Building Something TOO BEAUTIFUL TO BREAK–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary romance from Tessa Bailey. TOO BEAUTIFUL TO BREAK is the fourth, and final, book in her Romancing the Clarkson’s series. I’ve read the first three books, TOO HOT TO HANDLE, TOO WILD TO TAME, and TOO HARD TO FORGET, and really enjoyed them so I couldn’t wait to read this last one…especially as it features shy, reserved Belmont finally opening up emotionally and sexually to shy, reserved Sage!

Catch and excerpt below and be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway for one of 10 paperback copies of TOO BEAUTIFUL TO BREAK, too!

About the book:
The third book in New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey’s Romancing the Clarksons series about four siblings on a cross-country road trip, perfect for fans of Gena Showalter and Julie James!

A love of a lifetime . . .

Leaving Belmont Clarkson is the hardest thing Sage Alexander has ever done. From the moment they met, she knew Belmont was the one, and getting up close and personal with him on his family’s epic road trip has taken her desire to a new, even hotter level. But there’s no way she can go there—not without revealing secrets that could devastate them both.

Losing Sage is not an option. Belmont’s heart is hers, has always been hers. He knows she’s hiding something from him, but nothing will stand in his way of telling her just how much she means to him. Finding her is easy—saving her from her past could cost him everything.

How about a little taste?

“You don’t have to leave right away,” Sage said when Belmont turned, watching her from beneath his eyebrows. “Can you wait here while I take a quick shower?”

Maybe that hadn’t been the right thing to say. His big back heaved and the touch of his tongue in her mouth came crashing in like a behemoth wave. They had crossed an unspoken boundary on the train platform. There was no going back to before, to when they stopped at rough, crushing embraces. As if that hadn’t been…more than sexual somehow.

“Yes, I’ll wait,” he said, his voice sounding like serrated metal. “I can light the fire for you.”

I’ll say. God, why did everything sound like an innuendo now? If her body weren’t flush and sweating beneath the jumpsuit, she would have laughed about it. But there was nothing funny about having Belmont looming mere yards away, looking like one word of encouragement would snap his chain and send him barreling toward her. “That would be perfect. I’ll just be…a few minutes.”

Sage all but dove into the itty-bitty bathroom, pressing her back up against the door and willing her racing heart to calm down. Why had she asked him to stay? Her resolve would weaken with every passing second. Biting down on her lower lip, she began the excruciating task of lowering the zipper of her jumpsuit, which kicked up a protest in her triceps and shoulder muscles. When she finally got it down, she gripped the hem of her T-shirt and attempted to lift it over her head.

Her arms wouldn’t cooperate. They flat out wouldn’t rise any higher than her ribs, leaving the T-shirt suspended in midair. Her muscles burned like someone had doused them in lighter fluid and held them above a flame. Sage’s agony must have escaped in the form of a whimper, because Belmont’s boots scraped just outside the door. And her stomach hollowed with awareness, lightning racing all over her skin.

“Sage.” His voice was deep, urgent. “Do you need help?”

No. Say no. She’d only gotten finished reminding him she didn’t need him. But in this case, it would be a lie and she’d done so much of that lately. With Belmont. The most truthful person she knew. “I can’t get my shirt off.” Her nose started to ache, the tip probably turning red. “My arms hurt.”

His growl was short and broken. A beat passed before the door opened and she felt Belmont filling the doorway behind her. She flicked a glance up to the ancient mirror and confirmed what she’d seen in her mind’s eyes. Belmont towering over her like an avenging angel, outlined by candlelight. He’d taken off his coat, leaving him in a black long-sleeved shirt, which he’d rolled up to the elbows. Every inch of visible skin was shot through with strained cords of muscle, as if his frustration were written on him like a road map.

Sage still had the shirt halfway lifted, so her lower back was visible. Not a big deal to most people. But Belmont had never seen anything below her neck. Or above her knees. With the jumpsuit peeled halfway down, the band of her underwear might even be peeking out.

Breathing grew difficult as Belmont took one step closer and took hold of the T-shirt, his knuckles grazing the small of her back. “You’re wearing”—his breath ghosted down her neck—“my shirt.”

Sage only realized she’d closed her eyes when they popped open. Oh God. In the shock of Belmont arriving, she’d forgotten. “I am?” Her mouth was parched. “L-look at that.”

“I am looking.” She jumped when Belmont reached over her shoulder with his left hand and turned on the shower, the sound of spray filling the room. Then the roughness of his knuckles returned, sliding up her spine along with the shirt. “I like knowing there was a layer of me standing between you and the earth.”

Her legs took on the consistency of Jell-O. His touch was a drug, making her languid, although it was different than the way he usually touched her. There was sex this time. So much of it. And it was that major difference that allowed Sage to accept the skimming of his fingers. Accept the part of herself that lusted. They were in a dark room and time had surely suspended anywhere outside this little plot of square footage. Words ached to leave her mouth, words that wouldn’t be suitable in the sunlight. This man, so warm and brave and large at her back, knew things about her no one else did. What was one more secret? “I stole it out of your suitcase. I broke a commandment and everything.”

“Why?” He breathed into her hair, sinking heat like an anchor in her belly. The shirt came off, her arms dropped to her sides, and she was left in nothing but a bra from the waist up. Inches from Belmont. “Why, sweetest girl?”

A light steam had begun curling in the air like beckoning fingers. Maybe this is a dream. It felt like one of the fevered fantasies she woke from on occasion, sweat slicking her breasts and neck. “Because I like the way you smell and it hadn’t been washed.”

His exhale was gravelly. “Sage.

“Yes.”

She thought he might not respond, but finally he asked a question that made her nipples turn to hard points. “Can you manage”—a long, windy inhale—“the bra?”

Sage tried. She really, truly did. Her arms felt as though they might break off and hit the floor, but she reached back until her muscles locked up, refusing to move farther. But Belmont was already there, pushing them back down, holding them at her hips.

Jesus. Please, stop. I can’t watch it.” His touch disappeared only for a second and then the cotton material of the bra tightened over her breasts. She could feel him working the back clasp with fingers she knew so well. They’d tunneled through her hair so many times, twisted in her clothing, but had never, ever, touched her with any kind of…intent. Intent to seduce. And that’s what he was doing, intentional or not. The inhibitions she’d held close forever, circled the drain, along with the shower water. “Your back is so beautiful.” A ghost of a fingertip traced down her spine. “But I need to leave before I—”

“What?”

“Before I turn you around.” They weren’t touching, but she could sense the shudder that ran through him. “Or look in that mirror.”

Right or wrong, the mine, their codependency aside, Sage knew if she let him leave just then, she would regret it for all time. Her body had been woken up. By one man. He’d kept her on the razor’s edge for thousands of miles, surrounding her with his power and taking it away. Over and over. And this fever wrapping around them in the tiny bathroom was completely different from easing his anxiety. Finally, she felt like a woman standing in front of him, instead of a calming device. This was mutual and alive and she couldn’t stand it to end. Tomorrow might be a different story, but this moment was the culmination of a thousand dreams and she could no more deny herself than she could forget his face.

“Belmont, do you think of the kiss?”

I never stop,” he groaned into her hair. “Never.”

She took a deep breath for courage. “Will you shower with me?”

My Review:
This is the final book in a four-part series about the Clarksons, adult siblings who began a road trip from San Diego to NYC at the behest of their late mother. They were meant to bond with each other–because this is a rather dysfunctional family–and all jump into the ocean on January 1st. While you can read this one on its own, I know I enjoyed it more for having read the first and second books already. As the books progress, one of the Clarksons find his/her soulmate and stops traveling with the promise of reuniting for the Big Plunge.

Now, with Rita, Aaron and Peggy building love and life with their soulmates, Belmont Clarkson and Sage, Peggy’s best friend and wedding planner, are in the big ol’ Suburban on their way to NYC. Or, not so much. Because Sage decides she’s leaving Belmont and the dysfunctional friendship they have built.

See, Belmont fell into a well when he was ten–and it took four days to rescue him. He’s been a reserved, “gentle giant” since that time. A silent protector to his younger siblings, and now Sage, whose presence quiets his mind. Sage, for her part, loves cuddling with Belmont, loves him, but can’t be his security blanket anymore. And, she’s got a family obligation to attend.

Sage comes form tiny Sibley, Louisiana. The main employer there is a salt mine–and the owner is Augie, a wealthy, lonely man who fell hard for Sage’s mother way back when. Her mom chose another man to marry, and Augie’s employed that man his whole life–and lent him money when needed, relishing sending Sage’s father into the worst areas of the mine. Now, Sage’s dad is (supposedly) only a couple months from retirement, but he’s physically unable to do his job. Sage bargains with Augie to take her daddy’s place, if only he’ll let her work the final couple of months, and her daddy will get his full pension.

Belmont’s fear of the dark, and of enclosed spaces has followed him since his descent into the well. He has some black memories of that experience, including the reason he was down there in the first place. But putting his Sage in the ground, working a mine, is an untenable situation. He is going to take her place no matter what.

So, this book is long on self-sacrifice, yet contains a good amount of communication for characters who’ve been so muted to this point. I liked how Sage and Belmont both acknowledged their co-dependency and worked to reveal more of themselves to one another–to banish the misconceptions between them. Sage believes that Belmont can’t see her as a woman–and Belmont’s stunned because so much of his reserve was keeping himself in check physically; he’s wanted Sage a long, hard time… Meanwhile, Belmont saw the polished Sage and thought she was perfection, an ideal she couldn’t hope to live up to–but it doesn’t mean he loves her any less upon seeing her faults.

I’ve learned that Tessa Bailey will include some outrageous sexy scene in each of her books, but the double-first in a house of god was a capper, hands down. The tentative loving was to be expected, and the unleashed passions was frosting on the cupcake. I loved how Belmont’s siblings came to support him in his hour of need, and how the judgemental townsfolk of Sibley stood up for what was right at just the right time. I bet Augie didn’t expect that, as he turned his Machiavellian screws.

Interested? You can find TOO BEAUTIFUL TO BREAK on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks, Kobo Books-A-Million, and IndieBound. A review copy was provided by NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 paperback copies of TOO BEAUTIFUL TO BREAK.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverInterested in the first book, TOO HOT TO HANDLE? Watch shy Rita get wooed by a man working hard to turn his lady-killer reputation around.
It is both sweet and sexy…

And the second book of the series, TOO WILD TO TAME, was a surprisingly tender book that featured the jaded political analyst, Aaron, falling for a girl suffering years of PTSD. Catch my review for more deets.

And, the third book, TOO HARD TO FORGET features the youngest Clarkson–Peggy–finding her ‘one that got away’…and bringing him back. Peggy scores a touchdown wooing her widowed coach back to the land of the loving.

Tessa Bailey - headshotAbout the Author:
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

You can catch up to Tessa online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out Today! TOO HARD TO FORGET–Book Blitz and Giveaway!

Hi there! Sharing another book birthday, this time for a contemporary romance from Tessa Bailey. I’ve read the first two books in her Romancing the Clarkson’s series, TOO HOT TO HANDLE and TOO WILD TO TAME, and really enjoyed them. TOO HARD TO FORGET is out today, and features the youngest Clarkson–Peggy–finding her ‘one that got away’…and bringing him back.

Catch and excerpt below and be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway for one of 10 paperback copies of TOO HARD TO FORGET, too!

About the book:
The third book in New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey’s Romancing the Clarksons series about four siblings on a cross-country road trip, perfect for fans of Gena Showalter and Julie James!

This time, she’s calling the shots.

Peggy Clarkson is returning to her alma mater with one goal in mind: confront Elliott Brooks, the man who ruined her for all others, and remind him of what he’s been missing. Even after three years, seeing him again is like a punch in the gut, but Peggy’s determined to stick to her plan. Maybe then, once she has the upper hand, she’ll finally be able to move on.

In the years since Peggy left Cincinnati, Elliott has kept his focus on football. No distractions and no complications. But when Peggy walks back onto his practice field and into his life, he knows she could unravel everything in his carefully controlled world. Because the girl who was hard to forget is now a woman impossible to resist.

How about a little taste?

“I don’t know, Peggy.” He whirled on her, closing in until she was forced back onto the desk. “I had an All-American on my squad this morning and now I don’t. That’s all I know.” He pointed a finger toward the window. “I solve problems down on the field. Saving people isn’t my job.”

Saving people. God, there was such a wealth of regret and pain in those two words. But he couldn’t hear it and she couldn’t address it. Letting him know she saw right through his façade to the hurt beneath might force Elliott to close himself off. “You didn’t always limit yourself. Why are you doing it now?”

“Accepting things that can’t be changed isn’t a limitation. It’s realistic.”

“But how will you know if something can’t be changed unless you try?”

“When it comes to certain things, Peggy, trying leads to losing.” He was in her face now, the mint from his toothpaste familiar and inviting where it slid over her lips. “And I don’t lose.”

No one ever stood up this man but her, and she wouldn’t be cowed now. “No? You’re out a receiver.” She hitched herself up on his desk. “I’d call that a loss.”

The tips of his shoes met Peggy’s, his hands gripping the furniture on either side of her hips. “Who do you think you are, little girl? Coming into my office and telling me what I’ve done wrong?” His eyes were brilliant in their vexation, the attraction he was trying so hard to fight. “Where do you get the goddamn bravery?”

“The bravery is what you liked best about me,” she breathed, heat sizzling in a downward V toward her thighs. “Isn’t it?”

“No. That bravery is what almost led to my downfall.” His hands found her bottom, jerking her to the edge of the desk. “I resented it. Still do.”

“Liar,” Peggy whispered, easing her thighs wider. “You’re dying for an excuse to head for another downfall.” When her legs were as open as she could spread them, she leaned up to Elliott’s ear and let her breath shake loose. “One thrust.”

Elliott’s right hand came up out of nowhere, molding over Peggy’s mouth as his hips crowded into the notch of her legs. With a quick maneuver to recline her halfway back, Elliott’s erection found the apex of her thighs, delivering an aggressive pump against her underwear that sent a scream climbing up Peggy’s throat, only to be trapped by his hand. Knees jerking up out of reflex over the rush of sensation, an orgasm almost—almost— broke past the surface, sending her waters rippling out on all sides. Her legs wanted to hug Elliott’s waist, her voice wanted to beg for one more, one more, one more, but he shook his head, denying her, even though his gaze was hot, a low groan issuing from his harshly masculine mouth.

He leaned in and nipped the lobe of her ear. “Next time, ask for two.”

I really can’t wit to read this one!

Interested? You can find TOO HARD TO FORGET on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks, Kobo Books-A-Million, and IndieBound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 paperback copies of TO HARD TO FORGET.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverInterested in the first book, TOO HOT TO HANDLE? Watch shy Rita get wooed by a man working hard to turn his lady-killer reputation around.
It is both sweet and sexy…

And the second book of the series, TOO WILD TO TAME, was a surprisingly tender book that featured the jaded political analyst, Aaron, falling for a girl suffering years of PTSD. Catch my review for more deets.

 

Tessa Bailey - headshotAbout the Author:
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

You can catch up to Tessa online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

So Many Great Books!!! 2016 Bests

Hi there! Well, it’s been a YEAR! Ugh! I’m not going to bemoan it too much, because this blog is a way for me to escape the everyday drama. So, let’s do that, shall we!

First, it’s been a book-filled year! 279 books, and 58,968 pages logged through Goodreads, though I’ve forgotten some and ran out of time to add others. So, you’ll see those reviews in the coming year.

I usually make a whole long list, and this year is no exception. It isn’t a Top Ten countdown, or anything. I’d recommend any of these books equally. Hit the links for a full review.

FLIP-THE-BIRD-2Awesome YA books:
Flip the Bird by Kym Brunner. A high school freshman and training falconer falls for a girl whose parents are animal rights fanatics. Big trouble, great messages.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. Slice of life book about questioning young gay persons. Really got my heart engaged. Also fell into the Most Challenged (Banned) category that I was interested in exploring.

Girl Against The Universe by Paula Stokes. A girl struggles to get past her guilt, and rebuild her life after tragedies take away half her family.

Simon V. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Coming out shouldn’t be this way. Simon’s awesome, and lovely.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I felt transported to 1987 Texas. It’s not a place I’d want to be–but I’d go there just to be with Ari and Dante. Thick book devoured in a day.

Great anybody reads:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, James Thorne, and JK Rowling.  Harry’s all grown up, and saving the world, yet again. This time his son is the biggest problem.

illusory-prophetCrossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro. Brave and bawdy ladies of the air try to be the first to cross the Atlantic.

Illusory Prophet by Susan Kaye Quinn.  A futuristic saga with an enhanced human trying to save the rest of humanity. This is the third book in a series. Get them all.

Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema. Lou is a champion swimmer whose been cast out of the pool. It’s pants-wettingly funny.

Great Gay romance:
My goodness. I read SOOO many of these. (more than 100! in 2016) Here’s a few hightlights:
Fave Hurt/Comfort: WHAT REMAINS by Garrett Leigh. Man. This one broke my heart into a million pieces by the end. A man struggles to support his lover after a traumatic brain injury destroys his partner’s memories of their love affair.

A Bear Walks Into A BarFave Dirty Pleasure read: A BEAR WALKS INTO A BAR is a straight up gay erotica from Eden Winters. There’s no man the big bad bear won’t have. Once, or twice. Multi-partner, orgy and various shifters dead ahead.

Fave Paranormal: WOLFSONG by TJ Klune. Pick this one up to curl up with over a cold weekend. It’s really long, yet the unconventional prose had me riveted. It’s a fated mates, shifter story that blew me away.

Fave Virgin Lover: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT by Jay Northcote. This is so fun, with a nerdy college student trading love lessons for stats tutoring with his sporty neighbor. I enjoyed every moment of them crossing sexytimes off the list.

Fave Steampunk/Alt History:
CLOCKWORK HEART by Heidi Cullinan. A French tinker saves a dying Hungarian with the long-sought clockwork heart technology his master has been hiding for years. Let the pursuit begin.

walk-like-a-manFave Shifter romance: HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN by Eli Easton. This is the second book in a series, and I think readers will enjoy all of them, but this one is my favorite, so far. The story revolves around a man who used to be a dog, and how he copes with being human, and finding love with a fellow police officer.

Fave Ugly Cry: SELFIE by Amy Lane. Features a Hollywood star living through the death of his closeted partner—and his complete and utter heartbreak. Suicide ideation, depression, coping, and new love. It was a rollercoaster of feels—all of them intense.

Fave Series: CAPTIVE PRINCE by C.S. Pacat. I read all three of these books in a week back in March, because I lost my mind with the first book and dove headlong into the series. Sleepless for at least one night so I could get to the end. Amazing if you like fantasy/political intrigue. PRINCE’S GAMBIT KINGS RISING, are the other two books. Must read.

Fave Sequel: FIGHT THE TIDE by Keira Andrews. This is the sequel to KICK AT THE DARKNESS and it kicked ass. Surviving in a post-apocalyptic world is rough, but it’s easier when your boyfriend is a werewolf. So many zombies…

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverFave Het Romances:
TOO HOT TO HANDLE by Tessa Bailey. A chef burns sown her mother’s former restaurant, and cobbles her busted family to go on a vision quest trip from San Diego to NYC. Sweet and raunchy by turns.

JACKSON’S TRUST by Violet Duke. Love for two sports reporters/analysts with an unhealthy dose of crappy family drama.

COCKY BASTARD by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. Very fun story about a lawyer running from her disastrous past, and the sexy soccer player who scoops her up in the middle of nowhere.

bright-blazeFave ending to a series:
BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC by Jennifer Estep. This is the third book in an urban fantasy YA series that rocks. I recommend all the books highly, but this finale did NOT disappoint. Magic, magical creatures, fighting for your family until the death, a wee bit of love and romance? Bam! It’s all there.

MANNERS AND MUTINY by Gail Carriger. I’ve completely fallen for this steampunk world of intrigue and assassins.

Fave transgender YA read:
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL by Lisa Williamson. Heartbreakingly freaking awesome. Some part of me will always remember this one. For kids/parents who are questioning gender dysphoria, I highly recommend.

Okay, so lots of different stuff to pick from because I have eclectic tastes. Hopefully something piques your interest, too. Share your fave reads in the comments so I can find something new, or just commiserate.

Going forward into 2017, I have a plan to pick up TBR reads on Thursdays, because, wow, to I have a lot of books in my queue. And, I probably won’t be posting quite as many reviews…because I’m back to teaching in February, that shaping young minds takes up a LOT of reading time, yo.

As always, thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Mighta Been TOO WILD TO TAME–Release Day Review

TOO WILD TO TAME BannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new contemporary romance from Tessa Bailey. TOO WILD TO TAME is the second book in the Romancing the Clarksons series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone. It’s the sequel to TOO HOT TO HANDLE, featuring the love story of third child, Aaron Clarkson, as he falls for the completely wrong woman for him: damaged daughter of the senator for whom he wants to work.

Bailey_TooWildToTame_ebookAbout the book:
Sometimes you just can’t resist playing with fire…
By day, Aaron Clarkson suits up, shakes hands, and acts the perfect gentleman. But at night, behind bedroom doors, the tie comes off and the real Aaron comes out to play. Mixing business with pleasure got him fired, so Aaron knows that if he wants to work for the country’s most powerful senator, he’ll have to keep his eye on the prize. That’s easier said than done when he meets the senator’s daughter, who’s wild, gorgeous, and 100 percent trouble.

Grace Pendleton is the black sheep of her conservative family. Yet while Aaron’s presence reminds her of a past she’d rather forget, something in his eyes keeps drawing her in. Maybe it’s the way his voice turns her molten. Or maybe it’s because deep down inside, the ultra-smooth, polished Aaron Clarkson might be more than even Grace can handle…

How about a little taste?

The security guard at the rear entrance came into view, his familiar hawk eyes zeroing in on Grace. Then Aaron. Exasperation moved over the guard’s features before he hid it by adjusting his earpiece. Activity swarmed on the front side of the building, the media, the shouted questions, the general scrape and hum of movement audible, even where they walked along the backside of the school.

Knowing once they were inside, she wouldn’t see Aaron again, Grace smiled up at him, noticing he didn’t look quite as confident as he had a moment before. “It was nice meeting you,” she whispered. “Thanks for not ratting me out.”

“I…” He smoothed a hand down the front of his ruby-colored tie. “I won’t see you…around again?”

Grace’s hands itched with the urge to burrow into her hair, latch on to the braids she’d completed this morning while waiting for Aaron to show. “Probably not. Why would you?”

Why was he frowning at her? She couldn’t ask him why, since they were within earshot of the guard and the walk had ended way too soon. With a final memorization of his furrowed brow, she transferred her focus. “Hey, Marcus.”

“Grace.” Marcus dipped his chin at Aaron. “Who’s this?”

Her neck grew stiff. “This is my handler for today. He’s new.”

Marcus split a look between her and Aaron, before consulting his clipboard. “No one ran a change in staff by me.”

Grace could feel Aaron’s sharp scrutiny and ignored it, attempting to breeze past Marcus with a casual smile. “I understand. I’ll just go grab my dad, so he can clear it up—”

“No. That’s okay.” As predicted, a harried Marcus blocked her path. “Your father is busy. Just…” He gave Aaron another once-over, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper between men, as if Grace couldn’t hear every word. “You know the approved areas? Be sure to keep her within them.”

“Yes.” She was impressed when Aaron gave a brisk nod. “Will do.”

Aaron took her elbow and moved them into the back hallway, past the kitchen, where the local Boy Scouts were rushing to mix pancakes and pour them on the oversized, industrial griddle. Once they turned a corner and Marcus was no longer in view, Grace reluctantly tugged her elbow out of Aaron’s grip, rubbing the spot to keep the warmth alive awhile longer. “This is where we part ways.”

Aaron’s way too handsome face was the picture of bafflement. “Who are you, hippie?” The low, intense vibration of his voice made her shiver. “Why do you need a handler?”

She reached back and curled her fingers around the metal staircase handle. The one she knew was there—and where it led—thanks to last night’s expedition. Her intent was to slip away without answering, but after ignoring so many compulsions that morning already, she couldn’t deny the final one.

With a thready apology, Grace shot forward and up, locking her mouth with Aaron’s, memorizing the way his stiffness melted in one big deluge. The way he gave a rough exhale through his nose. That gruff sound that drummed from his throat, a split second before his lips opened, tongue teasing in to taste hers. Just some. The most perfect, slick greeting. The two of them hung there, mouths open, lips wet and fitted together, breath racing, kitchen clamoring behind them.

Two ends of a silk rope pulled taut beneath her belly button, a tempting lick of his tongue clenching muscles she’d never acquainted herself with, nor could she point them out on a diagram. Whoa Nelly. And with her heart slamming against her ribs like a wrecking ball, Grace cut out that snippet of time—so shimmering and unmarred—tucked it into her pocket, and stole down the staircase, wondering how long the memory of Aaron’s kiss would stay with her. Praying the answer was forever.

My Review:
Aaron Clarkson took off for a road trip with his three adult siblings, Rita, Belmont and Peggy, from California to NYC. It’s a trip inspired by the journal of their recently-deceased mother, Miriam. Along the way, Rita found a sexy man who made her feel. They left her in New Mexico with the promise that she’d join them for the New Year’s Day jump into the Atlantic; the vision quest/journey they agreed to take.

At 26 years old, Aaron’s made a big name for himself as a political campaign wizard, and a less-than-stellar reputation with women. He was recently fired for an inappropriate relationship. His next-best chance for professional redemption, is to align himself with Senator Pendleton of Iowa, a presidential hopeful. He gets important help from a mischievous girl lurking outside the site of a pancake breakfast fundraiser. Grace is unlike any woman Aaron’s even found an interest in, yet her carefree appearance and hippie-style ideals are charming. And dangerous, because it’s not long before Grace is the senator’s youngest, troubled, art-student daughter. She’s been kept out of the spotlight ever since she was nearly killed in a hostage situation as a teen.

Grace is tired of being a cast-off. She wants to make a difference in the world, and redeem a debt to friends who died so many years ago. Aaron seems to see the real Grace, but he’s standoffish, proclaiming himself to be a bad man, one who’d only hurt her. Still, when the opportunity comes for him to do just that, Aaron’s charisma is enough to turn Grace’s embarrassing situation into a fantastic PR opportunity for the senator. In the meantime, Aaron and Grace are fast becoming very attracted to each other. Is Grace worth yet another professional blunder? Is Aaron really a heartless manipulator, or is that a persona that enable Aaron to keep everyone–even his siblings–at arm’s length?

I really liked Grace and Aaron. As with the first book, the plunge into connection is rapid and sexy. Both Aaron and Grace have suffered deep isolation from the people who should know then best: their families. Grace is wracked with grief, still, seven years after her ordeal and has trouble relating to others as a result. Aaron has lost too many connections to feel worthy of being loved, yet Grace continues to reach out for him. Plus, his sense of her vulnerability compels Aaron to give true consideration to all of Grace’s seemingly flighty plans. And, while it both pleases Grace and helps the senator’s polling, it doesn’t completely wash away years of Aaron’s self-loathing. In total, Aaron and Grace provide sounding boards for each other, and experience the strongest connection they have ever experienced. It leads to several grand gestures–on both their parts–and an HEA that soars.

Also, expect Aaron to reconnect with Belmont and Peggy. The next book in the series will feature Peggy fishing for The One That Got Away.

Interested? You can find TOO WIND TO TAME on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverInterested in the first book, TOO HOT TO HANDLE? Watch shy Rita get wooed by a man working hard to turn his lady-killer reputation around.

It is both sweet and sexy…

Tessa Bailey - headshotAbout the Author:
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

You can catch up to Tessa online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

This Family is TOO HOT TO HANDLE–Release Day Review

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - RWB bannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a release day review for a fantastic contemporary romance from Tessa Bailey. TOO HOT TO HANDLE is the first book in her new Romancing The Clarksons series, and it’s definitely an adventure, so far. Expect sexy!

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverAbout the book:
When rescue looks like a whole lot of trouble . . .
The road trip was definitely a bad idea. Having already flambéed her culinary career beyond recognition, Rita Clarkson is now stranded in God-Knows-Where, New Mexico, with a busted-ass car and her three temperamental siblings, who she hasn’t seen in years. When rescue shows up—six-feet-plus of hot, charming sex on a motorcycle—Rita’s pretty certain she’s gone from the frying pan right into the fire . . .

Jasper Ellis has a bad boy reputation in this town, and he loathes it. The moment he sees Rita, though, Jasper knows he’s about to be sorely tempted. There’s something real between them. Something raw. And Jasper has only a few days to show Rita that he isn’t just for tonight—he’s forever. 

How about a little taste?

The roof! The roof! The roof is…literally on fire.

Rita Clarkson stood across the street from Wayfare, the three-star Michelin restaurant her mother had made a culinary sensation, and watched it sizzle, pop, and whoosh into a smoking heap. Some well-meaning citizen had wrapped a blanket around her shoulders at some point, which struck her as odd. Who needed warming up this close to a structural fire? The egg-coated whisk still clutched in her right hand prevented her from pulling the blanket closer, but she couldn’t force herself to set aside the utensil. It was all that remained of Wayfare, four walls that had witnessed her professional triumphs.

Or failures, more like. There had been way more of those.

Tonight’s dinner-service plans had been ambitious. After a three-week absence from the restaurant, during which she’d participated in the reality television cooking show In the Heat of the Bite—and been booted off—Rita had been determined to swing for the fences her first night back. An attempt to overcompensate? Sure. When you’ve flamed out in spectacular fashion in front of a national TV audience over a fucking cheese soufflé, redemption is a must.

She could still see her own rapturous expression reflecting back from the stainless steel as she’d carefully lowered the oven door, hot television camera lights making her neck perspire, the boom mic dangling above. It was the kind of soufflé a chef dreamed about, or admired in the glossy pages of Bon Appétit magazine. Puffed up, tantalizing. Edible sex. With only three contestants left in the competition, she’d secured her place in the finals. Weeks of “fast-fire challenges” and bunking with neurotic chefs who slept with knives—all worth it, just to be the owner of this soufflé. A veritable feat of culinary strength.

And then her bastard fellow contestant had hip-bumped her oven, causing the center of her divine, worthy-of-Jesus’s-last-supper soufflé to sag into ruin.

What came next had gotten nine hundred forty-eight thousand views on YouTube. Last time she’d checked, at least.

My Review:

This is the first book in a series that follows the four Clarkson siblings as they make a pilgrimage from San Diego to NYC for the New Years’ Day Polar Bear Plunge in honor of their late mother–the renown chef Miriam Clarkson.

Rita, Peggy, Aaron and Belmont are estranged adult siblings who’ve never really clicked. Their mom knew this and left a journal with the directive that they all gather in Coney Island on New Years to jump in the Atlantic–as an homage to the miracle that kick-started her own life. There is little of the journal revealed, but we know that Rita has read bits–enough to share their mother’s wish on the night her sibs gather around to watch their mother’s (now Rita’s) restaurant Wayfare burn to the ground. Rita followed her mother’s giant footprints and worked side-by-side with her in the restaurant for years. Rita had been on service that night, the first time since she returned from an epic TV cooking contest flame-out, and she’s wrecked over the loss, but only partially. The rest of her is grateful for a new start, in ANYTHING but cooking.

Goth-girl Rita’s almost knocked over when her brothers and sister agree to join her on the road trip to New York–the long drive necessary because Rita doesn’t fly. She also doesn’t get along with her siblings.  Silent Belmont, survivor of a well mishap, Aaron, smooth and smarmy politician, or Peggy, ultimate cheerleader-personal-shopper and four times engaged but never married, are all a mystery to her. Mostly, Rita’s a loner, and she likes it that way. A lot. Well, mostly.

Their vehicle breaks down in Godforsaken, New Mexico (just kidding, it’s actually called Hurley) and a cowboy-slash-motorcycle-god drives up to offer assistance. Jasper Ellis is going on 2 years of forced celibacy, to restore his self-respect after years of manwhoring around. He’s been the talk of his tiny town too long and strives to build a better legacy than his bar, the irreverently named “Liquor Hole”–yes, that’s not an unfortunate pun. (Say it fast, and you get the idea…) He’s about to open an eatery, and he’s immediately attracted to Rita.

What should be a simple overnight stay in Hurley turns into several days as Jasper manipulates time and space to keep Rita nearby. She’s attracted, no doubt, but he’s not really willing to let her get a free ride and toddle off–no matter what his body wants. The dialogue, both internal and external, is absolutely inflammatory, folks. It’s a dirty talk fest that won’t quit. And I liked it bunches. I liked how Jasper was desperate for a woman to find value in him, as a person, and not just as a pleasure giver. Rita’s never felt attractive, and Jasper’s arousal validates her in ways she never expected–and frustrates her, too. She’s on this mission with her siblings, she can’t possibly stay in Hurley with a guy she’s just met. Right?

I really liked the way the relationships between the siblings expanded and grew in this pressure-cooker time of togetherness. There are some very sweet and tender moments, and some that are just trainwreck-gazing. How Belmont handles/mishandles his attraction for Peggy’s bestie, Sage. How Aaron and Rita antagonize, and then sympathize, with each other. How Peggy manipulates everyone with her emotional outbursts…

What’s growing between Rita and Jasper is intense, and HAWT. It’s an ode to dirty-filthy-fantastic sexytimes, and all that with no actual penetration for a good long teasing time. The sexual tension is off the grid, knocked completely from the playing field somewhere into the stratosphere. When it’s finally realized, the payoff is killer. Some of the hottest scenes I’ve read in a LONG time. Woo boy! But Jasper is bound to stay in Hurley, and Rita has plans to continue connecting with her siblings and start a new life in NYC. Their life trajectories are not on parallel courses…but they could be.

I liked the end–which is a total HEA–and I liked where the series is going. I’m so eager to read the next book.

interested? You can find TOO HOT TO HANDLE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and GooglePlay. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Tessa Bailey - headshotAbout the Author:

Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.

Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

You can catch up to Tessa online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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