Cephalopod Coffeehouse February 2014–GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS

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.

Before I get started, I’d like to remind everyone that there’s a New Adult Erotic Romance up for grabs on the blog–just comment on this post (ends Sunday March 2nd midnight CST).

This month, I’m reviewing a contemporary romance, by Inglath Cooper called GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS. Why I liked this story–this four POV tale doesn’t just follow the leading lady and her leading male–it also encompasses their teen children, who themselves have a bit of a fling…

Good Guys Love DogsHere’s what happens:

Ian McKinley has worked hard to reach the top. He’s a major player in an NYC stockbrokerage and he’s newly engaged. Sure, the relationship is more a merger than a romance, but hey, he lost his heart when his first wife died of a stroke days after delivering their only child, Luke. Ian’s perfect little world bottoms out when he’s called to pick Luke up from the police precinct on a drug possession charge. Desperate to reconnect with Luke, and keep him out of trouble, Ian takes a year of paid leave and moves them to a small Virginia town to complete Luke’s senior year of high school.

Colby Williams got pregnant her freshman year of college. Baby Lena didn’t stop the dynamo from completing her BS, and DVM, however. Colby has prided herself on the strong relationship she has with her precious girl, but things are suddenly strained –and she’s pretty sure that new boy Luke McKinley is to blame–particularly when she finds birth control pills in her 15 y/o daughter’s backpack. Bigger problem? Ian McKinley, Luke’s father, is the first man Colby’s felt even a tingle of attraction for in the time since Lena’s father walked away without a second glance. Biggest problem? Rachel, Ian’s fiance.

I really enjoyed the interplay between the points of view. There’s some good misdirection going on with the input of Luke–a boy who totally wants his absentee father’s love and approval, yet can’t talk to him at all. Not to mention he’s at a loss to understand why they now live on a farm. And Lena, who thought her father had died, is acting out NOT because she twitterpated (though she is) but because…well…how would you behave if the one person you could trust most turned out to be a big fat liar, huh?

Colby’s desperate to keep her matchmaking friends at bay–she’s not a home wrecker, for goodness sake! Meanwhile, engaged Ian is losing his city slicking mind. Buying farms and sterile calves (of the bovine kind) and rescuing dogs from the shelter. It’s enough to drive one lonely veterinarian over the edge.

Through the first month following the McKinley’s arrival, there’s a lot of drama, and a lot of personal connection, and pretty soon Ian’s not so sure about settling for a marital merger. Not when there’s a heady attraction that could so easily blossom into the kind of love he once knew. And Luke’s taking a shine to a slower paced life–when there’s a quirky girl like Lena to smooth the path.

It’s a not-too-smexy tale of hearts connecting. Both man-to-woman and parent-to-child. Colby learns to step back from mothering Lena, just enough to let her see that it’s okay if one parent didn’t want you–especially when the other so absolutely did. And Ian’s hands-on parenting gives Luke the satisfaction of having a Dad, not a wallet. I really enjoyed this one.

Interested? You can find GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s been out since 2012, so it may also be in libraries…

Now, don’t forget to enter to win that erotic romance e-book. And, stop in to check out the other Coffeehouse offerings below. Meanwhile, keep reading my friends! 🙂

Click these linky-loos for other great book recommendations!!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. Scouring Monk
3. Trisha @ WORD STUFF 4. Wishbone Soup Cures Everything
5. The Random Book Review 6. Words Incorporated
7. StrangePegs — The Casual Vacancy 8. Read, Write, Repeat
9. Mockity Mock Mock 10. I Think: Therefore, I Yam
11. Julie Flanders 12. The Writing Sisterhood
13. StrangePegs — Brave New World 14. V’s Reads

Cover Reveal! CAPTURED: Vice, Virtue & Video Part 2–Updated with giveaway!!!

Coming April 2014

V3_Captured_Cover_alt2Book 2 in the Vice, Virtue and Video series

by Bianca Giovanni

and OmniFic Publishing

Lifelong best friends James Laird and Lola Caraway are reunited when Lola moves to LA after college. Lola is starting her new life, new job, and a new romance with a successful lawyer–a relationship which forces James to question the nature of his feelings for Lola.

James has always been a master at pleasuring women, so it was an easy transition to play a Master on-screen in a series of BDSM videos which have brought him fame and the promise of a lucrative career.

The films have also brought him the attention of hardcore producer Eva Satana, who wants James to be a ruthless Dominant -for real- in her brutal and extreme BDSM scenes. James soon finds himself caught in a contract he cannot break and compelled by threats to the woman who’s stood by him through everything.

There’s no way out…unless James bends to Eva’s twisted demand: seduce his virginal best friend and capture it on tape for her depraved audience. Can their friendship survive desire, deception, and one pissed off dominatrix?

Their decisions will decide who will be free and who will be…CAPTURED

The first book, REVEALED, was a total steamer. You can catch my review for it here. What I so loved about the book was the compassionate way James and Lola treated each other. Their friendship morphed into an attraction, but neither pressed the other to go beyond their comfort zone. Lola was sassy and James was sexy, but together they were great buddies. I wanted each of them to find their happiness, and it didn’t necessarily have to be with each other.

Revealed (Vice, Virtue, & Video, #1)Synopsis:

James Laird and Lola Caraway have been next door neighbors and best friends since elementary school. James was always the ultimate player, and after graduation moves to LA and finds his place as a rising star in the porn industry. Lola, three years younger, is a studious overachiever and on track for graduation and success in college. Lola knows about and accepts James and his debauchery; it’s never been a secret between the two friends. However, a hometown visit prompts James to face his evolving feelings for her, especially after his conservative family discovers his true profession and she comes to his rescue. Not wanting to seduce the innocent Lola, he returns to California, where he sets his sights on becoming a superstar in the industry. While Lola is visiting James from college, they dance around their attraction to each other. After Lola admits she’s never had an orgasm, James offers to be her hands-on teacher. A lifetime of friendship with a manwhore tells Lola that she should not get attached to James as a lover, as tempting as his offer may be. Can she please her body while still protecting her heart? From the author of some of the highest rated erotic romance on Smashwords comes this first look into a world of love, friendship…and porn.

About the Author:

Bianca Giovanni is an indie author. Her erotic romance really took off with early versions of Vice, Virtue, and Video selling like gangbusters on Smashwords. Now working with Omnific Publishing, her five book series will reach an even bigger audience. You can find her on her website, twitter, and Facebook.

OmniFic Publishing is letting me choose one lucky commenter to receive
a free eBook to get readers caught up on the series.

If you'd like to read REVEALED--for FREE--comment below to 
tell me how far you have ever gone to help a friend in need. 
Comments must be in by Sunday March 2nd at midnight (CST).

Thanks for stopping in, and keep reading my friends!

Fall For THIRD DAUGHTER–Review and Giveaway

If you had to marry for love or marry for peace, what would you choose?

third-daughterThat’s the question facing Princess Aniri, Third Daughter to the Queen of Dharia.
Hi there and welcome to my stop on the THIRD DAUGHTER blog tour. It’s my great pleasure to welcome this YA Royalty Romance–from my friend and longtime writing colleague Susan Kaye Quinn.

How about a little taste?

“I love you, Aniri,” Devesh whispered.

When he pulled back, she smiled. “I hate to tell you this, Dev, but I already knew that.”

“If you go off with this Prince Malik, and anything happens to you, the Queen may dispense an army to come after you, but I will beat them there.”

Aniri drew in a shaky breath. Prince Malik said he would allow her a lover, even though arranged marriages were expected to be true marriages, especially among royalty. But could she live that kind of life? A secret love on the side while performing the duties of Queen in a foreign land? The idea made her shudder. It pained her every day her love for Devesh was kept hidden. She couldn’t imagine a lifetime of it. Nor could she picture Devesh, with his love of the court and all things political, banished to the frozen wastelands of the north simply to be her consort.

He must have seen the emotions warring across her face. “Tell him no, Aniri. Refuse him and come away with me. We could leave today.”

“Dev—”

He cut her off with a kiss. “We could return to Samir,” he whispered against her lips. “We won’t be rich, but we could travel anywhere you wished, all the places your father would have taken you. We would have all the time in the world. To be together. To learn the truth about your father’s killers. To make a family of our own.”

It was precisely what they had planned. Now it all seemed like a hopeless fantasy. “Dev, I can’t simply abandon my country. If I refuse Malik, and there is war to pay, I cannot just run away… Is this the confidence you wanted to tell me?”

Devesh looked torn, like there was something more he wanted to say but was holding it back. “I cannot offer you a Queendom, Aniri. My love is all I can promise. I hope it is enough to convince you to refuse Prince Malik’s offer.”

He stepped back, and with clasped hands and a short bow, he turned and strode away. Her heart tried to beat its way out of her chest to follow him. If she accepted Prince Malik’s offer, she would lose the man she loved.

Unlike the Jungali prince, she wasn’t sure that was a price she was willing to pay.

My Review:

It’s two weeks until Aniri turns eighteen and can choose to marry her beau–Devesh, a courtesan and emissary from Samir. Her two older sisters have already married men that complement their station, even when love is not present, and Aniri is determined to follow her heart, not her duty.

Especially when her duty involves marrying Prince Malik, heir to the throne of the barbarous northern Jungali provinces. No. No! NO!

Except, Aniri knows she can’t decline outright–and rumors of a Jungali airship weapon are serious indeed. If Aniri accepts the prince’s proposal she can get close enough to find out if the airship is real–and maybe she can help her homeland and her mother’s Queendom figure out how to avoid a war.

Prince Malik makes it easy on Aniri–he tells her their marriage would be one of business. That she could (discreetly) take a lover if she wished. Hmm… And her mother, the Queen, assures her that the choice is hers.

Aniri does what she must–becomes a spy. I loved her reactions to the “barbarians” she encounters on her journey north! Oh, how sweet to have her realize, “Hey, they’re pretty awesome in their own way!” Then Devesh shows up and tells her the airship is a ruse–a trick to get her to marry Malik. After which she will be killed and her beloved country Dharia overrun by Samir and Jungali. Aniri doesn’t know whom to believe, and espionage is not her strong suit. The political intrigue is high and Aniri barely escapes an attempt on her life.

The tension is fierce throughout. Each new chapter brings Aniri closer to either love, or death. We get a fantastic steampunk world, with an East Indian flair, and a strong female main character who picks up the ball and runs her hardest. Even when she fumbles, Aniri is worthy of cheers because she learns from her mistakes and never quits.

What I hadn’t expected, and thoroughly adored, was Malik’s assistance. He realizes his only shot at peace is this marriage, and he’s willing to trust a confessed spy with the biggest military secret of his country. Aniri could never have learned what was necessary to save her people without Malik earning her forever trust. And Devesh? Well, perhaps an on-the-side lover isn’t the best place for him in the Jungali court. In the end, Aniri does choose her own husband. And she chooses very well indeed.

Three words to describe this Third Daughter? Indomitable. Passionate. Resourceful. She’s my kind of heroine.

And, can I say the cover is exquisite? The internal art (chapter headings and section breaks) is just as lovely, and speaks volumes about the care that went into making this book. I absolutely LOVED it, and would recommend it to any YA reader. Its smidgeon of passion–some swoony kisses–won’t make you blush, but will get your heart beating.

Interested?  You can find THIRD DAUGHTER at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and kobo.

About Susan Kaye Quinn:

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction. The Dharian Affairs trilogy is her excuse to dress up in corsets and fight with swords. She also has a dark-and-gritty SF serial called The Debt Collector and a middle grade fantasy called Faery Swap. It’s possible she’s easily distracted. She always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can find out what she’s up to by subscribing to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!).

She is also NOMINATED for the Illinois Librarian’s “Soon to be Famous Author Project” wherein librarians hope to discover local authors whose “work will jump off the page for readers.”

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Goodreads

***Blog Tour Giveaway***
Click on the the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
$25 either in a Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash (Ends 3/24/14)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and keep reading my friends!

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Will They Get MOORE THAN FOREVER?–Review and Giveaway

Moore-Than-Forever-Tour-Banner

Hi there and welcome to my stop on the MOORE THAN FOREVER blog tour. For other stops on the tour click here. This contemporary romance by Julie A Richman is the final installment of the Needing Moore trilogy. And boy, is it smoking!

MooreThanForever cover

MOORE THAN FOREVER

(Needing Moore Series, Book 3)

In this third and final book in the Needing Moore Series trilogy, Schooner Moore and Mia Silver must learn how to grow together and fight together as a team to hold onto their second chance love.  Continually stumbling on roadblocks and ghosts from their past, can Schooner and Mia take the lessons they’ve learned and use them to forge a future together.

My review:
With this final book in the Needing Moore series we start with turmoil. Mia’s pregnancy takes a dramatic turn for delivery–while Schooner is still in California watching over his teenaged son, Zak. Oh, and living in his old house with his wife–as their divorce proceedings move forward. It leaves Mia so angry, she doesn’t bother to call Schooner when she’s rushed to the hospital, fully prepared to be a single mother.

Drama much, Mia? We all know Schooner loves you to pieces.

There’s a lot of tension when they reconnect, but Schooner’s patience and tenderness eventually thaw Mia’s iceberg act. In truth, the first two books of the series had so many twists–with characters constantly in peril, I felt the third book was inordinately tame. No one almost dies. Relationships get patched up, and we get an up-close look at the impact of money in sub-Saharan Africa.

I was glad to see the resolution, though at times I felt the pace lagged. And, of course, there’s finally a wedding for our star-crossed, Facebook-reunited lovers. Two new kids for the happy couple, too. The ending was HEA all the way, and left the door open for further Moore adventures, of the Zak kind. Good thing Zak became infinitely more likable in this third book…

As with the other two books, there’s plenty of smexytimes to go around. Giddy up!

Interested? You can find MOORE THAN FOREVER at Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Julie A Richman, in her own words…
I must’ve been 5 or 6 when I started writing “stories”.  I would write them and hide them. Not wanting anyone to see my “secret” thoughts. I needed to write -even back then.  Now I’m just not hiding them anymore.  Is that a sign of maturity?  Nah ….

Writer, photographer, insatiable wanderluster, edge-player, foodie, music addict, pop culture fanatic, animal lover, warrior for the rights of people and planet, and avid cusser (am a Native New Yorker, so very little offends me … and if I am offended, it must be pretty freaking bad .. like bad grammar!).

I am big believer in signs and if we keep ourselves open, there are guideposts all along the way. Stay humble. Be true. Be you.

Life is not a dress rehearsal …

Find Julie A Richman here:  Website | Facebook | Twitter

***GIVEAWAY***

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win on of these prizes:
(5) eBook copies of Moore than Forever – International
(3) $5 Gift Cards – International
(3) Print Copies of Moore than Forever. – US Only
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

AToMRTours_mdm

Sneak Peak and Review: BEST KIND OF BROKEN

Hi there! Today I’m offering a review and a Sneak Peak of Chelsea Fine‘s newest release BEST KIND OF BROKEN, a contemporary New Adult romance organized by InkSlinger Promotions. The book releases March 4th, but you can start your engines, folks. It’s a bumpy ride!

BEST KIND OF BROKEN - CoverSOMETIMES MOVING ON MEANS MOVING IN

Pixie Marshall wishes every day she could turn back time and fix the past. But she can’t. And the damage is done. She’s hoping that a summer of free room and board working with her aunt at the Willow Inn will help her forget. Except there’s a problem: the resident handyman is none other than Levi Andrews. The handsome quarterback was once her friend-and maybe more–until everything changed in a life-shattering instant. She was hoping to avoid him, possibly forever. Now he’s right down the hall and stirring up feelings Pixie thought she’d long buried . . .

Levi can’t believe he’s living with the one person who holds all his painful memories. More than anything he wants to make things right, but a simple “sorry” won’t suffice–not when the tragedy that scarred them was his fault. Levi knows Pixie’s better off without him, but every part of him screams to touch her, protect her, wrap her in his arms, and kiss away the pain. Yet even though she’s so close, Pixie’s heart seems more unreachable than ever. Seeing those stunning green eyes again has made one thing perfectly clear–he can’t live without her.

“By turns humorous and heartbreaking, Best Kind Of Broken has become one of my favorites!”
— CORA CARMACKNew York Times bestselling author of Losing It.

“You’ll fall for Pixie and Levi, just like I did!”
— JENNIFER L. ARMENTROUT (J. Lynn), #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wait For You

“Tangled with friendship, history and heartbreak–not to mention a huge dose of humor–Chelsea Fine’s New Adult novel is not to be missed! Beyond an incredibly HOT read, Pixie and Levi’s longing for each other will have
you rooting for them till the very end.”
— JAY CROWNOVERNew York Times bestselling author of Rule

“This book destroyed me. Tore me into little tiny pieces. But somehow with lots of laughs and some very steamy times, Chelsea put me back together again! Chelsea Fine’s style is witty, visceral and fresh. All I wanted to do was crawl inside this book and live with the characters. And now all I want is MORE.”
— CHELSEA M. CAMERONNew York Times bestselling author of My Favorite Mistake

“Sandwiched between laugh out loud moments and some serious heat, Best Kind of Broken is an unforgettable story of loss and forgiveness that will leave your heart aching.”
— LISA DESROCHERSUSA Today bestselling author of A Little Too Far

 My Review:

Levi and Pixie are long-time friends. They’ve grown up around each other, by virtue of Pixie being BFF’s with Levi’s younger sister, Charity. Pixie’s life hasn’t been good. Her mother–a teen mom filled with regret over the loss of her youth and boyfriend–she has resented Pixie and been emotionally abusive from a young age. Needing love, Pixie took refuge with Charity’s close-knit family and grew to love them all in return–especially Levi who was her steadfast hero. Just as they seem to connect, there’s a horrific accident. Levi and Pixie are plagued with guilt and shame, and Charity is dead.

Fast forward 10 months: Levi’s family has broken up. He’s dropping out of college and none of the family has spoken to Pixie. Isolated without Charity and her family’s love, Pixie refuses to spend her summer at home with her own mother. Instead, she turns to her aunt for a summer job–without knowing that Levi’s already living at her Bed & Breakfast and working as a handyman. Now Pixie’s longtime crush and former friend is her next-door neighbor.

Levi hasn’t handled the implosion of his family well, but it’s even harder for him to see Pixie–the one girl he absolutely adores who bears physical scars from his bad decision–in such close quarters; they share a bathroom. Desperate to talk with her, but unwilling to venture into serious territory, he stoops to antagonizing her, stupid tricks like using up all the hot water in the shower to irritate her into conversation.

Their friends work to get each of them to return to their pre-tragedy life plans, but it’s so difficult to let go of the guilt. Still, their close interactions lead to mini confessions, tiny breakthroughs, and finally the healing  emotional purge they both need. Building on these small successes, Levi is empowered to contact his parents and let them know how betrayed he has felt since they moved away from him and each other. This opens the lines of communication leading to a reconciliation for their family.

Just when we think Levi and Pixie are going to make it, another curve ball–in the form of a college transfer–gets tossed out. Will Pixie move to New York and start over? Or, will she stay in Arizona with the only family she’s ever loved?

It’s a strong story with plenty of snarky humor and personal tragedy. Levi and Pixie make a wonderful couple, and it’s easy to see how their plans got so jumbled. Dealing with trauma is complicated, and many people pull away from those they love in an act of self-defense. For Pixie, her abandonment by Charity’s family is just as hard to accept as it is for Levi. It was good to see that all of these relationships were repaired during the summer. I liked the story. The sexual tension between Pixie and Levi is palpable. Watchingtheir love story come together, and apart and together again was very satisfying. Due to the alternating point of view I could feel their pain and triumph. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find BEST KIND OF BROKEN at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you’d like to read an exclusive EXCERPT, click here

Chelsea Fine HeadshotABOUT CHELSEA FINE:

Chelsea lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she spends most of her time writing stories, painting murals, and avoiding housework at all costs. She’s ridiculously bad at doing dishes and claims to be allergic to laundry. Her obsessions include: superheroes, coffee, sleeping-in, and crazy socks. She lives with her husband and two children, who graciously tolerate her inability to resist teenage drama on TV and her complete lack of skill in the kitchen.

 You can catch up with Chelsea on her website, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Goodreads.

If you have the chance to read BEST KIND OF BROKEN remember to come back and tell me if you liked it!

Keep reading my friends!

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Is It ROMANCE IMPOSSIBLE?–A Review and Giveaway

Confession Time:  I’m a Food Network Junkie. I have been a huge fan of cooking shows since I was young–growing up watching The Frugal Gourmet, and Julia Child’s Kitchen on PBS. Then Dessert Circus and Jaques Pepin…into Mario Batali and Bobby Flay and the list goes on.

Romance ImpossibleI am also totally into food competition shows, and restaurant makeovers…which led me to Gordon Ramsay. Which led me to ROMANCE IMPOSSIBLE. This contemporary romance is a love story for foodies, like me.

Here’s what happens:

Jillian Brown is a chef. She has worked many kitchens around Boston, but is currently out of work due to so many restaurants failing in the depressed economy. Her bank account is nearly empty, and she’s desperate.

Chef Maxwell Dylan (undoubtedly inspired by Chef Gordon Ramsay) is a demanding prick. He’s brash and abrupt and honest. He is unflinchingly critical when it comes to cooking and has built a fortune through his hard work and exacting standards. He is opening a new restaurant. And he wants Jillian to be his sous chef.

Jill knows Chef Dylan, by reputation and by introduction. A few years ago he demanded to meet the chef who had prepared a meal he found lackluster. Jill never forgot that humiliation, and she’d rather eat her chef jacket that work for the notorious Chef Dylan, but that would likely be her last meal as broke and she is, so she accepts his job offer.

In the ramp up to opening the restaurant, Jill and Dylan develop a decent working relationship. She is submissive, as is to be expected, and he is steadfast in his resolve to not get involved with any woman–especially not Jill. He wants to stay focused on the restaurant, but doesn’t miss the quiet confidence Jill exudes. Her patience and attention to detail are just as attractive as her trim physique and pleasant face.

Jill is enamored with Dylan, after a time she is able to get over that horrifying initial meeting. She sees the man behind the frosty rep, and begins to appreciate his confidence and companionship. Over the course of the year there are aborted forays into romance. A kiss here, an embrace there, but each time Dylan pulls back–unsure of so many things. He’s never had a long-term relationship and won’t risk his stable work environment for what he’s sure will be a brief fling. Also, having amassed a fortune, he’s never sure if a woman is interested in him personally, or financially. This is a real fear, because Dylan’s personality is generally disagreeable.

Dylan seems to make extra effort to include Jill in his other endeavors, each time elevating her status and career. This includes recommending she be a part of a reality TV show to help ‘soften’ Dylan’s brash appeal. While on location in LA, Jill’s ex-fiance turns up. She and Eric had been together for 5 years and three weeks before their wedding she discovered he was dating another woman. Yet another humiliation, and one she had confessed to Dylan some months ago. With Eric trying to woo her back, Jill can only recognize how little she cares for him. He’s a cheater who hides all his treachery behind a nice demeanor, unlike Dylan. She’s about to tell all this to Eric, but another shoe had yet to drop, and Jill’s shattered once more.

Not long after, Dylan’s attempt to comfort Jill turns physical. Real physical. And Dylan panics. He’s not confident enough to risk his heart and tries to strike the best balance he can–to Jill’s great disappointment. She turns in her resignation and finds a new job as head chef in a prestigious restaurant. But fate isn’t finished with Jill. And one chance encounter leads these two to the place that were meant to be.

It’s a slow simmer of a romance, realistic in size and scope. Throughout there are tiny vignettes, excerpts of one of Dylan’s ‘cookbooks’, to illustrate his passion for food and cooking. The passion he contains for Jill is just as potent–and magnifies his fear of rejection by ten-fold. Then he sees how gracefully Jill accepts continued rejections and finally casts his whole heart on the line. It’s a joyful ending, and I really enjoyed the book. It’s told from alternating point of view so we can wallow deliciously in the tension between these two strong characters.

Interested? You can find this book on Goodreads, and Amazon. Right now it’s only available as a paperback, but the eBook will be out Feb 25th.

Melanie MarchandeMelanie Marchande is the author of the “I Married a Billionaire” trilogy.

In her own words:

“I’ve always been fascinated by that feeling, that little spark – that tingle – the way your stomach can flip-flop at just hearing someone’s name. We all remember what it’s like. With my books, I hope to make you remember that feeling, to experience that thrill one more time. And the best part is, you can always come back and experience it again, and again, and again…”

You can find Melanie on her blog, Goodreads, Facebook, and twitter.

She’s hosting a GOURMET GIVEAWAY for the next five days on her website and Facebook. Click this link for your chance to enter.

Up for grabs: TWO bulbs of indulgent black garlic, ONE package of gourmet squid ink pasta, ONE Dylan’s Trattoria logo apron, and ONE $25 Amazon.com gift card

One can probably make quite a tasty meal with all those fixin’s.

Best of luck and keep reading my friends! 🙂

ALL FOR YOU–Gritty Romance–A Review

Who protects our soldiers?

That’s a question I continue to wonder about. Right now, after more than a decade of war, our soldiers are seeing record numbers of suicides–more than one a day across all branches of the military. My own father was a Vietnam veteran and, through him, I have first-hand experience with the ravages of combat on a soldier’s emotional state. How difficult it is to return home, to return to “normal” life.

And, that’s what drew me to ALL FOR YOU, a newly released contemporary romance by Jessica Scott. My regular readers know I review a ton of romance. Most of it is pretty breezy and–with regard to those books–I almost hesitate to call ALL FOR YOU a romance. There is a strong romantic plot line within the story, don’t misunderstand that, it’s simply that the emotional tenor of the book is not-at-all breezy.

In fact, it’s downright gritty.

Army Sergeant Reza Iaconelli is just returning to command. He’s considered an NCO, non-commissioned officer, and is on probation. He has served several tours of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan, but is currently training soldiers for duty at Fort Dix in Texas while he battles an alcohol addiction. Sergeant Ike–as he is called–wants nothing more than to report for combat duty himself. He is a survivor of horrific child abuse and watched his father beat his mother to death as a young teen. For him, the living moment-to-moment atmosphere of combat is easy.  It takes his mind away for the ghosts of his memory, people he didn’t save, couldn’t protect, like his mother. Due to his intoxication, Sergeant Ike missed the signs of addiction for one of his men. Guilt drives him to get that battle-scarred warrior a full medical discharge–and there’s one thing in the way.

Captain Emily Lindberg is a “slick sleeve”–a non-combat psychologist–working the enormous case load of depressed, shell-shocked, and potentially suicidal soldiers. She joined the army to help patients she felt needed it–not the pseudo-disturbed clientele of her parents’ lucrative practice. In fact, Emily’s wealthy family all but disowns her when she enlists. Her docket of files is overflowing and overwhelming. Being a female, and a slightly-built one at that–Emily sometimes suffers the scorn of the commanders–like Sergeant Reza Iaconelli. Reza directly challenges her over the care of his men, but Emily is a strong advocate. It is through her tireless devotion to care that Emily saves one of Reza’s soldiers from a pattern of hazing from a superior.

Of course, as I said, this is a romance. But it’s not the mushy-gushy type. There is an attraction between Reza and Emily. One he fights the same way he battles alcohol–one day at a time. In the guise of combat mentor Reza soon develops a rapport with Emily. And, for Emily, whose philandering ex-fiance is the son of a senator, Reza embodies the honesty and conviction of a hero and an officer.

Romance aside, there are many pressures facing this couple, not the least of which is military politics. Emily risks her commissioned status if she openly dates Reza–due to his embroilment in a potential hazing scandal. True, he didn’t perpetrate it, but he’s in the chain of command and all the lower rungs on the ladder may be sacrificed to protect the reputation of the higher-ups. Plus, he’s an easy target due to his alcoholism and short temper.

In the middle, a tragedy binds Reza and Emily together, but at what cost?

Can Emily trust Reza to keep her safe from his personal demons? And, for Reza, can he trust Emily to care for him–without constant emotional analysis? Besides, she’s a rich gal. She certainly can do better than a half-washed out officer, right?

There are some really dark parts of this story. It’s gripping in the way of A FEW GOOD MEN, but bears a slightly softer side, as well. We have alternating view point, allowing us to see inside Reza’s battle-scarred psyche, and it’s a scary place to exist, as you might imagine. In an age where our soldiers are coming home for the front lines in greater numbers and finding less opportunity and a difficult return to “normal” civilian life, the coping mechanisms are often chemical in nature. This book doesn’t shy away from that dark side. At all. Nor does it paint a rosy picture of the mental toll of war.

My father used to say something along these lines when he spoke of his army experience:  They ask you for your life, and that’s exactly what they take. That’s the kind of realism I found in this story. It’s powerful and profound, and I hoped against all hope that Sergeant Ike would get it right this time around. The pacing is tight, keeping the story rolling fast. The ending isn’t a typical bright and shiny HEA–but the reader is definitely left with a sense that life will get better for these characters. That they have been tempered by the fire, not burned.

Interested? You can find ALL FOR YOU at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble–among other places I’m sure…

If you have the chance to pick this one up, make sure to come back and tell me what you thought!

And, as always, keep reading my friends! 🙂