Swooned for The DUKE IN DENIAL–A Review

What if following your heart could cause your death?

Hi there! Welcome!

Today’s book is one I’ve been waiting to share until it was released. It’s an historical M/M romance and I adored it. Allow me to tell you more about THE DUKE IN DENIAL by Alexandra Ainsworth.

The Duke in DenialAbout the book:

Sebastian Lewis never expected to become a duke. But with the sudden deaths of his cousin and uncle, Sebastian’s position changes. He is determined to fulfill his new responsibilities with grace, even if it means remarrying, and even if the attractions of women, so often lauded by poets, fail to interest him.

Captain William Carlisle, newly returned from India, is elated when he meets Sebastian. Nobody knows of his inclinations, but his harrowing experiences in battle have prompted him to reach for the type of companionship he longs for. He thinks Sebastian might feel an attraction as well, but to his dismay, he discovers that Sebastian is courting his sister Dorothea.

After a semi-arranged engagement and a disconcerting romantic tangle with William, Sebastian escapes London to look after his manor, only to face mysterious thefts, a headless ghost, and the arrival of his fiancé, her brother, and his family. Sebastian’s new estate sits on the south coast, England’s most vulnerable location, and Napoleon has set his sights on conquering the area. Amid this growing turmoil, Sebastian must sort out his feelings for his fiancée’s brother and keep his home safe . . . and determine if he has the courage to reach for his own happiness in the process.

My Review:
Sebastian is a newly entailed Duke following the untimely deaths of his uncle and cousin. From his remote northern estate, he’s thrust upon the London scene as one of the biggest “catches” of the season. A widower who recently lost his young son, Sebastian hopes to marry quickly and get settled in his new duties; his focus has always been outward, caring for his estates and the people who work them. Not a romantic, he expects to have cordial relations with his wife-to-be, Dorothea, his dead cousin’s fiancé. She’s a beautiful woman, yet Sebastian isn’t attracted, much. He’s really not sure why–or why all the men around him act like such lecherous fools…

Then he meets William and Sebastian’s unhappy to sense an attraction to another man. William is an army Captain, newly returned from duty in India where he was injured. He’s recuperating and spending time with his younger sister, Dorothea, who it seems will soon wed a Duke.

Yes. That Duke.

Sebastian and William had shared some lovely moments before learning that they were to be joined as brothers-in-law. William, who understands his sexuality, is attracted to Sebastian and playful in his banter without being overt. Sebastian just senses an instant connection to William–he’s much more down-to-earth than the London aristocracy-but knows his attraction is unnatural, unacceptable and illegal in these Victorian times. The more William approaches, he harder it is for Sebastian to step away, however. Dorothea knows her brother well, and suspects there is more than filial interest behind William’s attentiveness to her fiancé.

Still, the seal is broken. The attraction simmers so much that William is almost compelled to break off his sister’s engagement–ruining her chances for another match.

Sebastian is determined to deny this passion he feels for William, and to marry Dorothea, but in the mix we get a whole lotta drama. Sebastian’s new estate has become the scene of some untoward rumors. The few staff not scared off the ghost are afraid of Napoleon’s army invading. And his new neighbor, Sir Ambrose, seems determined to steal Dorothea away.

It’s a lovely trip into the past, with the added bonus of a steamy romance. Sebastian is so determined to do right by everyone but himself–and William is unwilling to let go a man with whom he can share himself completely. Supporting characters help to round out the story in ways that were fun and surprising. I adored Sebastian’s cousin Penelope, and her mother–both of whom were outspoken women. Dorothea’s almost mercenary desire to marry Sebastian was at reasonable–considering Sir Ambrose’s unwelcome advances.

The resolution of the ‘ghost’ had just enough breadcrumbs such that I could predict the culprit and still enjoy the revelation. And action picks up steadily, a whole espionage subplot takes over the climax leaving Sebastian being thoroughly bereft of love, for a time. It may sound like there’s broken hearts, but the end is a superlative HEA. In the upper crust of Regency London, it is the appearance of propriety that is important, and William and Sebastian are able to make a life that works for them without upsetting the social applecart. Dorothea’s reputation was also spared.

The steamy scenes were so well done, sexy not sloppy, and I’m always enchanted by ‘first times’. Sebastian’s complete naïveté of all things homosexual was nearly comical–getting picked up by a man and having a drink in a mollyhouse was a real blunder. One he was grateful that William saved him from. I enjoyed the slow burn of the romance. The characters were equally introspective, and cautious, about moving forward into relations fostering an exquisite sexual tension. The dialogue and language was appropriate for the period, which I treasured.

Interested? You can find THE DUKE IN DENIAL on Goodreads, and Amazon. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for advanced review.

About the Author:

The Duke in Denial is her debut novel. You can find her on her website, Facebook and twitter.Alexandra Ainsworth lives on the south coast of England. An ardent Anglophile, Alexandra left her home in New England several years ago to move to the real England, spurred on by promises of good tea and green countryside. She still gets a thrill from living in the same country as all her favorite regency romance characters. 

Thanks for popping in! And, keep reading my friends! 🙂

 

Sneak Peek! FALL TO YOU by Lexi Ryan

SNEAK PEEK!

Hi there! Today I’m hosting a sneak peek of Fall to You by Lexi Ryan. This New Adult contemporary romance is the second book in the Here and Now series. It is not a stand-alone and is intended to be read following Lost in Me. Hanna’s story concludes in book three, All for This.

Disclaimer: The books are sexy. Mature Audiences only! And the except below…well, it’s a sexy non-sex-scene. If you like ’em hot, read on!

To give you a sense of what’s happened, Hanna suffers a fall and serious brain injury. When she wakes up, she learns that she’s got amnesia erasing her memories of the past year. She also learns she’s engaged to her childhood crush, and dating a sexy rock star. Problem is they are two different men….

FallToYou Amazon GR SWNew Adult Contemporary Romance
Available June 2, 2014
Pre-order on iBooks

About This Book:

Torn between two men…
When I woke up after the accident, I couldn’t remember anything from the last year—including my relationship with Max Hallowell or anything about Nate Crane. Now my memories are returning, but instead of answering my questions, they’re leaving me with more.

The man who broke my heart and wants to be my future…
Max is all I ever wanted, and now he wants to marry me. He’ll do everything he can to fill my life with love, family, and security. I need those things now more than ever. But can I trust him?

The man who stole my heart and wants to let me go…
Nate never made me promises, and I never asked him to. I’d been on the rebound, looking for a distraction, and he made me feel beautiful and wanted when I needed to feel those things most. He says he has to let me go, but what if I can’t let go of him?

With every revelation and every passing day, I feel more like Alice down the rabbit hole. I’m falling. Who will catch me?

Sneak Peek:

Three Months Before Hanna’s Accident
Nate:
I haven’t slept all night with a woman next to me since before my son was born, yet here I am, holding her like I’m some closet romantic who doesn’t plan to send her on her way in a couple of hours. I loved every fucking minute of sleeping with her in my arms. I love how she reached for me in her sleep, how she rubbed her ass against my cock as if trying to wiggle a puzzle piece into place. And maybe a puzzle is the right analogy, because her body fits so damn perfectly against mine that I feel like something’s missing when she rolls away.

She’s on her back now, a hand reaching out, fingers resting on my bicep as if she’s afraid I might escape. The women I take to my bed tend to react that way, but I know it has little to do with my mad bedroom skills. For them, it’s about status, a notch in their bedpost of celebrities. What’s it about for Hanna?

The air conditioner cycles on, parting the curtains and bathing her in morning light that reminds me I should be urging her out of my bed. Only I don’t want her to go anywhere. I’m too enthralled by the dark smudge of her lashes against her cheeks and the soft parting of her full lips. She has these faint freckles across the bridge of her nose, another detail in this study in contrasts—the sweet, insecure virgin who doesn’t understand her own appeal and the wanton goddess who sucked me so hard and pulled my dick so deep she’s no doubt ruined me for all other blowjobs. And the way she responds when I touch her…

Hanna’s a virgin, but she was made for sex. Damn, how I envy the man who will get to introduce her to that pleasure. Will it be the ex? Max?

Something flames in my gut at the thought, but I ignore the flare of jealousy. She still loves him. I’m nothing more than the rebound guy, and I should be glad for that because I can’t offer her more than this.

“Mmm,” she moans, her eyes fluttering open and closed again as if she can’t quite convince them to greet the day. “What are you looking at?”

“You.”

She pats her hair before tugging the sheet up to cover her bare breasts. “Not much to look at before coffee. I’m probably a mess.”

“A beautiful mess,” I growl, tugging the sheet back down. “Don’t interrupt me. I was trying to play connect-the-dots with your freckles.”

She raises a brow but doesn’t try to re-cover herself. “How’s that work?”

“Well, they obviously start here,” I murmur, touching the bridge of her nose. “Then they pick up again here…” I drag my finger down her nose, over her soft lips, and to her collarbone, where a few more freckles are sprinkled.

“Not much of a treasure hunt.”

“Oh, you see, the amateur might think that’s the end of the trail, but I am an expert at connect-the-dots, and I don’t give up so easily.”

“Oh. Good. I was worried.”

I shake my head and press a quick kiss to her lips. “I won’t let you down. But are you ready for the next part?”

“I don’t know? Is it hangman? I’m not sure I want you playing hangman with my freckles.” Her smile damn near bowls me over.

“Still connecting the dots, but you see, it’s about intuition when the going gets tough like this, and for my intuition to work at its best, I need to stop searching with my fingers and take over with my tongue.”

She giggles. “Oh really?”

I climb on top of her, resting on my elbows, and she instinctively draws up her knees so my torso rests between her thighs. My cock aches, demanding that I slide up her body and get closer. Fuck. It wants more than to be close. It wants inside her. Tight and hot and deep. But I ignore it and lower my mouth to the freckles on her collarbone.

The taste of her skin on my tongue makes me hungry for more. I want to lick her clit again, to slide my tongue inside her until she loses control and rocks her hips in that sweet rhythm of fucking.

Instead, I trail my tongue down between her breasts and to the lone freckle beneath her sternum. “Found it,” I murmur before gently nipping her skin.

She arches toward my mouth. “Your tongue has a rather impressive intuition.”

“Oh, and it’s not even done yet.”

I’ll tell you…this book packs some serious heart. Oh, and heat, too!

My review to come in June!

About the Author
Once a college English professor, I now write full time. I live in rural Indiana, where, when I’m not writing, I get to hang out with my husband and two kids–a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old hellion, er, girl. Not surprisingly, reading and writing remain my favorite activities, though both come in bits and pieces these days, not the big hunks of time I enjoyed before I had children.
When I’m feeling virtuous, I like to go running (I use that word liberally. I’m really, really slow) or do yoga. Don’t worry, I’m always careful to balance out such activities with a hearty serving of ice cream or a chocolate martini.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Blitz AND Giveaway! HEART SHAPED ROCK

 

Heart Shaped Rock
Release Date: May 2014

Summary from Goodreads:
Sometimes a shattered heart needs to sing to love again.
Sixteen year old singer-songwriter Shaynee Sullivan hasn’t so much as touched her guitar since her mom died six months ago. In fact, Shaynee hasn’t felt like doing much of anything lately, except maybe playing Whack-a-Mole on her “emotionally intelligent” brother’s head.
But when she meets a gorgeous and surprising rocker named Dean, her shattered heart begins to mend . . . and then burst at the seams. Heart-wrenching, heart-warming, and sometimes even heart-racing, Heart Shaped Rock will leave you laughing through tears and rooting for love in all its forms.
Hear the original music performed in Heart Shaped Rock at www.LauraRoppe.com. All music available on iTunes.

Available from:

Amazon * B&N * Kobo * iTunes

“If you liked the music collaboration of Maybe Someday, you’ve got to check out Heart Shaped Rock.”
New York Times best-selling author of Maybe Someday, Colleen Hoover

“Laura Roppé has written a moving and emotional novel of first love, accurately capturing the voice and mind of a dramatic and emotional sixteen year old girl caught in a maelstrom of grief and loss, love and heartbreak. And then there’s Dean…you’ll just have to read the book, ‘cause I can’t do him justice in a few short sentences.”
Jasinda Wilder, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of Falling into You

How about a little taste?
“I’m Dean,” he says, extending his hand.
I put my hand in his and immediately feel a current of electricity jolt through my body. I jerk my hand away.
“I’m Shaynee,” I say, sounding more confident than I feel. “I recently learned I’m supposed to say my name when someone says theirs. So, there, I did it. I said my name. It’s Shaynee.” Oh God, I’m rambling.
He laughs a masculine, guttural laugh.
I freeze. I know that laugh. Oh my God. I look down at his clothes. Jeans. Combat boots. He’s not wearing the leather jacket, but . . .
Another plume of smoke from the bonfire hits and envelops us. Again, I cough ferociously. But he isn’t coughing at all.
When the smoke clears, he lets out his breath. “You’re a bonfire rookie, Shaynee.”
When he says my name, my stomach flips over and that electricity from our handshake bounces throughout my body.
He turns to look at me, flashing a wicked grin, and I finally see those startling blue eyes in the flickering light confirming what I already know. Motorcycle Boy.
“When you see smoke coming,” he says, “you gotta hold your breath ‘til it passes.”
“Or, hey,” I say, “here’s an idea—we could just move back a bit.”
“What, and sacrifice warmth?” He grins.
“It is a bit of a Sophie’s Choice, isn’t it?”
Dean laughs like he actually understands my movie reference.
Gah, is it super-duper hot out here tonight? Am I sitting way too close to the fire? Is my hair burning? “Actually, holding my breath is my superpower,” I blurt. “I can hold my breath all day long.” God, I sound like such a dork.
“Well, that’s a handy superpower. You could totally team up with Aquaman and fight underwater crime and stuff.” He shoots me a crooked smile. “And make some really beautiful tadpoles.”
I can’t take it anymore. I have to call a spade a spade. “You’re the guy on the motorcycle.” It’s a statement, not a question. “Motorcycle Boy.”
“Yes, I am. And you’re the girl with the walkie-talkie. Walkie-Talkie Girl.” He laughs.

 Check out the musical trailer!

About the Author
Laura Roppé is an award-winning singer/songwriter, author, audio book narrator, speaker, and former attorney from San Diego, California. In 2011, Billboard Magazine ranked her as Number Three on its chart of the Top 50 “uncharted” artists in the world. In May 2013, Laura began hosting Amazon’s weekly podcast, “Kindle Love Stories,” for people who love hearing about love stories, romance, and happily ever afters.

Her first book is the non-fiction memoir, Rocking the Pink. Her latest is a YA-teen romance novel entitled Heart Shaped Rock, featuring a soundtrack.


Author Links:

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Thrilled by THE BODY IN THE WOODS–A Review

Hi There! Today’s book is a YA Mystery/Adventure from April Henry. I was raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, way back when, so I have a soft-spot for teen sleuths. THE BODY IS THE WOODS is the beginning of a new series–one I plan to follow.

The Body in the Woods (Point Last Seen, #1)About the book:

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

My Review:
Wow! This book kept me engaged start to finish.

Three (somewhat) misfit teens enter the Portland Search and Rescue for very different reasons. Alexis needs something stellar for her college applications so she can hope for a scholarship. Nick wants to be a hero, just like his dad who died in Iraq. And Ruby? She’s a CSI wanna-be who has a detective’s insight.

All of them have issues which is fun for me because their backstories are super interesting. The viewpoint alternates between the three main characters, at first, but we also get some short stretches in the mind of the killer and his victims.

Here’s what happens–Alexis, Nick and Ruby are called out to search for an autistic man lost in a wooded area around Portland. Along their search they encounter a few men–none who can aid them. Nick is frustrated that they, being so new, are sent to search an area less likely to hold the missing man. We can really see his desire for the accolades of heroism–notably respect and attention from girls–but he’s so eager he misses what the careful Alexis discovers: a body.

Now, Ruby, Alexis and Nick are the first on the crime scene. Ruby’s memory and attention to the details of the scene are valuable, but we can already see she will become a nuisance to the detective on the case. Nick demonstrates a lot of bravado, always covering up his fears with a shrug and bluster. Alexis, well, she’s shaken. She accepts some counseling from a teen intervention partner, Bran, who becomes a confidant later.

Search and Rescue is called out the next day to scour the crime scene for clues–and Ruby’s conservative parents forbid her from going. Not that a F5 tornado could prevent Ruby from stepping into the investigator role. She goes, and is photographed for the paper. This is bad for two reasons: now her parents will see she disobeyed them, and secondly, the killer gets her name. See, he rather likes girls, and Ruby just lights up all his senses.

Over the course of a week, we learn that the dead girl was somewhat homeless, and there was another female victim of strangulation found in a nearby park not long ago. She was homeless, too. Ruby is fixated on the case and notices a third strangled homeless girl pop up in the news. This sets Alexis on edge because her mom suffers bipolar disorder and is off her meds. When she flees in a bout of paranoia, Alexis is sure she’s living on the streets–at risk from what Ruby suspects is a serial killer.

The police aren’t convinced there’s a serial killer at work; the strangled girls were all from different races and homeless murder victims aren’t uncommon in Portland. The trio bands together, even when Ruby’s parents remove her from Search and Rescue for disobeying them. And, as we watch through the killer’s eyes, this is not the worst calamity to befall Ruby.

I won’t say anymore about the plot except this: the tension was fantastic! We don’t know if the killer will find Alexis’ mom, or Ruby. We know he’s tracking many victims and it’s so hard to wait and see who’ll fall next. Also, there are three plausible suspects and, even with the bird’s eye view, we can’t tell who the killer is until pretty late in the book.

Alexis, Ruby and Nick are interesting, well-developed characters. They have real families with specific and relatable teenager problems. And, they work to solve their own problems. They are “normal” kids, ones you could encounter in any metro area in the US–not uber wealthy, or spoiled rotten, or super hackers, or broken. They just struggle along the way we all do, working within the system to achieve their goals, and that was refreshing. I really loved how Alexis reached out to Bran for some comfort when her mom went missing–but man was I scared when she went out on the hunt! Ruby’s obsession with true crime and detective stories was really cool. And, poor Nick, that kid needs a hug. Maybe lots.

The book is thoroughly innocent of romance, but has scenes of violence associated with murder. The prose is specific and clean, and the story snaps along at a brisk pace with no info dumps clogging up the case, and well-handled misdirections. It’s easy to see how these misfits grow into a unit, one that will spark friendships and comaraderie into future stories. Definitely would recommend for teens (and above) who enjoy murder mysteries and buddy tales.

Interested? You can find THE BODY IN THE WOODS on Goodreads, Powell’s Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble anytime aftoer June 17th. For now: Preorders, people! Thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy to review….

April HenryAbout the author:

April Henry knows how to kill you in two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. There was one detour on April’s path to destruction:  when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children’s magazine. By the time she was in her 30s, April had started writing about hit men, kidnappers, and drug dealers. She has published more than a dozen mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults, with five more under contract.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook. Probably other places, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal–A Perfect Dilemma

COVER REVEAL

APD Amazon GR SW

A Perfect Secret Series, #3

New Adult Contemporary Romance and Mystery

Releasing June 30, 2014

About the book:
The one secret she can’t stand to keep is the one she can’t afford to tell.

The perfect little rich girl, River Pearl Sutton has always done what her family expected of her. She’d become the perfect little beauty queen, the perfect child model and now her global success locks her into a life she never really chose.

Coming home for the summer to prepare for the Founder’s Day Festival, a celebration of her lauded ancestor, she is tasked by her father to write a speech to be delivered at the end of the party.

Returning to Hope Parish brings her back into close proximity with sweet-talking, skirt-chasing Braxton Outlaw, the boy who always seemed immune to her charms in high school. But now he looks at her with those challenging blue eyes, both intimidating and seductive at the same time. Using research of her family lineage and his as way to get close to this bad boy, they fall into a hot, torrid affair.

She stumbles across a terrible secret that could bring to ruin not only her reputation, but the reputation and standing of her family. But when her infatuation with Brax grows into something that she can’t live without, she must decide what to do. Keep the secret and lose Brax or destroy her family and lose them.

It’s an awful, heartrending perfect dilemma.
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A Perfect Mess CoverA Perfect Mistake coverThis is the third book in the A Perfect Secret series. I’ve read the first two–and I’ll just tell you–they were as sultry as the bayou. Click the titles to check out my reviews for A PERFECT MESS or A PERFECT MISTAKE. All three books revolve around one of the delicious Outlaw triplets–Booker, Boone and Braxton–catching up with the gals they totally lusted for in high school. These rascals are a good lot of fun, and a whole lot of trouble.

All are guaranteed to be a tangled web of attraction, secrets, shady deals, and miscommunication. I’m really looking forward to finishing the series!


About the Author
Zoe Dawson is the alter ego of Karen Anders, award winning, multi-published author. Her writing journey started with poetry and branched out into fiction. With a couple of college English courses under her belt, she penned a historical, then moved onto contemporary romance fiction. Today, she is happy producing romantic suspense, romantic mystery, urban fantasy and paranormal novels. The words feed her soul and the happily ever afters feed her heart.

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She’s Earned the THIRD DEGREE–A Review

Being smart doesn’t mean you know it all…

Hi there! Today’s book is a contemporary New Adult romance from best-selling author Julie Cross. THIRD DEGREE follows the tumultuous world of 18-ish y/o Isabel Jenkins, MD. It’s got blood, guts an most of all:  heart.

Third DegreeAbout the book:

I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

My Review:

Wabac machine photo of Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Dougie Howser nipped from http://www.fanpop.com

Back in the day there was this TV show I loved about a child doctor. While my kids will forever know Neil Patrick Harris as the snarky, sex-hound Barney Stinson, I lost my teenaged heart to a soulful Dougie Howser, MD. Which is why I wanted to read this book.

Isabel Jenkins has always been brilliant. And difficult. Her adoptive parents have loved her the best they could, but raising a freaking mega-genius hasn’t been easy. She read novels at age 4. She spent one week in Kindergarten and was then homeschooled–couldn’t cope with the kids, apparently. She “entered” college at 12, and finished med school when she was 17. And, at nearly nineteen she’s poised to enter a surgical residency at Johns Hopkins.

Then she’s given a re-boot. The psych exam she was required to take wasn’t too favorable. Seems Isabel is unable to ‘connect with others’ due to a ‘lack of life experience’. This blacklists her from residency programs across the country. She can sit for the psych exam again in 6 months, and has no desire to do research, so she embarks on a ‘personal journey’: college–for real this time. No private tutors, no learning in isolation. She has a dorm room and a cheerleader roommate named Kelsey. And a delectable RA, Marshall, who, as it turns out, had Isabel’s mother as a biology teacher in high school. Marshall’s the only one who knows Isabel’s a doctor–and she’d like to keep that info on the down low. Blend with the natives, and all that.

Unfortunately, Izzy, as she calls herself on campus, is NOT managing. She tries–really–but she almost can’t help being the socially awkward kid she is. Having always been the “prodigy” all her eccentricities were absorbed by the adults around her and she has no boundaries–because none were ever set. It’s no surprise that she blurts out random medical facts when in conversation, and oversteps continually, in the most exasperating ways. Like she NEEDED to swab the flaccid member of Kelsey’s overnight guest because she thought she saw a sore? *shakes head* #EpicFail #NotNormalIzzy

Marshall does heroic work to save Izzy from becoming a social pariah, and, in the process they become study-buddies; she helps him pass Anatomy, and he helps her learn to be a regular person, perhaps even develop friendships.

As Izzy’s RA, Marshall isn’t supposed to develop a crush on Izzy–but don’t let a few rules get in the way there, Marsh! Actually, there’s a lot of sexual tension with a slow build toward consummation. In fact, it is Izzy in her medical element that wears down the last grooves in their mutual resistance. Turns out Marsh is sick–and Izzy’s the one to find and help him in his days of need.

Just as Izzy gains the sense of empathy she had been missing, she recognizes the problems she had caused by her proficient, yet callous, bedside manner. Overwhelmed with feelings she had never really experienced: love, regret, shame, guilt. She steps away from Marsh–running back to the sterility of medicine and the comfort of knowledge.

Only, this time medicine isn’t the home she used to know, and reconciling with Marsh may become the most important choice she makes.

As a book, it was a well-paced, interesting story. Izzy has clear emotional issues, she’s antisocial to an almost pathological degree. Her brilliance may grant her access to the medicine party, but what’s the point if you never get a chance to dance, right? I really enjoyed the slow build between Izzy and Marsh, how his chronic disease was handled and the baby steps Izzy took toward building lasting friendships. Her growth emotionally was refreshing–seeing her admit that her knowledge wasn’t helpful in actually connecting with the people around her was such an Aha! experience.

Couple things that troubled me: the whole way the surgical intern/residency issue was described was factually…off. Medical residents in the US don’t apply for one then the other, not anymore. Not for, like, 25 years now. Those sort of arrangements are made when a student is graduating med school, so I had to take it as a “special case for Isabel” sort of caveat. And, this psych eval, while critical to the story, is also an Izzy-ism. There aren’t many prodigies who enter medicine in the US, but they are almost all shunted into research programs to allow them maturity time. This is for everyone’s benefit. Close people to me have entered residencies at age 26–rather standard–and they were not taken seriously by their patients–due to their youthful appearance. As much as I admired Dougie, I really wouldn’t have wanted a pimply-faced teen (no matter how brilliant, talented or self-righteous *V gives Lorde the stink eye*) lecturing me about my life and/or my passionate love affair with peanut buster parfaits. And neither do most adult patients. Further, I’ll take Izzy’s negative view of research as another instance of her naïveté, because ain’t one physician alive who doesn’t value scientific medical research. I know, ’cause I been doing it for twenty years now.

Still, for fiction this felt good to read. We can always use another representation of responsible teens doing responsible things in fiction. The New Adult tag aside, smexytimes here are tame enough that upper YA readers won’t giggle too much. Izzy is to be lauded for her courage, in determining who she is, and who she wishes to be–and then making a responsible plan to achieve her goals. That is NOT to say she makes good choices throughout–’cause she doesn’t–but she does enough of the right things at the right times to make me like her. A lot.

Interested? You can find THIRD DEGREE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Julie CrossAbout the Author:

I’m the International Bestselling author of the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and the final installment, Timestorm. I’m also the author of the Letters to Nowhere series, a mature young adult romance set in the world of elite gymnastics, as well as several forthcoming young adult and new adult novels with publishers like Entangled, Sourcebooks, HarperCollins, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books

I live in Central Illinois with my husband and three children. I’m a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. I’m a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of my reading and writing credibility, I’m a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

You can find Julie online via her website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in today! I’d like to highlight a recently reviewed book that is currently FREE for download: CHALLENGING DESTINY by Cherie Colyer. Hit here to get your own copy!

Hope you find a great book today, and keep reading my friends!

He’s Just KEEPING THE PEACE–Review and Giveaway

Hi there and welcome to my stop on the KEEPING THE PEACE blog tour brought to you by Omnific Publishing. Today’s book is a contemporary romance from Linda Cunningham–the third book in her Small Town Girl series–and it’s killer. Well, erm, it has a killer in it, anyway…

Keeping the Peace (Small Town Girl, #3)About the book:

John and Melanie Giamo think of themselves as an average family, married with three teenage children. Childhood sweethearts, they’ve lived all their lives in the quiet Vermont village of Clark’s Corner, where John is chief of police and Melanie publishes a small local newspaper. Their lives seem routine enough, even mundane.

Then rock star Gabriel Strand drives into town, knocking everything off balance with his celebrity swagger. John is mildly annoyed until an attempt on Strand’s life leaves an innocent man dead and the young musician feeling vulnerable and alone…and turning to Melanie for comfort. Their mutual attraction could destroy the marriage she always assumed was impervious to any outside threat.

The closer Gabriel gets to Melanie, the greater the danger she and her family face. John must use every resource available, as well as his gut intuition, to protect the singer and the people of his town from a murderer, while he also fights to save his marriage.

My Review:
This multiple POV murder mystery/romance kept me reading WAY into the night.

John Giamo has always loved his wife, Melanie, since, like, childhood. And, while nothing is wrong in their marriage, they’ve hit a bit of a rut. They’ve been married 20+ years and there’s a comfort there, raising their three children in their tiny Vermont town and working day-by-day, that keeps them together even when the passion is somewhat faded.

John has always noticed the way men look at Melanie. And he can’t help overhearing the gossip–but he’s sure nothing of it is real. At least, until the svelte singer Gabriel Strand broadsides Melanie’s car in the midst of a blizzard. Mia, their teenage daughter is injured, and Gabriel takes it upon himself to visit the Giamo home to apologize. Then the power goes out and he’s an overnight guest.

Life for John and Melanie would likely go straight back to normal if someone didn’t murder a man in Gabe’s empty hotel room that night. So, is Gabe a suspect, or a victim? Now under John’s direct protection, the singer isn’t forthcoming about his stalkers–but he doesn’t mind sharing his attraction for a very married Melanie, at least with her.

Good thing this small-town chief of police has some seriously cool kids. Mia and her brothers seek out all sorts of patterns on the online chat rooms and various email accounts leading to two suspects: an estranged lover of Gabe’s mother, and a mentally unstable fangirl.

While John’s out trying to save Gabe’s neck, Melanie’s struggling to rein in her unexpected attraction to the charismatic, young, talented Gabe. And, when the climax comes, it’s a Giamo family effort to rescue Gabe–and Melanie–from the barrel of a gun.

This romance is unique, to me, because we’re dealing with temptation in a happy, healthy marriage. John and Melanie eloped against her family’s expressed wishes. They have built a stable life, and a loving family, together. Sure, there’s small-town talk, but it’s only ever been talk. Melanie never felt any attraction to the many men who have paid her too close attention–then Gabe walks in. He’s flashy and funny and soulful, and lonely. He’s 27 and she’s 45 and he looks at her as if she’s the gold medal at the end of the race. His compliments, coming from such a successful and youthful man, carry more weight. And, they turn her on. John senses this. It strains his sense of duty toward protecting the wolf in his own home.

For his part, Gabe isn’t the soul of evil. He’s a likeable and interesting man, devoted to caring for his mother and sister in LA. He is quite aware of his attraction to Melanie and regrets the complication. He finally meets a woman who captivates him and she’s freaking happily married? Sheesh! Of course, he catches Melanie’s interest and is willing to make plain his desire. He’d take her far away from the mundane life she lives–if she’d let him.

Throughout, I didn’t dislike anyone in the story. I naturally wanted John and Melanie to fix the problems between them, but I couldn’t hate Gabriel. I couldn’t even hate his shameless pursuit of Melanie–because that stuff happens in a marriage. John’s sense of duty–in both his marriage and his career–get shaken up, and help him to realign his priorities. This dynamic occurs in many marriages: a outsider threatening to swoop in can kickstart the passion. (I’ve seen it myself–a man compliments me in my husband’s presence and suddenly I’m in an octopus grip and his next kiss is more firm than the previous ten combined….)

John and Melanie have the choice to let Gabe’s interference separate them–or strengthen their relationship. The realistic way this unfolded was just brilliant. These people could have been my family–no doubt–even if we are Chicagoans, not Yankees.

The book is well-paced with some backstory vignettes describing the interconnectedness of small-town life and the long-held prejudices that can taint the community. The hustle-bustle of dealing with a blizzard on top of a murder really highlights the symbiotic nature of life in a community where the locals know each other’s history going back four and five generations. I enjoyed this peek into Americana, and the richness it brought to the story.

How about a little taste?
Melanie said nothing, but a sudden flush burned her cheeks.

Gabriel raised his ungloved hand and cupped the back of her neck, under her thick scarf.

She was suddenly powerless to move. She felt confused and struggled to collect her thoughts. She couldn’t seem to move any part of her body.

He bent his head down closer to hers and spoke softly. “I want you to know how I feel about you. I’ve never met any woman like you. You’ve captured me. I can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to…to…” There was an almost imperceptible motion, and before she was quite sure what had happened, his lips were on hers. For a split second, all her senses flared, fueled to a blaze by the fascination with him she had tried to keep hidden. She was acutely aware of the softness of his lips, of their gradual, increasing pressure on her own.

Before she’d processed the feeling, before she was ready, he drew back from her. “I’m sorry,” he said, but she knew he wasn’t.

Wow! That Gabriel Strand is one bold dude!

Interested? You can find KEEPING THE PEACE at Goodreads, and Amazon.

Also, I’m giving away an eBook to a RANDOM COMMENTER!

So, leave me a comment telling me what you’d do if a celebrity wanted to whisk you away from your family….hypothetically speaking, of course!


Linda CunninghamAbout the Author:

Linda has written steadily throughout the years, but usually other people’s papers, speeches, or articles for agricultural trade magazines. Her only published work of fiction was a children’s book, “The Copper Angel of Piper’s Mill”, written in 1988 when her children were still small. Now that the kids are out of the house, Linda is writing fiction again, and this time it’s personal! She writes full time and it’s Romance! Her contemporary romances, Small Town Girl and Corporate Affair are currently available.

Linda lives in a romantic stone house in the green mountains of Vermont surrounded by her gardens and her animals who include horses, sheep, cats, dogs, chickens, a parakeet and various wildlife visitors who wander in and out at will. When time permits, she also enjoys sketching and painting.

You can find Linda on her blog, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win an eBook of KEEPING THE PEACE courtesy of Omnific Publishing.

And, as always, keep reading my friends!