her amazing family, going on date nights with her wonderful husband, learning German, watching ALL the Shonda Rhimes shows ever, and attending parties thrown by others. She also loves hearing from voices that don't originate inside her head, so please…
Connect with Theodora 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Review: Nowhere Like Home by Sara Shephard

Author: Sara Shephard
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: February 2024 

When Lenna gets a call from her old friend Rhiannon, she is startled; Rhiannon disappeared years ago without a trace. But Lenna is even more startled to learn that Rhiannon has a son and that she lives off the grid with a group of women in a community called Halcyon. Rhiannon invites Lenna, a new mother herself, to join them. Why suffer the sleepless nights by yourself? It takes a village, after all.

Lenna decides to go and hopefully repair her relationship with Rhiannon, but as she drives into the desert and her cell service gets weaker, she becomes suspicious. Who are these women and why did Rhiannon invite her here? And that is before she learns about the community's rules (no outside phone calls, no questions about people’s pasts) and the padlock on the gate that leads out to the main road. But Lenna has other concerns, secrets from her past she is terrified will come out. When a newcomer arrives in the community, Lenna’s worst fears are confirmed—she was brought here for a reason.

Nowhere Like Home tackles themes of complicated friendships and trauma but all with Sara Shepard’s expert twists that you don’t see coming.

Nowhere Like Home is another recent thriller that ended up being largely underwhelming to me.  Lenna is a new mom who is struggling with probably post partum.  She gets a call from an old friend. Rhianna who invites her to join a community of women in the desert.   When she gets there, she quickly realizes, something is not right about the place.

As I said, I was fairly underwhelmed by this one.  First, I think maybe I am in the minority here, but I am getting tired of reading about female characters who only whine and don't ask for help.  I couldn't get behind Lenna and her choice to just leave her husband.  It wasn't fair to him.  If she needed time she should have told him before leaving.  Maybe I got the wrong impression, but he didn't seem like a bad guy.  The entire first half of the book was really slow and I probably should have DNF'd it.  The ending  was satisfying and I did like the twists, so I'll give it that.  But they weren't enough to save it for me.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Review: Heartbeat by Sharon Sala

Author: Sharon Sala
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: February 2024

 Sean Pope already lost Amalie Lincoln once. This time, he will risk everything to never have to say goodbye to her again.

Amalie Lincoln moved to Jubilee, Kentucky, to start fresh, build her business, and heal the scars of her past. Little did she know she'd run into Sean Pope, a beloved childhood friend she hasn't seen in decades. But on the day she moves to town, a helicopter explodes under suspicious circumstances, wreaking havoc on the families of Pope Mountain.

As the Jubilee PD dives into their investigation of the incident, Sean and Amalie find comfort and a budding romance with each other. Life in Jubilee becomes exactly what Amalie hoped for. But as the investigators uncover the truth and the crooks behind the attack set Amalie in their sights, Sean must face the danger or risk losing Amalie forever.

Heartbeat is the third book in the Jubilee, Kentucky series.  This one is Sean and Amalie's story.  It's a second chance friends to lovers story. with a little bit of mystery thrown in.  Sean and Amalie were friends when they were little.  A chance move to Jubilee, puts them in each others path.

I liked this a lot more than the second book.  While there were a lot of perspectives, it didn't annoy me as much as in the second book.  At the heart of the story is a renewal of a friendship of two fated people that turns into a sweet love story.  Sean and Amalie were very sweet together.   There is a little bit of a paranormal twist here that makes their love story that much sweeter.  The msytery was good too and also came with an even sweet twist in the end.  I do recommend this one.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Review: Murder Road by Simone St. James

 Author: Simone St. James
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date: March 2024

July 1995. April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn. They’re looking for the small resort town where they plan to spend their honeymoon. When they spot what appears to be a lone hitchhiker along the deserted road, they stop to help. But not long after the hitchhiker gets into their car, they see the blood seeping from her jacket and a truck barreling down Atticus Line after them.

When the hitchhiker dies at the local hospital, April and Eddie find themselves in the crosshairs of the Coldlake Falls police. Unexplained murders have been happening along Atticus Line for years and the cops finally have two witnesses who easily become their only suspects. As April and Eddie start to dig into the history of the town and that horrible stretch of road to clear their names, they soon learn that there is something supernatural at work, something that could not only tear the town and its dark secrets apart, but take April and Eddie down with it all.

Murder Road is the latest paranormal mystery by Ms. St, James.  For the most part, I have enjoyed her books, so I was eager to read this one.  April and Eddie are headed to their honeymoon site when they get lost and come upon a figure wandering down the highway.  The woman has been stabbed.  After taking her to the ER, they become the prime suspects in her murder.  

I did ultimately enjoy this one.  The best part of the book was the main couple.  April and Eddie were just great characters.  Their relationship was fun and strong.  There wasn't really any angst between them as they went though their ordeal.  I really liked that aspect.  There is a ghost story here, but I found it confusing.  I didn't understand the motive behind the ghost. So that was disappointing.  The story is well paced and and had me hooked. There were also some surprises. I do recommend it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Book of 5 Mews by M.G. Rorai


Title: The Book of 5 Meows

Author: M.G. Rorai

Publication Date: February 8, 2024

Pages: 134

Genre: Cats/Pets 

Shhhh – don’t tell the humans. This is a cat’s guide to world domination; learn how to win hearts and get cheese with your kitty charm.

Meet Marble, a cat on a mission to rule the world with cuteness and get cheese. Marble is not your ordinary cat. She is a philosopher, a strategist, and a master of Catness. She knows the secrets to manipulate humans and get what she wants. Thus, Catness wisdom and insights are littered throughout this hilarious and insightful book, written mostly from a feline point of view (as the way it should be).

But Marble’s plan is not without challenges. She must win over a dog-loving human and keep up an endless supply of Colby-Jack cheese.

The Book of 5 Mews is a book for cat lovers, dog lovers, and anyone who enjoys a good laugh mixed in with a heartwarming story. It is a book that celebrates the bond between humans and animals, and the power of love and healing. It is a book that will make you rethink your relationship with your cat, and maybe even inspire you to join a quest for world domination. Not that you’d be welcome, unless you’re a feline.

Buy Links:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BooksAMillion | Apple | Smashwords | Everand

 Book Excerpt:


I have spent many lives training in the Way of Catness; Humans might liken the Way to strategy. It is a gifted set of guidelines most felines stumble across during at least one of their nine lives—and, subsequently, become obsessed with mastering. Catness is water to the soul, yoga for the mind, and grooming for the world. 

Yet there will always be trials mixed with reward. Peaks and valleys merge to create the landscape—Catness is the pathway for past friends becoming feral; love becoming loss; treat bowls becoming empty. The Way of Catness is like a Cat’s mew: it can be the loveliest sound or the sharpest shriek, when needed.

There are different thoughts on Catness, but I live to no particular paw path; my prints are my own, defined by my experiences. True, I have taken some from other paths, as have most cats, though at the core each cat’s walk, their Catness, is defined by self, circumstances, and survival. But it can be shredded down to Five Mews: Paw, Slink, Roar, Tail, and Clarity. 

I will explain Catness in writing for the first time. 

Harper’s Commentary: Day 0

It’s hard starting over. New job, new town, new perspectives. So hard. Isolating. My plants are only so much company, and at the urging of text messages from family I decided to seek out volunteer work. 

My new career in technology blessed me with all the people drain I needed, so I went with the animal persuasion. I’m a dog person at heart. Grew up with mostly dogs and some cats but had more connection with the canines. Plus, the last feline I had contact with was my cousin’s girlfriend’s cat who pissed in the same corner all the time, despite having three litter boxes. 

So yeah, dogs were better. Cats okay. 

Wispy Paws seemed like a good fit…

About the Author

M.G. Rorai enjoys hanging with her cats and annoying her husband.

Author Links  Website | Facebook | Instagram


Sponsored By:

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Review: Everyone is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf

Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: March 2024

The Best Friend. The Confidant. The Senator. The Boyfriend. The Executive.

Five contestants have been chosen to compete for ten million dollars on the game show One Lucky Winner. The catch? None of them knows what (or who) to expect, and it will be live streamed all over the world. Completely secluded in an estate in Northern California, with strict instructions not to leave the property and zero contact with the outside world, the competitors start to feel a little too isolated.

When long-kept secrets begin to rise to the surface, the contestants realize this is no longer just a reality show—someone is out for blood. And the game can’t end until the world knows who the contestants really are…

In Everyone is Watching, Five people are invited to an estate to take part in a reality game show.  The winner will walk away with 1 million dollars.  Very quickly, the contestants realize things are not what they seem.  All five of the have secrets.  The question is, who will make it out alive?

I really wanted to love this one.  It's right up my alley.  However, it ended up just being OK for me.  My main issue with the story was the characters.  They were all so unlikable.  When things start to go off the rails, I genuinely wasn't sure who I would root for.  I need to be able to connect with someone, but I just didn't.  There was one scene that did have me on the edge of my seat.  The lake scene gave me chills.  It's not a bad book.  There were a few surprises, but not enough to make me love this one.  I think it's fine, just not a favorite.  

Friday, April 5, 2024

Review & Excerpt from Scars on My Heart by S.L. Sterling


Title: Scars on my Heart
Series: Willow Valley
Author: S.L. Sterling
Tropes: Single Dad, Single Mom, Friends to Lovers, small town romance, second chance at love, only one bed scene
Cover Design: Thunderstruck Cover Design
Release Date: March 28, 2024
Willow Valley had become like home to me and my two boys, Dylan and Noah. Everyone knew everyone in this small town, and they helped us heal from our devastating loss.
Once I knew my kids would be okay, I started looking for work. Bluebird Books hired me almost right away. I was to run the new kids program that Trinity was starting. That was where I met Zach and his daughter, Grace.
Zach was the new owner of the Willow Valley Inn. He’d come in to return a book his daughter had borrowed from the program. We exchanged pleasantries and that was when the computer had gone down. Zach lost his patience, and that was when our pleasant conversation turned sour. I wasn’t worried about it because I figured I’d never see him again.
I was wrong. It turns out in a small town, everyone sees everyone almost daily, if not twice a day. At the grocery store, the gas station, the elementary school and as luck would have it, the bookstore. Soon, our conversations turn pleasant again, and without even trying, I find myself drawn to him. Then he asks me out on a date.
Despite my reservations, I decided to take a chance on love again. But just when things start to look up, Zach’s ex-wife suddenly reappears, causing chaos in his life once more. Which somehow causes chaos in mine when my children begin acting out.
Leaning on one another for support, we navigate obstacles that life throws at us. As time passes I begin to wonder if another chance at love will bring us closer together or make each one of us run the other way?
Buy Links:
Apple Books:
Google Play:

My Thoughts:
In Scars on My Heart, widow Iris has moved back to the town she grew up in with her two boys to start a new life.  Divorced single dad, Zach has moved to Willow Valley with his daughter and mother to open a bed and breakfast.  Both are deeply scarred form their experiences, but a chance meeting has them forming a friendship that turns into a romance.  This is the fifth book in a series, however, it worked very well as a stand alone.  I flew through this book.  I really enjoyed watching Iris and Zach fall for each other.  Both of them had suffered a big loss and I was rooting for them to heal and find joy with each other.  I thought the kids in the book were a great addition and not annoying.  Their struggles with the couple dating came across as very realistic.  I seem to be having really good luck with romance this year.  I am happy to add this book to that list!

“Oh my god!” I screamed, grabbing for a towel that hung on the towel rack and quickly covering myself. It was too late, though. I knew he’d seen me, just like I saw him, as he quickly grabbed for the shower curtain that I’d ripped away from covering him.
We both stood there, looking at one another, our faces red, each one of us mortified in the moment. It was then I turned around, ripping my eyes from him.
“I thought you were downstairs. God, Zach, I’m so embarrassed. I’m so…” I took off from the bathroom, feeling like I could die. Panicking, I raced around the room, grabbing clothes from my suitcase as my heart raced until I felt faint.
I dropped my clothes to the floor and sat down on the bed, breathing hard, trying to erase what I’d just seen. I heard the bathroom door open and then felt the end of the bed dip down and a warm hand on my bare shoulder.
“Zach, please, this is just all too much,” I said, my vision blurring as I looked out the window.
“Hey. It’s alright. Look, I’m going to take a step back here, and I’d like you to do the same. Look at me.”
I could barely turn my head, but I did, and when I met his eyes, I didn’t see someone who was embarrassed. Instead, he looked at me with the same look he’d given me ever since we met.
“We are two adults. We are sharing a room. I know you didn’t think I was in there. Hell, I didn’t think you were back up here or were coming up anytime soon. So how about we both just forget what happened and try to have a good evening.”
I swallowed hard. I still felt like I wanted to die, and here he was trying hard to ignore the fact that we’d seen one another in our birthday suits.
“Zach, I can’t.”
“You can. I know you can. Now I’m going to get dressed and leave you so you can get ready for dinner. I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
He didn’t say another word. Instead, he did as he said he was going to.
Once he was gone, I reached for my cell phone. I needed help, and the only one I could think of was my sister.
Author Bio:
S.L. Sterling was born and raised in southern Ontario. She now lives in Northern Ontario Canada and is married to her best friend and soul mate and their two dogs.
An avid reader all her life, S.L. Sterling dreamt of becoming an author. She decided to give writing a try after one of her favorite authors launched a course on how to write your novel. This course gave her the push she needed to put pen to paper and her debut novel "It Was Always You" was born.
When S.L. Sterling isn't writing or plotting her next novel she can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, blanket and the newest romance novel from one of her favorite authors on her e-reader. Her favorite authors include Kendall Ryan, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Lauren Blakely, Alessandra Torre and Willow Winters.
In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, sunny destinations, spending quality time with family and friends and of course reading. 
Social Media Links
Sterlings Silver Sapphires:

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Review: From the Flames by Tori Wilde

Author: Tori Wilde
Publication Date: April 2024

Is that the girl with the fire in her eyes and the scars to match? Damn, Thora Hansen just walked back into my life, and Fairhaven's small-town air suddenly feels electrifying.

Camp Resilience buzzes with Healing Hearts kids, a testament to Thora's legacy—a legacy born from flames we both escaped decades ago, a rift that tore us apart.

Never imagined she'd re-enter my orbit, yet here she is, igniting Fairhaven with a spark I thought was lost.

Memories of our youthful bond, that innocent claim she had on my heart, surge back with a vengeance, undeniable, magnetic.

Last night, entwined in passion, confirmed it's mutual.

But today?

She's retreating, walls up, leaving me grappling in the wake of her sudden cold front.

It's not her family's disdain—she's brushed that off before.

Something's shifted, and I'm racing against the camp's ticking clock to uncover it.

We're on borrowed time, and I'm not about to let history repeat its cruel separation.

From the Flames is a kind of second chance romance.  I say, "kind of" because Thora and Marco were friends in elementary school.  So while they were young, there was still a strong connection.  Despite a tragedy that tore them apart, Thora is now back in Marco's life.  This story takes place in the world of the first book, Lines Worth Crossing.  I really enjoyed this one.  I loved Thora and Marco together.  Their attraction was strong and really enhanced by their childhood relationship.  I loved Thora's twin brother.  I enjoyed revisiting Marco's family.   There isn't too much angst, it's more about really healing old wounds and looking forward to the future.  I definitely recommend this one.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Guest House by Bonnie Traymore


by Bonnie Traymore

April 1-5, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


The Guest House by Bonnie Traymore

He holds out his business card, and she plucks it from his fingers without touching them. “Hope to see you around, Allie Dawson,” he says. That was over a month ago. It seemed too good to be true, but Allie told herself to ignore the nagging feeling in her gut. That was her first mistake.

When she saw Laura Foster’s email welcoming her into a cohort of grant recipients, Allie literally jumped for joy. She was headed to Silicon Valley with a chance to bring her innovative product to market. She’s deaf with a cochlear implant, and she’s developed a screen that can clip onto eyeglasses and caption speech in real time.

But she had no idea how tight the rental market would be, or how cutthroat the competition is for everything from housing to venture capital. So, after a futile search to find a short-term apartment she could afford, she rented a guest house from a chummy real estate agent who approached her at a coffee shop.

But it’s clear now that she should have trusted her instincts. Because there’s something off about her landlord. And his moody wife. And the cryptic Hungarian guy renting his master suite.

Are they after her technology? She knows what it feels like to see her life flash before her eyes, and she doesn't need that kind of stress right now.

So why is she still living there?

And has she already seen too much?

Innovation, greed, and danger collide in The Guest House, Silicon Valley Series Book 2, a stand-alone sequel to the best-selling hit page-turner The Stepfamily.


Praise for The Guest House:

"This twisty, spine-tingling thriller will have you hooked to the very last page."
~ Leslie Lutz, Award-winning author of Fractured Tide

"The Guest House grabs you by the throat from the very first page and never lets go."
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the award-winning Clare Carlson series

"The suspense was at an all time high and I devoured this book in a few hours. The twists were twisting in this one! I was invested and very entertained while reading this. Traymore did a great job weaving a tale that was gripping while also educating me on the D/deaf or hard of hearing community"
~ NetGalley/Amazon

"This was a quick and easy read for me. As a reader who loves a psychological thriller it’s sometimes easy to see through the plots, but this story had me guessing for the most part until the end. Just the right level of spooky for me without the blood and gore that some authors choose to use. Would definitely recommend."
~ NetGalley/Amazon

"With its blend of suspense, mystery, and compelling characters, "The Guest House" offers a thrilling reading experience that will keep readers guessing and turning pages late into the night. Traymore's exploration of complex themes and her inclusion of diverse characters, including those from the D/deaf community, adds depth and richness to the narrative, making this a must-read for fans of psychological thrillers and suspenseful fiction alike."
~ Amazon

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published by: Pathways Publishing
Publication Date: March 1, 2024
Number of Pages: 300
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


One thing I’ve realized over the years is that not everyone has what it takes to go the distance when the time comes. If you want something done right, you need to be prepared to do it yourself. I’m committed to reaching my goals, whatever the costs.

If I could achieve them without spilling any blood, of course, that would be my preference. I have killed before though, and I’ll do it again if that’s what it takes to succeed.

But only if I have no choice. That’s what separates me from the crazies. I get no pleasure out of harming people. In fact, it leaves me feeling very empty. But I won’t stop until I get what I need. And I’ll eliminate anyone who stands in my way.




I’m half awake when I feel a thud reverberate through my apartment and shake the bed. I spring up, and my heart is immediately in my throat.

Is this what an earthquake feels like?

Grabbing my phone, I check to see if there’s an alert. It’s 3:17 in the morning, and there’s nothing of concern on my phone, but maybe it takes a while to get the word out. I’m new to California, so I have no idea what an earthquake feels like or if anyone even bats an eye at something like this.

I hold still for a few minutes, and I don’t feel any more shaking. I reach for my speech processor on the nightstand. I’m deaf, and without my cochlear implant I hear nothing. Now I’m concerned there might be an intruder or some other threat lurking outside my door.

The small guest house I rent sits behind a stately, expensive home, and the owners have been away for the last week. There’s a boarder who rents a suite inside the main house. I thought he was still around, although it’s hard to tell with him. The guy’s kind of a ghost, and I don’t normally run into him much.

Once my speech processor is in place, I notice some kind of intermittent scraping noise outside. A tingling sensation crawls up my scalp. They have a dog, and she’s not barking. But then I haven’t heard her at all this week, come to think of it. Maybe they took her with them?

I peek out the window, poised to call 9-1-1 if someone is burglarizing the house, and I spot my landlord—at least I think it’s my landlord—dragging a large duffel bag across the lawn. It seems heavy, and he’s straining to move it. He whips his head around towards me, and I quickly duck down and out of sight.

Did he see me?

My heart starts to race.

I hear a voice call out. “Hurry up,” it says.

A woman’s voice?

I’m terrified of the dark, so I keep the bathroom light on when I sleep. I’m hoping it’s not bright enough for him to see inside my place. I lift the curtain just a hair and look out again. His back is to me, so hopefully he didn’t notice me.

What the hell is he doing?

I thought they were away until tomorrow. Did they come home early and I didn’t hear them? But this is strange. And this living arrangement made me uneasy from the start. Maybe I need to look for another place, although the thought of that puts my stomach in knots. It’s a nice unit at a decent price, and the rental market is extremely tight here. Perhaps he has a good explanation for what he’s doing, although I can’t imagine what it could be.

I double-check the dead bolt on the door, turn off the bathroom light, and get back into bed. I’m not taking my speech processor off though, so I probably won’t be able to get back to sleep; I’m used to total silence. I grab my phone, hold it under my comforter, and start thumbing through apartment listings as I wait for the sun to rise.


One month earlier



I rush into Starbucks to grab a pick-me-up before I embark on my next round of apartment viewings. It’s packed in here, and I need to use the bathroom. Badly. I’ve never been to this Starbucks before. Rancho Shopping Center, according to my app.

“I’ve got a to-go order,” I say to the barista. “Is there a restroom in here?”

“Over there,” she says, pointing towards the other side of the café. “Past the pickup area.”

I’m also hungry and hot. But I’m on a tight schedule, so although I’d like to chill for a while, I need to keep going. I locate the restroom and, thankfully, there’s no line. When I come out, I rush up to the counter to look for my drink order. I pick up a few cups that could be mine and examine them, but my latte’s not ready yet. I let out a long sigh and glance at my watch.

A frazzled worker glares at me but quickly softens her look. I offer her an apologetic smile, not wanting to stress her out any further. I’m surprised she heard me over the whir of the blenders and the milling of the coffee grinder. They’re very backed up and seem hopelessly understaffed. I worked my way through college at jobs like that, so I know exactly how she feels. And if I can’t get my idea off the ground before my funding dries up, I might be right there behind that counter with her.

But I can’t be late for my next appointment, so if my order doesn’t come up soon, I’ll need to leave without it. I’ve just finished a two-week boot camp along with the other women in my cohort, a requirement of the organization that gave me the funding for my start-up venture. I’ve also been looking at apartments on this visit, and I’m starting to think I might have to give up and go back to Milwaukee, at least for now, which is not an ideal option.

The man standing to my right says something, but I don’t catch it. I can’t hear anything out of my right ear, and the background noise is making it harder. And I remind myself that this is exactly why I’m here, trying to bring my concept to market.

I turn to face him so I can read his lips. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”

“New in town?” he asks.

“Yes. Is it that obvious?”

“You went to the wrong side of the store for your pickup,” he says, “and you’re holding a rental car key.”

His wandering eyes look out from a kind, almost jovial face. I glance down at the key in my hand, wondering if I should be more discreet. I don’t need to advertise the fact that I’m a single woman traveling alone.

“You’re very observant,” I say.

“Not always,” he replies.

I hope he’s not hitting on me. He’s nearly twice my age if I had to guess. There are a lot of rich guys around here who can probably get women half their age to go out with them. He’s dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt, sporting a Patek Philippe on his wrist—and not an entry-level one. Money’s a compensating factor for some women, but not for me. Not for that big of an age gap. Then I notice a wedding ring and relax a little. Perhaps he’s just being friendly.

“Looking for a place to live?” he asks.

“Um, yes.”

“I’m in real estate,” he says.

“Oh.” I nod.

That explains it.

Now I’m going to get the sales pitch. I should tell him to move on and not waste his time. I’m not planning to buy. But I realize he’s just doing his job. Maybe I can learn something from him. Networking in person isn’t my strong suit, and I need to get better at it.

“Mike Tabernaky,” he says.

“Allie Dawson,” I reply.

“Is it just yourself, or do you have a family?”

“Just me.” Saying that out loud makes me feel vulnerable all of a sudden.

“Well, it just so happens we have a guest house behind our home that’s become available. It’s nearby, in Cupertino. Just over the border from Los Altos. Perfect for a single person.”

Generally, I’m a trusting person, but this seems a bit too good to be true. My mind flashes to the shower scene in Psycho.

“That’s great, thanks. But I think I may have found something.”

He nods as he chews on his lower lip.

“Allie? Your order’s ready,” the barista calls out.

“Well, that’s me,” I say. “I need to run. Nice to meet you, Mike.” I offer him a fluttery wave and flash my best Midwestern-girl smile. If I end up living in this neighborhood, I’ll probably see him again, so I don’t want to seem rude or unappreciative. Plus, he might know some venture capitalists he can introduce me to.

“Here. Take my card. In case it doesn’t work out.” He reaches out to me with his business card perched between his thumb and forefinger. I pluck the card from his fingers without touching them.

“Thanks,” I say.

“You’re welcome, Allie Dawson. Hope to see you around.”

I head outside and mentally prepare myself for another round of apartment viewings, trying to lower my expectations. The market’s supposedly softening for renters, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. And without a steady stream of income, I’ve been having a hard time qualifying for a place to rent. I gave up my stable job as a luxury branding specialist to pursue this opportunity. At the moment, I’m hoping that wasn’t the biggest mistake of my life.

It’s a competitive market, and I’m sure there are a ton of prospective renters who seem more desirable, with longer track records in the area. That’s why I’m a little overdressed for the occasion, in my red cap-sleeved Tory Burch dress paired with strappy black sandals. I want to make a good impression and try to appear a bit more mature than my twenty-nine years.

When I open the door to my rental, a white Kia Soul, the heat inside the car hits me and nearly knocks me off my feet. It’s late August, so hopefully it will cool down soon. They say it doesn’t get this hot here too often—just my luck. I see heat waves radiating off the black vinyl interior. I run around to the other side and open the door to air it out a little. I don’t want to show up sweaty and disheveled. Then I shut the passenger door, head back over to the driver’s side, and hop in.

The seat is warm but, thankfully, not burning hot. I sit down, strap myself in, and realize that I still have the business card in my hand. I tuck it into my wallet, start the car, crank the a/c, and pull up the address on my app. Then I take one last look in the rearview mirror, apply some lipstick, and fluff my hair. I make a mental note to find a hairdresser. My dirty blonde roots are showing, and I’m badly in need of a trim. Still, I’m presentable enough.

The dark circles under my eyes are gone because the loud people renting the front half of my Airbnb left yesterday morning, and I finally got a good night’s sleep. I’m not used to sleeping with my speech processor on, so any noise at all bothers me. I felt vulnerable sleeping without it in an unfamiliar place though, so it seemed safer to sacrifice deep sleep. Last night was better, and the extra hit of caffeine is starting to kick in.

I can do this.


Today’s apartment search was even worse than the previous ones, probably because it’s Saturday and everyone’s available. I had four appointments, and each rental had a steady stream of prospective tenants, including the unit that was totally unacceptable to me with no air conditioning, smelly, dog-pee-soaked carpets, and communal laundry.

Even the cramped one-bedroom suite I’m sitting in right now is better than that one, but I can’t afford this Airbnb for much longer, even if I could stand sharing part of a house with a revolving door of random travelers. I’m burning too much cash and energy on this trip, and although I filled out applications at the other three apartments, I’m not holding my breath.

Now I’m taking some time to regroup. I decide I’ll reach out to the organization that helped me with my pre-seed funding and see if they can give me some suggestions. I reach into my wallet to grab the executive director’s business card. But I come across the card I got from Mike Tabernaky, the real estate agent I met at Starbucks, with the guest house. I pull that out instead. He’s a luxury property specialist and the principal broker at the firm. Maybe he does have a pipeline of wealthy venture capitalists he can introduce me to. At the very least, I should try to connect with him on social media.

But why would he be giving his card out to people at Starbucks when the rental market is this hot? Perhaps he doesn’t want to deal with a parade of random strangers at his home? Or maybe he wants a single person, but he can’t say that in the advertising because of antidiscrimination laws. I do a search and find his website. It’s a small firm with two other agents and a few upscale listings on the site.

I tell myself that if I’m going to be a successful entrepreneur, I need to take some risks. If an opportunity like this dropped in my lap, maybe it’s fate. Part of the success story I’ll tell one day about how I was ready to give up when I found a place to live from a random guy I met at Starbucks who introduced me to so-and-so…and then it all fell into place.

Am I this desperate?

Yes, but I’m also not stupid. I’ll make an appointment to see the unit, and I’ll have my brother on the phone with me when I go see it, just in case.

It’ll be fine.

I pull out my phone, take a deep breath, and punch in Mike’s number. I’m a little surprised when it goes to voicemail and a little relieved. It would be more concerning if he was sitting around waiting for my call. Perhaps it’s rented already and I missed my shot. The thought of that makes me want it more.

I open up my email and start drafting a message to Mina Rao, Executive Director at Start-Her, the accelerator that’s sponsoring me, hoping that something comes through before I have to hang it up and head back east rather than burn through the money they gave me before I even get started.




It’s Monday morning and I’m in my home office when Mina calls. The ringtone wakes my sleeping three-month-old, and Kai starts wailing. I could kick myself for not remembering to silence my phone. I pick up the call, put it on speaker, and reach for him.

“This can wait, Laura,” Mina says to me as Kai continues his fussing.

It annoys me that my subordinate is second-guessing my decision to pick up the call, and I fight the urge to snap at her. She means well, but Mina’s not the only person in my life insinuating that I should take more time off. It’s wearing on my frazzled nerves. It’s not the baby or my career that’s making me stressed. It’s the horrible image that haunts my dreams. The one I can’t tell anyone about. But that’s not Mina’s fault, so I take a deep breath and let it go.

“No. He’ll settle down. Hang on a minute.”

“Take your time.”

I lift my shirt, place him on my breast, and grab a pen.

“Okay. What’s up?” I ask.

Mina runs through a slew of information in record time. She’s my executive director. We met at a now-defunct start-up that folded a little over a year ago. I’ve since founded an accelerator for female entrepreneurs, and my first class of ten awardees has received an initial round of funding. The timing is less than ideal with a newborn, but I’m not letting motherhood stop me. There are some promising ideas on the table, ones that could really make a difference in the world.

One woman developed a prototype of a blood-testing machine that could be a game changer in health care, if she can bring it to market. Another is working on a clip-on screen that would allow eyeglass wearers to read captions of conversations in real time. Now is not the time to step back.

“What happened to Allie Dawson? Did she find a place yet?” I ask.

Allie Dawson is working on the caption device, and her project excites me because it serves an unmet need in the market, it won’t get bogged down in a ton of regulatory red tape, and it’s not overly capital-intensive to produce.

“Not yet, but she has a lead on a unit in Cupertino. She’s got an appointment this afternoon, and she’s a little wary of going by herself, so I offered to go with her,” Mina says.


“It’s a guest house. Of some real estate broker guy who approached her at Starbucks.”

Mina gives me the rundown. It sounds fine to me, but I can see how a single woman might be a little uncomfortable renting a place from a stranger who befriended her at a coffee shop, although that’s what real estate professionals tend to do. It’s nice that Mina offered to go with her.

“Give me his name and I’ll check him out,” I say.

We go over the rest of the items on my list and sign off. I’m more tired than usual this morning and not only because of Kai. I had the nightmare again. It took hours for me to fall back to sleep, only to be woken again an hour later by my baby’s cries.

I can’t go on like this. I search my inbox for the therapist I contacted a few weeks back, to finally schedule an intake appointment. But a call comes in from a venture capitalist I’ve been courting, and then Kai needs to be changed, so it goes on the back burner once again.


My husband, Peter, enters my home office, and I glance at the clock. It’s after six already. The hours flew by, and I still haven’t reached out to the therapist.

“How was your day?” He places his hands on my shoulders and kisses the top of my head. Then he scoops up Kai and cradles him in his arms.

“Fine. And yours?”

“Always a ten.”

My husband’s been on cloud nine since I told him about our unplanned pregnancy. I must admit, I’d been looking forward to an empty nest after over a decade of raising my stepchildren. It took me a while to get used to the idea of starting all over. But I’m enjoying motherhood far more than I’d anticipated.

It doesn’t hurt that we came into some substantial money around the same time we found out about the baby, from stock gains at Peter’s biotech company, which brought a cancer drug to market. There are no financial pressures bearing down on us anymore. Not like there were before. But I’m not about to back down on my career, partly because I love what I’m doing, but also because slowing down might give me too much time to think about the craziness of last year.

Four attempts on my life.

The threat is gone, but not the anxiety. I sometimes wonder if Peter’s as jubilant as he seems. How can he be, after everything that’s happened? But his happiness seems genuine, and I’m even a little envious of his ability to move on and forget about it.

“I have some more work to finish up. Can you take him for a bit?”

“Just try and stop me.”


He starts walking out the door, and I go back to my inbox to search for the therapist’s email. Then he interrupts me again.



“Why don’t you try and move the nanny to full-time?”

Ugh. We’ve talked this to death, and I’m so sick of repeating myself.

“I can manage for now. I don’t want someone here all the time, hovering over me. I told you.”

“You like her?”

“I do.”

“Then just get her here full-time. You can lock yourself in your office, and she can sit and wait around until you need her. It’s better than losing a good nanny. What if someone else offers her full-time?”

“Peter. Enough!” I throw up my hands. “I need to focus right now. If you want to help me, then please, give me some space. This isn’t helping.” He thinks I’m on edge because the baby and my career are too much for me. But that’s not the reason.

His eyes widen, and then he lowers them in defeat. It’s obvious my words stung. His expression is somber as he turns from me and walks out the door.

“Close the door, please,” I say, in a softer tone. Then I rest my heavy head in my hands and take a deep breath. I remind myself that he means well, even if he is annoying me.

I know I’m being short with him, and that’s another thing to put on my list for the therapist. How to get over the resentment I feel towards my husband. I pull up the therapist’s email, click on her scheduler, and secure an appointment for next week. Next, I locate the web page of Mike Tabernaky, luxury real estate broker. At first glance, he seems legitimate. But it does give me pause that someone like him is renting out his guest house. The market’s pretty hot right now, and he has some high-end listings on his page. It seems a little desperate.

I check his broker credentials on the state website, and he’s in good standing. No formal complaints. No red flags. There’s nothing in the criminal or civil databases either, aside from a few speeding tickets. Maybe he has kids in college, or perhaps he’s just the kind of guy who likes to maximize his property value. We live in an expensive area, and people do rent their guest houses. I tell myself it’s fine and mentally cross it off my list.

There’s more to do, as always, but none of it is urgent. It’s dinnertime, so I close my laptop and head out to join my family, vowing to be more congenial to Peter. But I’m not telling him about the therapist. He doesn’t know what’s bothering me, and it needs to stay that way for now.


Excerpt from The Guest House by Bonnie Traymore. Copyright 2024 by Bonnie Traymore. Reproduced with permission from Bonnie Traymore. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Bonnie Traymore

Bonnie Traymore is the award-winning, Amazon best selling author of page-turner mystery/thrillers that hit close to home. Her books feature strong but relatable female protagonists. The plots explore difficult topics such as jealousy, infidelity, murder, and the impact of psychological disorders, but she also includes bits of romance and humor to lighten the mood from time to time. She's an active status member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

Catch Up With Bonnie Traymore:
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