Fitting Together LOCKSET–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. LOCKSET is the second book in her University Square series and features a harried lawyer returning to her hometown to settle her father’s estate finding love with a local locksmith. I really enjoyed ON THE SQUARE, and we get a glimpse at some of those characters in this story.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

How about a little taste?

After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

Excerpt

Lockset
Brenda Murphy © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Eunice Park glared at the ringing phone on her desk. On the third ring she picked it up. “What is it?”

“Sorry to bother you, Eunice, but your father’s on the line. He insisted I connect him.”

Eunice leaned forward and straightened her posture. “What?”

“Your father. Says it’s urgent. Want me to take a message? Or leave him on hold till he hangs up?”

Eunice swept her hair back with one hand and closed her fist around it, barely resisting the urge to tear it out. “No. I’ll talk to him.” She took her reading glasses off and tossed them on the top of the stack of trial transcripts and depositions on her desk.

“Eun?” James Park’s rich baritone filled her ear. Her Korean name, spoken in the way it was meant to be said, made her heart squeeze. She detested Eunice and still cursed the day she had chosen to use it instead of her true name.

“Yes.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s me.”

Silence stretched out between them, harsh and violent. Eun settled back into her chair. Her father’s silence and its power over Eun had weakened over the years. Eun knew his trick. Wait for the other to become so uncomfortable they spilled their secrets and told you everything you wanted to know. For once, Eun would not give in. She set her gaze on the clock on her computer screen. One minute. Two minutes. Eun fiddled with the edge of her blotter.

At three and one-half minutes her father cleared his throat and spoke. “Come home. I need to see you.”

“Nothing’s changed.” Eun chewed her lip.

“I need to see you.”

“Why now? I’m not coming home to be berated again. You made yourself clear five years ago. I’m not backing down. Not this time.”

“I’m not asking you to. I have something to discuss with you. I can’t do it over the phone. Please. This weekend?”

Eun rubbed her forehead. “I can’t. I’m buried. I have dog of a case, my cocounsel is an idiot, and I’ve got closing arguments next week. The weekend after?”

“If that’s the best you can do.”

“What?” Eun’s voice rose as anger she had managed to contain bubbled up. “Oh hell no. You can’t call me up out of the blue, demand I see you, and then act all pissy if I can’t drop what I’m doing and run home. Not after what you pulled last time. I’m lesbian, Dad. I’ve been lesbian, I’m going to be lesbian. Nothing is going to change that.”

“I know.” The defeated tone in his voice scraped against Eun’s battered heart.

“I have to go.”

“Will you come?”

“Next weekend.”

Her father disconnected the call. Eun fell back into her chair. Late afternoon sun raked the tops of the high-rise buildings surrounding the office building. Red-and-orange light, reflected off the glass, shone through the floor to ceiling window and glinted off the framed print on the wall opposite her desk.

Her stomach rumbled, an audible reminder of her neglecting to eat breakfast and lunch. She tapped her pen on the desk and glowered at the stack of transcripts on her desk as she rang her assistant. “Order us some food, please.’

“Have a hankering for anything?” Sally’s soft drawl spilled through the phone.

“Whatever you want.”

“You okay?”

“I will be.” Eun spun her pen in a circle, a wave of guilt for keeping her assistant after hours swept over her. “You don’t have to stay. John must miss you.”

“He does. But he also knows how important this case is. Faizal’s okay?”

“Sounds wonderful. That gyro salad they do.”

“Baklava too?”

Eun’s mouth watered at the thought of the sticky honey-sweet dessert. “Of course.”

“On it.”

Eun hung up and spun in her chair to face her bookshelf. The black-framed photo of Eun and her father at her law school graduation was opposite a photo of Eun and her mother at Eun’s kindergarten graduation. She closed her eyes as the memory of the last fight she’d had with her father surfaced. Anger and humiliation over his demand she go to conversion therapy surged through her as strong and as raw as that evening. Memories of other interventions, his relentless set-ups with eligible young men, and the shocked expressions of his church friends when she told them all the only thing she was sure of was they were all going to hell bubbled to the surface.

Her stomach ached: too much coffee, and not enough food. She reached into her drawer for the ginger chews she kept at hand. She unwrapped one and popped it into her mouth to quell her stomachache and glanced at the clock on the computer screen. It would be at least forty-five minutes before Sally was back with their food.

Her phone vibrated with a message. The glowing read notification sent a rill of excitement down her spine. Maybe a quick fuck would be the ticket to a good night’s sleep. A glorious, no-real-names hotel-room sex fest would be delightful. She thumbed open the Hit Me Up app and opened the message.

Disappointment washed over her. The message was from her most recent date. A bold butch who had given Eun several mind-bending orgasms that had made her strongly reconsider her self-imposed no-more-than-one-date rule. Until she stalked the woman on social media and found out she was not single as her profile claimed. Eun detested cheaters. She deleted the woman’s message without reading it and tossed her phone on to her desk.

My Review:
Eunice Park is an out lesbian litigator living in Chicago. She is estranged from both her parents for different reasons. Her father essentially disowned her for being gay, while her mother left when she was young due to a drug habit. She’s startled when her father calls–after 5 years of no contact–and demand she come home to see him. Eun can’t really take off on a whim, but she makes plans to come the following weekend. And, then forgets due to work stress. And, the next call Eun receives from her hometown of Sikesville, Ohio is from the police letting her know her father has died.

Morgan Wright is a locksmith, running her family business and the person the police (her sister) calls on for a welfare check ad Mr. Park’s home and office. So, she’s there to discover the body and Mr. Park’s rambunctious dog. A softie for fostering strays, Morgan brings home the abandoned pooch. It’s not long before she encounters Eun, who is struggling with the guilt and frustration of missing her father while still being so angry at how their once-loving relationship changed. Her mother is no support, and her uncle is hateful, homophobic and out for his inheritance. Morgan’s steadfast companionship is a boon, and helps her weather some of the immediate storms.

The funeral is one thing, and their quick connection makes the intimacy between Eun and Morgan even more bittersweet, because Eun knows she needs to return to Chicago and face the wrath of the senior partner in her practice over the last case that went terribly wrong. Eun has no reason to stay in Sikesville, even with a growing attraction to Morgan, but bigger forces are at work, and Eun’s dad’s journals seem to be key in getting to the bottom of what seems a secret affair and perhaps extortion. Eun’s about to set out for Chicago when the mystery takes a turn into arson.

And, Morgan’s not so please being considered a bit of distraction–even knowing that Eun isn’t meant to remain n their small town. But, the more tragedy that sets in , the more that Eun realizes her life has been devoted to the dreams of others, and she now has the opportunity to start living her life for her own self, and with a woman who’d be proud to stand by her side.

It’s a sweet and sexy story with lots of struggles and make-up sex and two classy ladies that find a home in one another–wherever that might be. I liked the clash of cultures and how Eun navigated the disparate parts of her life. There’s a bit of drama near the end that went way into the danger zone, but it was only obliquely related to Eun and Morgan, so I didn’t get too worked up over it. Let’s just say that dinner at Mai’s restaurant was never so bloody! We got a little glimpse of the stories from ON THE SQUARE, and I think a look forward into a future love story.

Interested? You can find LOCKSET on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list.

Catch up with Brenda on her website and Facebook and Instagram.

Rebuilding Lives ON THE SQUARE–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. ON THE SQUARE features single mom who’s been burned by lovers in the past trying hard to not fall for her newest contracting client…the single, superstar chef sleeping in her basement.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
Dropped from her television show after a very public split with her cheating ex, celebrity chef Mai Li wants nothing more than to reopen her parents’ shuttered restaurant and make a fresh start in her former hometown. So what if twenty years of neglect has left the building in need of a major renovation?

Seduced by Mai’s charm and determination, hard-edged contractor Dale Miller agrees to take on her renovation project.

After a spring storm causes significant damage to the building and renovation costs exceed Mai’s budget, Dale offers her a deal, but is it a price Mai is willing to pay?

How about a little taste?

Dale filled her coffee thermos. The scent of the dark brew had her wanting to linger over another cup. She tightened the lid. “You riding the bus today?”

“Nah, Chip’s coming to pick me up. We have a cross-country team meeting.” Noah slid the omelet he was cooking onto the plate. “You sure you don’t have time? You can have this one, Mom. I’ll cook another for me.” His round face and solemn dark-brown eyes were fixed on her face. He lifted the plate and waved it in her direction.

Delicately browned, perfectly cooked. The aroma of melted cheddar cheese and butter filled the small kitchen. The omelet tempted Dale even more than the coffee had. She sighed and cursed herself for agreeing to an early morning appointment for an estimate. Dale grimaced. Cowed by the insistence of the woman who called for the estimate, her oldest, Seth, had made the appointment outside of business hours. Afraid to turn down work. Knows we need the money. If it works out.

Dale tucked two peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches into her cooler, wrapped an apple in a napkin, and placed three battered and scruffy water bottles around the sides, spacing them evenly. She shut the lid and bungeed the ancient metal relic of a cooler shut. Please let it work out.

“What, Mom?”

The concern in Noah’s voice drew Dale from her thoughts. “Nothing. I wish your brother would’ve talked to me before he scheduled this. I hate to talk to people before I’ve had my coffee. And who the hell needs to meet at six in the morning for an estimate?” She peered out of the window at the sky, barely pink.

“Someone in a hurry? Like maybe you should be. Or you’re gonna be late.” Noah smirked as he shoved aside stacks of paper and clutter before he placed his plate on the table. He pulled a chair out, sat down, and flipped his napkin out with a flourish.

“Damn.” Dale took two steps over to Noah and mashed a quick kiss to his forehead. “Don’t forget to tell Thomas to pick up Grandad’s prescription and have a good day at school.”

Noah scrubbed his hand over his mouth. “I will.”

Dale snatched her thermos and her lunch cooler off the counter as she bolted for the door.

*

The large black pickup truck roared into the parking lot, kicking up a fine spray of dust and small gravel. Mai ended the call she had been ready to make to cancel the estimate appointment and shoved her phone back into her pocket. She frowned as a layer of gray dust settled over her polished black wingtips. Tinted windows prevented her from seeing inside the truck. With a snap of her wrist she straightened her collar, leaned back against her car, and crossed her arms over her chest. She tapped her foot and pursed her lips as she contemplated how much she was going to enjoy telling the yahoo in the truck what she thought of their driving skills. A warm-up for what she was preparing to tell the contractor who didn’t think her time was valuable. She didn’t do business with people who were not punctual. This town has not changed a bit. Still on country time. She snorted thinking about the ridiculous lengths she had to go to get the idiot on the phone to agree to a timely appointment.

The scuff of boots on gravel on the opposite side of the truck made her look up.

“Sorry I’m late.” A tall woman in faded jeans and work boots rounded the front of the truck. A thick tan work belt with a multitool pouch clipped to it held her jeans up over her curvy hips. She tucked a metal clipboard under her arm and stuck her hand out to shake.

“Who are you?” Mai didn’t take the woman’s hand. “I had an appointment with a general contractor for an estimate. Dale Miller?”

“That’s me.” A flash of irritation flew across Dale’s face as she withdrew her hand and stuck it into her rear pocket.

“You’re late.” Mai studied the unapologetic woman in front of her. Thick honey-blonde hair streaked with gray brushed her shoulders. A head taller than Mai, she had broad shoulders and a trim waist. Her pale-blue undershirt set off her golden-brown eyes. The sleeves of her flannel overshirt were rolled back and displayed well-muscled forearms.

Dale rocked back on her heels and glanced skyward before bringing her gaze back to Mai’s face. “I am. And I apologized. This is outside of our normal hours for estimates.”

“And I wasn’t…”

Dale cut her off. “And you weren’t expecting a woman.” She swept her hand through her hair. “You know what. I’m not certain I’m the best person for this job.” She turned on her heel and walked away from Mai, head high and shoulders rigid.

“Wait.”

Dale turned and rested her hand on the hood of the truck. “Why? You’ve made your mind up. I’m not going to waste my time. Or yours. Good luck with your project.”

Mai looked down at her shoes before returning her gaze to Dale’s face. “That’s not what I was going to say.”

“Right.” Dale arched an eyebrow. “I’ve been in this business too long to be scolded for being late. I don’t schedule appointments this early because I don’t like talking to anyone at this unholy hour.”

Mai laughed. “How have you stayed in business?”

Dale walked back over and stepped close to Mai, invading her space. “Because most people in this town recognize business hours are business hours and don’t expect special favors.”

Mai held her ground. “Special favors? I asked for an early appointment. It’s not my fault whoever answered the phone doesn’t know your hours.”

Dale clenched her fists. “My son knows the hours perfectly well. He was trying to be nice. He said yes to accommodate your schedule. Which, apparently, is way more important than mine. Good day.” She spun on her heel and stomped back to the truck.

Mai chewed her lip as she desperately tried to ignore how much she liked the way Dale’s ass looked in her jeans and failed. “Hey, wait.”

Dale yanked the truck door open and tossed her clipboard inside.

Mai sprinted around the truck and her shoes skidded on the gravel lot. She caught herself on the truck hood and narrowly avoided bumping into Dale. “Hey, please stay. I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. I’ve had too many folks be rude to me because I wasn’t what they expected. Please. I’d like you to at least look at the project.”

Dale turned to her and the delicate scent of lemon verbena wafted from her, undermining Mai’s determination to keep to the business at hand.

A rueful grin crossed Dale’s face. “No. I’m sorry. You’d think I didn’t want the work. I’d like to see what you want done.” She tilted her head and met Mai’s gaze. “Do you mind if we have coffee first?”

Mai held out her hand and Dale shook it. “Bring your thermos.” She tilted her head toward the silver flask. “Come on. We don’t have to talk until you’ve had another cup.”

My Review:
Dale Miller is a single woman in her 40s raising her three nearly grown sons. She runs a contracting business which is only the 4th thing that was worthwhile from her deadbeat husband who walked out nearly ten years before. And, she’s still got a hard time thinking about dating again after her last girlfriend who abused her boys and left with thousands of dollars that nearly bankrupted Dale.

She’s been working 12 and 14-hour days since that gal took off, trying to built up the business, so she didn’t lose her own home. So, when sexy, butch celebrity chef Mai Li wants to hire Dale to rebuild the ruin of her parents’ restaurant in their small Ohio town, Dale knows she can’t mess this up. It’s the kind of job that would put her squarely in the black. But, Mai is an unknown quantity, and she could stiff Dale just like everyone else seems to–even if she’s cute. And sexy, and living in Dale’s basement? Yes, to save funds for the rehab, Mai was sleeping in the shell of her derelict building–until the roof caved in. So, Dale offered her spare room which morphed into her living room couch when one of her kids has to move back due to a bad breakup. And Mai and Dale are way past attracted to one another. Mai’s ex also spent her money like water, while not recognizing the issues she faces with daily racism. In short, neither of them wants to get burned.

It’s a bit of a slow burn, and the interplay between Mai and Dale’s protective sons and father is nice. Mai isn’t built for casual and Dale is afraid to commit, but they find a way to make a life plan together.

Interested? You can find ON THE SQUARE on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list.

Catch up with Brenda on her website and Facebook and Instagram.