Cephalopod Coffeehouse August 2016–HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my fave read of the month, and it’s clearly HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. I’ve talked to some young readers who’ve recently devoured the series, and they report it’s not THEIR kind of book, but, as an adult reader, I adored it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildAbout the book:
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

My Review:

So. I bought the hype, somewhat. I’ve read ll the HP books with my eldest, nearly 20 years old now, and I couldn’t resist this one, even though it’s not a novel. It’s a play. Expect stage directions and all if you pick it up. It’s also not really a kid’s story. Which is totally fine because the last three books, IMHO, were for elder readers–late teen to adult. How many ten year olds really want to slog through THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, after all?

That said, this book makes a distinct break because a large portion of the story is told from an adult POV, that of Harry Potter at ages 37-40. He’s married with three children and one of his kids, the middle child Albus Severus Potter, is a misfit. Not only does Albus get sorted into Slytherin, his best friend is outcast Scorpius Malfoy, only child of Draco Malfoy. Albus struggles with his auspicious parentage, especially as he doesn’t possess the fantastic gifts at wizardry of his father, or even his popular elder brother, James. Further, Albus and Harry have a very strained relationship. Harry struggles as a parent to Albus, but has no issues with James and Lily. It isolates Albus, even when Harry makes deliberate attempts, fruitless though they are, to connect.

Meanwhile, Scorpius is haunted by rumors that his father is truly Voldemort, and he’s mercilessly harangued at Hogwarts. Albus stays by his side, and they develop a strong, true friendship. The plot gets very messy when a Time Turner is discovered by the Ministry of Magic. See, Time Turners are outlawed because changing the past is a BIG PROBLEM. And, the experimental Time Turner is able to bring people back far further than ever imagined. One person in particular, Amos Diggory, wants Harry to go back and save his lost son, Cedric. This cause, saving The Spare who was murdered in Harry’s stead, becomes of prime importance for 14 year-old Albus. And he recruits Scorpius and Cedric’s cousin, Delphi, to assist in stealing the Time Turner from his Aunt Hermione in order to pull off this daring rescue.

I think we all know this goes poorly. As all adults will opine, changing the past is fraught with collateral damage. And that’s exactly what happens. While we’re never eager to embrace the atrocities that have come to pass, we also know that undoing such things, say by murdering Hitler as a child or something, would lead to so many unforeseen consequences that our world would be irrevocably altered. So, the play, the story, embraces the worst of these outcomes, and builds real terror for Albus and Scorpius. It harkens to the adage “No good deed goes unpunished,” and we experience a great deal of punishment in this fiction-scape.

As an adult, I relished the nuances of the story. I expect many younger kids won’t. They don’t have the maturity to fully experience the adult POV, but so many of the readers of this series are adults, and I believe that those people are, like myself, well satisfied. Several themes are similar to all HP books: friendship saves the day, valor is a consequence of situation–not a goal to seek, and courage is being who you are, regardless of consequence. The old ties are strong, and new ties can be beneficial. It was rewarding, to me, to see Harry and Draco on the same side, openly, for the first time. I liked how all the pieces fit together, in the same way that they always have. I didn’t feel as if I was wondering, much, and I liked the pacing of the story. I’m out of practice reading plays, but fell right in once I got started. In truth, it was refreshing not having the ponderous descriptions of setting bog me down, just this once. That said, I much prefer novels, on the whole. Though, in reality, this book would have been twice as big if it had been a novel. I was able to follow along with all the scene changes and implied emotive notes without any difficulty. Younger readers might struggle with the format, which is the sentiment I’ve gathered from those who have read the book already.

I really do not want to spoil the book, but it must be said that both Voldemort and his progeny are present on the page, albeit briefly. It’s a bittersweet read with tons of action and a plot that satisfied. I literally read the book in the span of an evening, so you know the pace is fantastic.

Interested? You can find HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD pretty much anywhere. But also on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks so much for popping in. Be sure to check out the fave reads of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers.

 

Rough Roads in FIRST COMES LOVE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a women’s contemporary read from Emily Giffin. I had thought FIRST COMES LOVE would be a romance, based on the title, but it was a family drama that touched a lot of nerves for me.

First Comes LoveAbout the book:
In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.

My Review:
The Garland family suffered a horrifying tragedy just before Chirstmas fifteen years ago: the eldest son, Daniel, a med student and all-around great guy, was killed in a car wreck while home visiting his family for the holidays. A year later, his parents divorced. His sisters, Josie and Meredith, are still shattered by the loss.

Josie is a 37 year old first grade teacher. She’s always been the pretty, party girl, and long suspected that Daniel was out on that icy December night to pick her up from a bar, where she’d been black-out intoxicated. She’s been to Daniel’s grave only once in fifteen years: the day of his funeral. Her relationship with Meredith has always been strained by sibling rivalry, but they are virtual strangers to each other at this point, their only true connection Josie’s huge love for Harper, her niece. At this point, Josie’s done looking for Mr. Right. She has good friends, a solid job and the only missing piece is a child of her own. She’s considering single motherhood, very seriously.

Meredith’s life is far different at 35 than she expected it to be. She’s a lawyer, not an actress. She’s living in her childhood home, with a veritable shrine to Daniel just down the hall. She’s married to Nolan, Daniel’s childhood best friend–and she’s woefully insecure underneath her tough veneer. Did she accept Nolan’s proposal on account of Daniel? Did Nolan propose out of some perverted sense of duty, or guilt? Does she even love her husband? She’s in therapy, and trying to work things out, and struggling with the choices she feels she made out of duty rather than desire. And, she’s jealous of Josie, who, she believes, rather selfishly always made her own way.

This book isn’t a breeze read. It’s filled with regret, remorse and recollection. Josie and Meredith tell the story with dual viewpoint, and it’s tough to see how these good folks find themselves still so lost, fifteen years after Daniel’s sudden death. I personally recognized certain elements from my own family in the aftermath of my Grandfather’s death–where paths quickly changed and relationships soon soured. When beloved people, caught in a trap of mourning, made decisions they later regretted. So, I got that. I also recognized Meredith’s deep unhappiness in her marriage–which I think a good number of people can relate with–for unhappiness within herself. I was shocked and satisfied with Nolan’s take on it all. While the whole ‘if you love someone, let them go’ idea is still a little counter to the romance ‘dogma’, I think it mainly worked here.

Josie and Meredith have a lot of fences to mend, and I applauded the role of Gabe, Josie’s best friend, for his unshakable support, and also speaking plainly to Meredith about her callous treatment of Josie. I think it’s easy to dislike Meredith, because she’s so cold and harried, and ungrateful for what seems a “perfect” life, but she’s also incredibly human, and an approachable model of many working mothers.

The loss of one person, at the wrong time, often has far-reaching effects within a family. I’ve seen this happen in real life, and I deeply sympathized with the characters as a result. That made this book a far more difficult read, personally, for me. The marriage issues were also tough to take, as I know I’ve had similar introspection as Meredith. No one likes looking at a difficult reflection, after all. The book resolves in a way that makes it seem as if the ship has changed course and is bound for brighter shores. It’s still a long journey toward healing, but the heading is right and the wind is fresh and strong. I really liked it, even if it didn’t leave me glowing.

Interested? You can find FIRST COMES LOVE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Emily Giffin is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time. The author of seven New York Times bestselling novels, The One & Only, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love The One You’re With, Heart of the Matter, and Where We Belong, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children. FIRST COMES LOVE is her eighth novel.

Catch up with Emily on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Tough Love in CIVIL WAR AND BROKEN HEARTS–Review & Giveaway!

BannerTemplate(29)Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M cozy mystery/romance from Julie Lynn Hayes. CIVIL WAR AND BROKEN HEARTS is the second book in her Rose and Thorne series. It’s the sequel to BAD DOGS AND DRAG QUEENS and features the continuing misadventures of Federal Agents Vinnie Delorosa and Ethan Thorne as they protect a starlet from a dangerous stalker.

Check out the excerpt, review and get in on the gift card giveaway below!

CivilWarandBrokenHeartsFSAbout the book:
Hollywood comes to Roanoke when a major film studio announces they’re shooting part of their Civil War film at a local plantation. Vinnie is dismayed to discover that the lead actress is none other than the beautiful and popular Caroline St. Clair. Ethan and Vinnie made her acquaintance in LA the previous Halloween, while undercover, and Vinnie still hates her for hitting on his man. Ethan reassures his partner that Roanoke is big enough for all of them to co-exist without running into one another.

But Fate has it in for Vinnie and Ethan, and they find themselves assigned to a new case involving the actress. Apparently she requested Ethan specifically, to Vinnie’s dismay. But he doesn’t have a choice, he has to play nice. It’s small consolation to Vinnie that his new undercover identity involves Hollywood heartthrob Troy McGarrett, who is very handsome and openly gay. Troy isn’t shy about letting Vinnie know he finds him attractive.

Jealousy abounds in the second book of the Rose and Thorne series, and time is not on Vinnie and Ethan’s side. If they don’t solve the case before the film shoot is done, there’s a good chance they’ll be separated for the first time since they were partnered. Assuming Vinnie doesn’t kill Caroline St. Clair himself.

The author is donating 10% of the royalties from this book to No Kid Hungry. Visit nokidhungry.org for more information about this organization.

A tasty tidbit…

“Hey, Vin, did you see who’s in town?”
I was slumped at the kitchen table, my head cradled on top of my arms. I was grumpy and sleepy—and maybe a few of the other Seven Dwarves—and I needed my first cup of morning coffee before I could even consider being slightly civil.
We’d spent most of last night sitting in our car, in the goddamn middle of nowhere, staring at nothing, assigned to a fruitless surveillance in a small town about an hour from Roanoke. As it turned out, all the real action was in a different small town in the complete opposite direction from where we waited, because our so-called informant couldn’t spell the name of the place correctly. What a difference one letter makes. So we’d ended up completely wasting our time, got lost trying to find the rest of the task force at the end of the night, almost got hit by a deer that came out of nowhere and took a sudden shine to our car, and then suffered the indignity on our return of being asked where the hell we’d been all night—and we still needed to do the paperwork. And now Ethan wanted to play Twenty Questions?
“Don’t know and don’t care,” I mumbled.
I heard him slap something down on the table. I forced one eye open, just in time to see him sashay toward the coffeemaker. Okay, for that ass, I’d open the other one too. I watched as he poured the blessed elixir into two mugs, added the appropriate amount of creamer and sugar to each, then returned to where I still watched him and set one in front of me.
Right next to the morning paper. Real subtle, Ethan.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, but can be enjoyed on its own. It’s a sweet and fluffy buddies romance between two long-term partners, Vinnie and Ethan, who also are work partners. What you need to know about the series: They are some type of fictional federal agents that go undercover to help the police. Essentially, Vinnie will get put into a dress, and Ethan will help him out of it. And, some other plot things will happen. That’s been the case for the first two books.

In this book, starlet Caroline St. Clair is in Roanoke to film some on-location scenes for the Civil War-era epic she’s working on. She recently split from her fiance, the director of the film who’s flaunting his new younger fiance right under Caroline’s nose. Ethan helps thwart a shooting when he and Vinnie find Caroline out and about in Roanoke. She thinks it must be her stalker, but no one can trace his (now deleted) threatening emails. Caroline gets Ethan assigned to serve as her personal bodyguard, claiming he’s her fiance to cover his appearance in her life. And this about sets Vinnie’s head to explode. Vinnie’s assigned as a personal assistant to Caroline’s beautiful, out-and-proud, co-star, Troy McGarrett. Troy’s helpful, but doesn’t mind helping himself to some of Vinnie, if the opportunity arises.

I pretty much had this one figured out from the start, but I liked how it all played out. There’s a ton of cattyiness, and Vinnie’s his usual chatty narrating self. Troy was super cool, a good friend and support to Vinnie, throughout. I also liked how our homophobic foe from the first book got a bit more humanized in this one. Ethan’s about beside himself, fending off Caroline’s unwanted advances and keeping Vinnie from making many, many professional mistakes, though we still don’t get a lot of his personality on the page. The next book seems to have a lot more of Ethan, however, so I’m looking forward to that. If you like low steam romance and fluffy cozy mysteries with lots of snarky banter, I think this will hit your sweet spot.

Interested? You can find CIVIL WAR AND BROKEN HEARTS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a gift card to Dreamspinner Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Julie Lynn Hayes first began publishing short stories and poetry in the 1990’s, when it was a different ballgame altogether, and Ebooks hadn’t been dreamed of yet. That changed in 2010 with the acceptance of her first romance novel. She’s come a long way since that first book appeared, and is finding the journey a very educational one.

She lives in St. Louis with her daughter Sarah and her cat Ramesses. She often writes of two men finding true love and happiness in one another’s arms, and is a great believer in the happily ever after. She likes to write in different genres, to stretch herself in order to see what is possible. Her great challenge is to be told something can’t be done—she feels compelled to do it.
When she isn’t writing, she enjoys crafts, such as crocheting and cross stitch, needlepoint and knitting, and she loves to cook, spending time watching the Food Network. Her favorite chef is Geoffrey Zakarian. Her family thinks she’s a bit off, but she doesn’t mind. Marching to the beat of one’s own drummer is a good thing, after all. Her published works can be found at Dreamspinner Press, eXtasy Books, and Wayward Ink Press.

Catch up with Julie on her blog, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

pride

Out today! WAIT by AL Jackson Excerpt & Giveaway!

Wait Release bannerFrom NYT & USA Today bestselling author AL Jackson comes a new adult contemporary romance. WAIT is part of the Bleeding Stars series, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.

Catch the excerpt, trailer and enter the giveaway below.

Wait-CoverAbout the book:
She is his strength and he is her weakness. And this time he won’t let her go.
Edie Evans is gorgeous.
Sexy.
Kind.
She’s also the definition of off-limits.

But that didn’t stop me from sneaking into her room to comfort her at night.
But guys like me? We destroy everything, so it should have been no surprise when I destroyed us, too.
The night I sent her running, I thought I’d never see her again.
Until I saw her standing like a vision in the crowd.

Austin Stone is dangerous.
Alluring.
Tempting.
He broke my heart and I refused to give him the chance to do it again.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him, and now I can’t do anything but stare at the gorgeous, tattooed man playing onstage. I should run. I know I should. But like a fool, I run straight back to him.

Our desire is overpowering.
Our need unrelenting.
She is my hope.
He is my weakness.
We should have known a passion this intense would burn us right into the ground.

How about a little taste?

“Shit,” I hissed, bracing myself against the spray of the icy shards pelting from the shower head.

I sucked in a breath, released it between clenched teeth, and forced myself fully under it.

Head dropped and chest heaving as rivers of ice-cold water slicked down my shoulders and back.

But it did nothing to lessen the need. Gave me no sanity or pacification.

Because all I could think about was the girl on the other side of the door.

My girl.

In my bed.

Wearing just her panties and my shirt.

An angel I wanted to dirty.

I always had.

Love was messy like that.

All of my restraint scattered. I gripped my cock. Squeezed the base. My mouth dropped open at the pressure of my hand against my rigid length.

A fool thinking it might be enough.

Shit.

God, I was a bastard, but there was nothing I could do before I was giving in, leaning forward and bracketing my forearm above my head to hold my weight.

Water pounded down on my head and back while I pounded my fist against my dick.

Trying to keep silent when all I wanted was to moan, teeth digging into my bottom lip as I pictured the girl spread out for me.

My breaths were coming short.

Panted and hard.

I gave into imagining the sounds she would make when I finally got to bury myself in her body.

A soft, soft gasp.

I slowed, trying to convince myself that throaty sound was all in my mind.

Just another part of this fantasy.

Until I heard the small thump against the wall.

Shit.

I mashed my eyes closed, like it might hide me.

Conceal the depravity of my actions after I’d just been comforting her hours before.

Heart thrashing, I turned and moved far enough to peek out the small section where the fabric shower curtain hadn’t been drawn fully closed.

It was just a little sliver that left me exposed.

But it was enough. When I peered out, I was looking right at my girl pressed up against the wall.

She stared right back at me.

And I wanted to be horrified, my mind scrambling to conjure every weak apology I could summon. Ready to fucking grovel to keep her from turning and running once again.

Because that’s exactly what I expected her to do.

But her expression…her expression clutched me in the center of the chest and sent what little brain function I had left stampeding south.

Red, lush lips were parted, her hand pressed to her hollow of her throat, pupils dilated so big that her hooded, cerulean eyes appeared black. Needy breaths were coming at me from that sweet mouth like a goddamned freight train.

Desire swelled in the confines of the too-tight room.

Alive.

She pressed deeper into the wall as if it might support her weakened knees. Head rocked back. Thighs squeezing together.

Motherfuck.

My hand shot to the shower wall to steady myself. “Warning you, Edie, you need to get out of here. Right now.”

Interested? You can find WAIT on Goodreads, AmazonBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, as well as the newest BLEEDING STARS novels. Watch for the next installments, WAIT and STAY, coming in 2016.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://bit.ly/NewsFromALJackson or text “jackson” to 96000 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

Connect with A.L. Jackson online on her website, FacebooktwitterGoodreadsAmazon, and Instagram.

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Reality Bites in HIS ROYAL FAVORITE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fabulous contemporary M/M royalty romance from Lilah Pace. HIS ROYAL FAVORITE is the sequel to HIS ROYAL SECRET, but I found it easy to enjoy despite not having read the first book.

His Royal Favorite (His Royal Secret, #2)About the book:

The conclusion of Lilah Pace’s racy, romantic male/male duology following His Royal Secret…

James, Prince of Wales, is making history. He’s decided to come out to his subjects—and the world. However, telling the truth means exposing his relationship with lone-wolf reporter Benjamin Dahan. Although Ben never wanted commitment, the unexpected depth of his feelings leads him to join James in the media’s harsh spotlight.

When the news story explodes across the globe, Ben can endure the mockery and dirty jokes. But after his tragic past is cruelly revealed, his life begins to implode. Can even his love for James be worth this?

James has it no easier. His revelation divides the country and sparks turmoil within the royal family. He must struggle to defend not only himself and Ben, but also his younger sister, who hovers on the brink of a breakdown that could endanger her life.

Is Ben strong enough to survive the onslaught and stand by James’ side? And will James have to make a choice between Ben and the crown?

My Review: 

Ben and James met in Kenya, nearly six months ago. Ben is a financial reporter who has traveled the world and seen a lot, but suffered the deaths of his parents when he was young, and also the cruel manipulations of a much elder lover when he was just a boy. James is the Prince of Wales, next in  line for the throne. They reconnect in London, and their clandestine relationship has grown to the point of love. To risk a spoiler of the first book, James is now the Price Regent, leading the monarchy as his grandfather ails. His uncle, Prince Richard, is none-too-pleased to learn of James sexuality, and certainly sees how he can use this to his own benefit.

James has decided that he can no longer live in the closet, and he’s given Ben the opportunity to walk away–but both men feel a love deeper than either expected, and Ben agrees to come out by James’ side. And it’s horrible.

Yep. The tabloids. The royal in-fighting. Ben’s personal insecurities about all the beautiful young gay men being foisted at James, men more suitable partners for their aristocratic blood and genteel manners. Plus, Ben’s job is a source of stress, as a leak seems to be spilling into the papers, there. James is heartsick for all the Ben has lost, but joyous that he can love his man openly.

There are many bumps in this road, and not all of them are relationship based. James’ sister, Princess Amelia, is unwell, and has been since their parents died. Her self-harm is at the crisis stage, and James knows that once his “reign” ends, he’ll have no power to get her the psychiatric help she needs; the rest of their family would never institutionalize her for fear of the scandal. And, Richard’s been very chatty with the Archbishop regarding the impossibility of an openly gay man becoming the Governor of the Church of England, as James will, when his grandfather dies and he continues in succession. A grand objection from the church would nullify James’ coronation, and he’d not fight for the crown, if it came to that.

Beyond the political, the love story is one that simmers and boils. There are many questions for each man to face, and it’s new to each of them. Neither has had a stable adult relationship before, and they are terrifyingly in love, but is it enough to overcome all the stumbling blocks? Ben is an intensely private man, and he’s being plastered all over the tabloids. He’s fiercely independent, and the security needs relegate him to giving up his flat and essentially moving in with James. His job? Oh man, that’s the worst part.

So, it’s an HEA, but in a very realistic way. Life does not go back to “normal” as it cannot, but there are new expectations of normal, and new paths to forge, together. Ben must adapt to life in the spotlight, at least for now, and he gets assistance from some unlikely partners. I really liked how that part worked, because I wanted to see a bridge built between Ben and James’ friends. There is so much bittersweet going on, but the undercurrent of honest love and affection is the most delicious bit. The Epilogue sweeps up nicely all the leftover bits, and helps the reader know that this is a real and true happiness that lasts, not simply the giddiness of first love. No, we can expect that James and Ben make a life together.

The whole pomp and circumstance of the Royals is not really my thing, but this book gave it more than just a fantasy role. It’s hard work, and constant pressure, and a whole lot of protocol that keeps it all in order. While I hadn’t much interest previously, I definitely gained a larger appreciation for the institution and I surely loved James for all his selflessness in executing his duties. Ben did, too, and was a giant support when James needed him. Their tenderness was so beautiful, but their sexytimes were tons of fun, too.

Interested? You can find HIS ROYAL FAVORITE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author, so she can’t give away too much about herself here, but she has lived everywhere from Italy to the United Kingdom before putting down roots in the American South.

She’s addicted to Diet Coke, loves her dog, and daydreams about several British movie stars (though usually no more than two at a time).

And while it took her a long while to get up the courage to write books, now she hopes she’ll never stop.

Catch up with Lilah online on her website, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

 

 

Happy Book Birthday to DARING THE BAD BOY! Excerpt & Giveaway

MMurphy-DaringtheBadBoyTourHi there! Today I”m helping get the word out on a contemporary YA romance from Ms. Monica Murphy. I’ve liked some of her books in the past, GAME FOR MARRIAGE and GAME FOR TROUBLE, so I know DARING THE BAD BOY will be a sure hit.

Catch the excerpt below and enter to win a $10 GC in the giveaway!

DaringTheBadboy-crush-final-01About the book:
Truth or Dare was never this much fun…
Annie McFarland is sick of being a shy nobody. A session at summer camp seems like the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself—gain some confidence, kiss a boy, be whoever she wants to be. A few days in, she’s already set her sights on über-hottie Kyle. Too bad her fear of water keeps her away from the lake, where Kyle is always hanging out.

Jacob Fazio is at Camp Pine Ridge after one too many screw-ups. Junior counseling seems like punishment enough, but the rigid no-fraternizing-with-campers rules harsh his chill. When a night of Truth or Dare gets him roped into teaching Annie how to swim, she begs him to also teach her how to snag Kyle.

Late-night swim sessions turn into late-night kissing sessions…but there’s more on the line than just their hearts. If they get caught, Jake’s headed straight to juvie, but Annie’s more than ready to dare him to reveal the truth.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains references to drinking, sexual situations, adult language, and an intense bad boy hero who will melt your heart.

How about a little taste?

Great. The rudest boy at camp just so happened to save my life. I hoped he wasn’t one of those types who expected me to be indebted to him for the rest of the summer or whatever.

I looked away and coughed, water filling my mouth so I had no choice but to avert my head and spit it out. My cheeks felt hot, and I couldn’t believe I was embarrassed, but old habits died hard, I guess.

He said nothing, just grabbed my hand and walked/ dragged me the rest of the way out of the water, until we were standing on the sandy beach. I heard feet thumping on the dock and I glanced up, watched in disbelief as the majority of my so-called friends and the boys from B7B ran off the dock. Not a one of them had stayed behind to see if I was okay.

Not a single one of them.

Were they scared they’d get in trouble? Would Jacob rat me out? He was the director’s nephew, after all. I needed to say something to him. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I didn’t want to be sent home, and I’m pretty sure he had the power to make both things happen.

Before I could say anything, though, Jacob grabbed my shoulders and gave them a little shake so I’d look up at him. His eyes were dark, his mouth set in a grim line, and he bent his knees a little so our gazes were even. “You really all right?” he asked, his tone firm.

I’d quit coughing, but my voice still came out slightly wheezy. “I’m fine.” My bones felt like jelly and I thought I might pass out from lack of oxygen, but yeah. I was great.

He squeezed my bare shoulders with his big hands, his fingers sliding over my thin bikini straps, and I realized I’d never stood this close to a boy before with so little clothing on. A shiver moved through me, and I tried to take a step back for much-needed distance, but he wouldn’t let me go.

“That was really stupid, jumping off the dock like that,” he said, his deep voice now full of irritation.

“Trust me, I wasn’t trying to impress you.” I couldn’t believe I’d said that. But I was offended that he basically just called me stupid.

“No kidding.” He released his hold on my shoulders and walked a few steps away, snatching up something off the beach. “And I definitely wasn’t impressed.”

I made an incredulous sound, one I usually saved for the privacy of my bedroom when no one else was around, and he sent me a look. I was reluctant to admit it was sort of a cute look, his dark eyebrows raised, as if he dared me to contradict him.

So I did.

“Are you going to write me up?” When he still said nothing, I continued. “You said you would earlier.” I glanced around, noticed that the dock was completely empty. Where was Kelsey, anyway? Did she leave me, too? “You want me to?” “N-no. O-of c-course n-not.” My teeth had started to chatter. I didn’t know if it was from the cold or the shock, or a combination of both, but I couldn’t make them stop.

“Did you bring a towel with you at least?” Jacob asked. When I shook my head, he muttered something that sounded distinctly like a curse word starting with the letter F. The sympathetic look he shot my way was surprising as he came back toward me, his hand thrust outward, a ball of fabric clutched in it. “Take this.”

I didn’t want him feeling sorry for me. And that didn’t look like a towel. “Wh-what i-is it?” I wrapped my arms around my middle, my fingers brushing against my goosebump-covered torso. I couldn’t stop shaking. It was like I had no control over my body.

He sighed and glanced to his left, then his right, like he wanted to make sure there was no one around before he stepped forward and stretched the dark fabric between his hands. “Don’t move,” he ordered, his tone bossy as he yanked the fabric over my head.

I jerked against his first touch, but otherwise I remained still. It was a giant hoodie that he slipped over my head. Warm and soft and a little sandy from when he’d abandoned it on the beach. The fabric clung to my damp skin and the hem fell to my thighs, covering me from my neck to almost my knees. I shoved my arms in the sleeves but they were so long, they swallowed my hands completely, even when I stretched my fingers out.

He stepped closer and reached behind my head, pulling the hood up so that it covered my soaked hair. Then he grabbed hold of the strings at the sweatshirt’s neck and tugged on them, so the hood cinched around my face tightly, his gaze never leaving mine. “Better?”

I nodded and took a deep breath, the shivering starting to subside, thank goodness. “Much.”

Jacob reached out and wiped one cheek, then the other, his thumb rough yet warm against my chilled skin. “You’re still wet.”

“I should p-probably take a shower.” I clamped my freezing lips shut. Why did I just say that? Showers meant naked, and I didn’t want to talk about getting naked with Jacob.

Interested? You can find DARING THE BAD BOY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and Harper Collins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

Catch up With Monica here:

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Figuring It Out Without BURNING TRACKS–Review and Giveaway!

BannerTemplateHi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a contemporary lesbian love story from Lilah Suzanne. BURNING TRACKS is the second book in a series and probably best enjoyed after reading BROKEN RECORDS. This story centers on a young, married stylist, who’s not sure she’s ready for motherhood, and is tempted by a sexy client.

Catch a bonus interview, an excerpt, and enter the $25 GC and ebook giveaway, below.

Burning Tracks 900px FRONT (Tumblr)About the book:
In the sequel to Broken Records, Gwen Pasternak has it all: a job she loves as a celebrity stylist and a beautiful wife, Flora. But as her excitement in working with country music superstar Clementine Campbell grows, Gwen second-guesses her quiet domestic bliss. Meanwhile, her business partner, Nico Takahashi and his partner, reformed bad-boy musician Grady Dawson, face uncertainties of their own.

How about a taste?

“There’s a reason you two aren’t allowed to hang out alone.” Arms crossed, one impeccable eyebrow raised, lips twisted, hair artfully tousled, and dressed to the nines: Alexander Wang black-on-black tropical-printed board shorts, a slim fit black-and-white chino and matching black lapel jacket, black boots, and a black and white scarf to tie it all together. “Nico,” Gwen says.

“Nico?” Grady is up in a flash. “You came?”

Nico’s face softens into his Grady look. “Of course I came. Did you really think you were getting rid of me that easily?” Grady comes closer, and Nico brushes a spiraled lock of hair from his face. “I’m sorry it took me so long. There were storms over Dallas, and I got stuck on the tarmac with a dead phone. I barely made my connection, and the clusterfuck of morons known as the United gate at JFK could not get its shit together, and I may be banned outright from Charlotte-Douglas International, can you believe they flag you as a security risk and hold you in a room with no phone signal or Wi-Fi just for threatening one person with shoving that goddam intercom up their—” He opens his arms for Grady; his look of annoyance slips away the moment they touch. “Anyway, I’m here.”

Grady sighs, crowds into Nico’s space, and tucks himself into Nico’s body. Much better, a perfect fit. “God, I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Nico sinks one hand into his hair, strokes the nape of his neck with other, breathes him in, and closes his eyes. “I’m so sorry. About the apartment and taking off and not being here yesterday, I tried to so hard to make it because I know how difficult it is for you. You shouldn’t have been alone.”

Grady sniffs and holds him tighter. “It’s okay. We’re okay. I’m sorry, too.”

Still ensnared in the sheets and duvet and barely awake, Gwen presses her hands to her cheeks and awws. “You guys,” she coos.

Grady lifts his head from Nico’s neck to smile at Gwen. “I wasn’t alone, though.”

“Mmm” Nico says. “And how much trouble did she get you into?”

None,” Gwen says, defensive. Here she kept Grady safe and sound, searched all over Nashville and Las Vegas while he was off burying himself in work and what thanks does she get? None.

But then Grady smirks and says, “Kind of a lot.”

“Grady.” Gwen throws a pillow at him. “You’re such a tattletale, gosh.”

He bends to whisper something in Nico’s ear, and Gwen doesn’t miss the way his lips drag and linger on the shell of it, or the way Nico’s breath catches and his eyes roll back. When Nico lifts Grady’s shirt and traces around the tattoos with reverent fingers, Gwen takes that as her cue to extricate herself from the bed, put on some pants and a bra, and go fetch her luggage.

“‘Kay you guys have fun and make sure to change the sheets when you’re finished.”

“Wait.” Nico tugs Grady’s shirt down. Then he goes to the case he always has nearby. “You have trouble of your own, Gwen. Thought you might want to know about this.”

Gwen catches the magazine and folded-up papers he tosses her way: screen grabs from a few entertainment websites printed out in black and white.

Is This Clementine Campbell’s Girlfriend? Our source says, “It wouldn’t surprise me.”

Clementine and Gal Pal Definitely More Than Pals Sunning On Vegas Pool Deck.

Our exclusive source and close confidant of both says: Clementine’s married girlfriend “would cheat for sure. She was always touching her. There’s been an energy between them from the very beginning.”

There are pictures: her rubbing sunscreen on Clementine’s bare back, which looks far steamier in a fuzzy long-range picture than it actually was; a picture of them from the back at the store in the Venetian with their hands clasped and Clementine curled in close and her lips on Gwen’s cheek; and most damning of all, grinding together at the VIP club at the Bellagio just last night.

“I don’t—” Frantic and confused, she flaps the magazine and printouts in the air. “What is this? This isn’t— Nico, I didn’t, I swear.

Nico holds both hands up. “Hey, I am well aware of the slander of tabloids. I get it.” He gives her a sympathetic look. “I’m just not sure Flora is going to.”

Some thoughts on writing from Author Lilah Suzanne:

Tell us something no one else knows about your characters.
Gwen thinks that Flora’s group of teacher friends is nice, but a little boring. And that’s okay, Flora has plenty of fun with book club and wine and cheese nights no matter what Gwen thinks, but sometimes Flora and her friends will go to a burlesque show. Sometimes Flora’s teacher friends will join in. Teachers aren’t always boring.

Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it?
I do, often, but now I try to identify what’s blocking me instead of giving up and deciding the story just isn’t meant to be: Does the chapter need to go in a different direction? Do I need to let an idea sit for a while? Am I insecure about the story and letting that discourage me? Am I too worried about other’s expectations and letting that discourage me? There’s almost always a good reason for writer’s block that isn’t “I’m terrible and everything I do is terrible.” Almost always.

What book you’ve written would you like to see made into a movie?
Well, I happen to think this series would make an excellent movie. Or a television series.

Do you work on an outline or plot or just let the story takes you where it wants to go?
I do both. I outline but not in detail. I need to know where I’m going and what happens next, the basic story arcs, but otherwise I let the plot and characters flesh out as I go.

Always nice to get some insights on how authors approach their work!

My Review:
This is an interesting and complicated love story for a married couple that may be having some problems…and how it all gets back on “track.”

Gwen is a stylist living in Nashville with her wife, Flora. They’ve had some bumps in their road, but have been together for ten years. Newly settled in a nice house and neighborhood, Flora is ready for a baby. And Gwen isn’t, exactly. She wants Flora to be happy, and loves her wife, but she’s scared, and afraid to talk about it, in case it upsets Flora.

Meanwhile, her business partner, Nico and his partner country music singer Grady, are having trouble. Grady wants a big commitment, and Nico’s a little nervous. He style Grady, and Grady’s best friend, Clementine. If things go bad, then Nico and Gwen are in big financial trouble. Plus, the culture shock of staid Nashville compared to wild Hollywood is a difficult transition for both Gwen and Nico to make. As Nico and Grady struggle, Gwen has to step up her work hours, something that Flora understands, but doesn’t always accept. It’ll be way harder to be flexible once they have a child. For a woman who’s been a huge disappointment to her parents, Gwen is sure to also disappoint Flora, right?

And, it’s sure not easy for Gwen to keep her focus when gorgeous, driven, and talented Clementine seems to be making moves on her. They spend a lot of time together, as Nico steps away to clear his head, and Gwen takes on the responsibility of dressing both Grady and Clem for their events–and tracking down manic Grady to prevent him falling off the wagon. Meanwhile, Flora. The baby that may come. Their lives seemingly stalled.

Just want to say this one ended up being really emotional, without being angsty. Most of the story is told from Gwen’s POV in the present, but there are several chapters from Flora’s POV that detail periods of their lives together, in the past. How they met, fell in love, and filled one another’s lives. Instead of cutting the tension, these sweet recollections raise the stakes when we experience Gwen in the moment with both Flora and Clementine. No one wants to watch a love die, and that includes Gwen. She’s got a ton of insecurities, due to her non-relationships with her parents, and always feels that she’ll fall short at being a good wife and mother. Clem’s interest is tantalizing, and scary. It’s nothing like Flora’s patient and constant affection.

For people who hate cheaters in stories, I’ll go so far as to say: you won’t be riled. Gwen learns the real truth of her life, and makes it all work in a way that only settled, married people can. There’s a bit of heartbreak, but it’s not due to romantic difficulties. There’s a lot of sweet moments, and I was glad that Nico and Grady seemed to hash out their confusion. The end is totally HEA-swoony and give a sense of closure on the series, though I imagine we’ll see more books. And, that’s a good thing. Expect lots and lots of sexytimes for Gwen and Flora, and I liked that bunches. Even though lesbian fiction isn’t in my wheelhouse, I was fully able to connect with the characters and their passion.

Interested? You can find BURNING TRACKS on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link below for your chance to win a $25 Interlude Press gift card or one of FIVE ebooks.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer, she has also authored a children’s book and has a devoted following in the fan fiction community. She is also the author of Interlude Press books Spice, Pivot and Slip, and Broken Records, which was named a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews Magazine.

Find Lilah online on her website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

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