Tag Archives: contemporary romance

FREE Book Feature: The Hitman’s Mistake by author Sally Brandle

.•*´¨❥¸.•*´¨ FREE READ¸.•*´¨❥¸.•

While they escape killers…they can’t escape falling in love.

I am pleased to announce a cool book offer by author Sally Brandle! The first book in the Love Thrives in Emma Springs Series, The Hitman’s Mistake, is FREE on Amazon Kindle this week!

Yay! Good for you, Sally! 🙂

These free offers are very exciting for both authors and readers because we get to meet lots of new people! Sally’s free promo is scheduled to last for four more days, from now to May 19th. So, swing by and check it out if you can! 😉

Sally is giving us a look at this clean romantic suspense today…

Great cover!

This is the blurb for The Hitman’s Mistake:

After Miranda Whitley stops crooked cops from assassinating a prominent Seattle judge, she’s next on the hit list, and her survival depends on the buff FBI Agent she’s had one awkward encounter with. But can she find him in time?

The last person Grant Morley expects to discover on his annual supply run to a Montana mountain hermit is alluring Miranda Whitley, nearly dead from a bullet wound in her side. An accidental witness or the cold-blooded accomplice to would-be assassins?

Miranda must convince Grant of her innocence, evade the killers intent on preventing her testimony, and fight her unwanted attraction for the agent…an attraction which seems to be mutual. Fortunately, love thrives in Emma Springs. If you love sizzling chemistry, Montana’s mountain landscape, and fast-paced action, then you’ll love Sally Brandle’s galloping thriller, The Hitman’s Mistake.

And here is an excerpt to tease you with.

[Setting: Our heroine’s pruning indoor plants in the lobby of Seattle’s Justice Building after hours. Her elderly friend, Judge Ike Gilson, was working in his chambers earlier.]

Soft taps came from a few feet behind her. She tilted her head.

Footsteps? From the stairwell? Miranda released her grip, and the tree limb sprang free. She swung her head and watched the branch skim the fly of the trousers on the man now towering over her right shoulder.

Not Ike. She froze.

“What in the hell? Oh, didn’t see you there—” he sidestepped, and her cup scrunched in protest under his big boot. The lid popped off and the double shot of Kona glugged into a mocha-scented pool.

He jumped to avoid the puddle. “Damn energy conservation put you in the shadows. Sorry, I nailed your coffee.” His swinging backpack missed her nose by inches.

She twisted her body and scooted her butt until her shoulder jammed against a carved pot.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“It’s okay,” she mumbled, keeping her head lowered to avoid further contact with the bag-wielding klutz wearing black trousers. Must’ve been him she’d glimpsed a few minutes ago, while the elevator doors had closed on the floor below Ike’s.

“I’ve never been attacked by a branch. Must say, you deployed it well,” the deep voice announced. He stopped directly in front of her.

His hiking boots made her size-nine high-tops appear dainty.

Not the shoes of a snobby lawyer or a lost, post-trial pimp trying to find his way out of the building. Still, the flailing branch served him right for sneaking up on her. “I didn’t hear you.”

“And I shouldn’t text and walk,” he said in a lighter, almost sexy tone. “I’m Grant.” He dropped his pack and stuck out his hand.

An FBI tag printed ‘GRANT MORLEY’ hung from the bag.

She peered from under her cap’s brim and gulped.

Him.

Agent of Interest. Her heart took off at a gallop.

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/brpxK7

Nice! ♥♥♥ This looks like a riveting romance! 😉

Also, check out book two of the series, which is up for pre-order! ♥

Thank you for telling us about your free book and your upcoming release, Sally! I know I can’t wait to read these! 😀

Readers, don’t forget to pick up a FREE copy of this awesome book on Amazon today through Sunday!

Author Bio

Multi-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slow-burning romance into edgy suspense stories. Sally left a career as an industrial baking instructor to bring to life stories motivating readers to trust their inner gifts. Her rescue Aussie is her companion during long spells of writing, bouts of tormenting weeds in her garden, or afternoons spent riding on the wind with her twenty-eight year old Quarter Horse. Sign up for her newsletter at www.sallybrandle.com for freebies. The second book (without intimate scenes) in her Love Thrives in Emma Springs series, Torn By Vengeance, is currently on presale and releases May 22nd, 2019.

Author Links

Website:  http://www.sallybrandle.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/people/Sally-Brandle/100012840931763

https://www.facebook.com/Sally-Brandle-314254908616550/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/sallybrandle

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Brandle/e/B07DNGP1N7/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18116238.Sally_Brandle

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/sallybrandle/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/sallybrandle/

Monthly writing tips column:  www.writer-writer.com

Books:

Coming Soon:

Available Now:

Thanks again, Sally! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!   😉

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Filed under Authors, Book Giveaways, Book News, Book Release, Books, coming soon, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, free books, giveaway, new release, Readers, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Thriller/Suspense

Exclusive Interview with author Sheri Langer, plus a look at contemporary romance, LOVE-LINES!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our tenth official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented multi-genre author. Please join me in welcoming Sheri Langer to ILRB! 🙂

Marie Lavender:  Hello, Sheri. Please have a seat.

Author Sheri Langer:  Hi, Marie!

Marie:  Such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Sheri:  At this point, I’m an author/screenwriter who does freelance writing/editing work when it comes my way. I can’t comfortably pigeonhole myself into a specific genre since my first venture, DEX, written as Sheri Lynn Fishbach, is a YA novel.

I’d certainly like to believe I’m GREAT at it – who wouldn’t want to think they can make extraordinary contributions to their craft/profession? I love what I do, even when I’m frustrated and think I don’t.

Marie:  I know what you mean! 😉

So, tell us…what is your family like?

Sheri:  My family is wonderfully eclectic. I have an awesome new husband who used to be my boyfriend when were kids, and four amazing adult kids from a previous marriage. One daughter who’s in grad school lives at home and the three others have us hopping around the map.

Marie:  Cool!

Let’s try something else, okay?

If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?

Sheri:  In my earliest years we lived in an apartment in the Bronx (NY). It had two bedrooms, a foyer, a small kitchen, and a prized sunken living room filled with plastic-covered French provincial furniture and a great wall of large mirrored tiles. The room was very off-limits except for special occasions, or when I sneaked in to play with the fascinating lamp that featured a small wooden harp.

Marie:  Wow…

Do you have any hobbies, Sheri? What do you enjoy doing?

Sheri:  I dabble in kitchen adventures, love watching movies, and play word games with a modicum of fanaticism.

Marie:  Okay.

So…what is your greatest dream?

Sheri:  World peace. But if that’s perceived as a cop-out, I’ll go with having a prolific career that produces the kind of work (novels, movies, TV shows) that entertains and inspires.

Marie:  Can’t blame you for wanting all of that! 😉

Let’s try another question.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

Sheri:  Most of us would probably enjoy having the opportunity to change some things that trip us up here and there, but for the most part, I am the kind of person I’d like to be. I think habit often impedes change.

Marie:   Not to pry too much, but who was your first love?

Sheri:  My husband will want me to say him, but there were several before him that captured my heart in some intense way that led to a plethora of B-poems.

Marie:  (Chuckles.)

All right, let’s try something else now.

What’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?

Sheri:  Breaches in family connections. I hold relationships in high regard and am crushed when they fall apart and lead to estrangement.

Marie:  I can see how that would be heartbreaking.

Let’s move on to a lighter topic, shall we?

[Sheri nods.]

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Sheri:  I wanted to be an actress and spent many years in acting classes and workshops. The thing is, Hollywood isn’t interested in short women with big boobs, so I adjusted my reality. As it turns out, I’m even happier writing the scenes than acting out those written by others. 

Marie:  That I can understand! 😀

So, who is your role model, Sheri?

Sheri:  I adored Nora Ephron. Her humor, perceptions, and style resonated with me and now that she’s gone, I hope I can emulate her truth in an equally pleasing manner.

Marie:  All right.

Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

Sheri:  I’m not being disingenuous when I say I don’t dislike anyone. I typically look for the good in those who cross my path.

Marie:  Great to hear!

And what is your deepest desire?

Sheri:  We’re back to world peace – and I want to be enormously successful at what I do.

Marie:  I see.

So…what is your greatest fear?

Sheri:  My work not making a difference.

Marie:  Let’s try another question.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.

Sheri:  A laptop loaded with music, movies, and TV shows, chocolate – I think that comes to a square five.

Marie:  (Laughs.) Sounds perfect!  😀

Readers, let’s shift somewhat and get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.  🙂

We’ve heard rumors about the heroine of your story, Fordham Price. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about her?

Sheri:  Fordham Ruth Price is a neurotic survivor who, because of her insecurities, doesn’t recognize her true strengths and abilities. After a devastating divorce and the loss of her father, she has to come to terms with what truly matters in her life and what she can do to secure her desires.

Marie:  Okay.

And what are Fordham’s greatest strengths?

Sheri:  She’s tenacious, driven, loving, and above all else, refuses to quit no matter the challenge.

Marie:  How admirable! 😀

And her weaknesses?

Sheri:  Due to her lack of confidence, she sells herself short.

Marie:  😦  I think a lot of people feel that way…

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are some of her favorite foods?

Sheri:  She enjoys chocolate, ice cream, caviar, and salad.

Marie:  I’m a chocoholic too! 😉

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Sheri:  She’s unaware of most of her attributes, but I think she’s more nurturing than she thinks she is.

Marie:  I see.

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Sheri:  Readers will love her because she is quirky, enigmatic, funny, honest, and relatable.

Marie:  Great!

Now that we have a real taste of Fordham, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Love-Lines?

Sheri:  Love-Lines came to me when I received an email asking for my contribution to a book about dating and relationships. I started thinking about the kind of submissions the editors would get, and then I found myself crafting a story about receiving those submissions as opposed to writing one of my own.

Marie:  Lovely!

It’s fascinating how the muse works, huh? 😉

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like, Sheri? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Sheri:  Since I enjoy writing dialogue, I typically write the screenplay first and then use it as an outline to shape my novel. Yes, it’s nontraditional, but I pride myself on being unique. That said, I think what often happens is that the story takes on a life of its own and so what I thought was going to happen changes. I guess, in answer to your question, I’m going to say I lie somewhere in between.

Marie:  Awesome!

I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Love-Lines or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Sheri:  Writing is a passion, a calling, if you will. I don’t think it’s something you choose as a career; I think it chooses you. It’s demanding, exhausting, and consuming – and that’s on a good day. My advice is, if you’re good at anything else and can see yourself doing that – do it. But, if you can’t imagine a life without creating your own people and worlds, you’ve found your home.

Now, it’s time to embrace it. Pick up your pen, clutch it, and don’t let go…

Marie:  Great advice!

It was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Love-Lines appears to be… ♥

Here is the blurb:

What if you could find the love of your life just by reading between the lines? 

Single mom Fordham Price is juggling her job at a small publisher, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and her feisty mother. She wants to find time for men, but after a series of dating disasters, her relationship status is still stuck at single.

As if her macchiato lite wasn’t already overflowing, a co-worker gets pregnant, and Fordham is expected to step in and deliver the company’s latest reality read from the Flowers from the Heart series. She must now supplement her own romantic misadventures with tales of cynical cat-ladies, identical-twin husbands, spunky monks, and countless other web-crawlers.
As she wades through the submissions, she finds one from a widower whose story gives her tingles in all the places she forgot existed. His words draw her in until she finds herself daydreaming about him more than she’d care to admit.

Could she have a love like that, or will her romantic fate be forever bound to her philandering ex-husband?

The link to a book excerpt is: https://bit.ly/2DVHsLb

Sounds intriguing! Can’t wait to find out what happens. 😀

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/mv7GN2

Add it to Goodreads or BookBub:   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43699742-love-lines

https://www.bookbub.com/books/love-lines-by-sheri-langer

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this contemporary romance! ♥♥♥

About Sheri Langer

Sheri Langer is a chocoholic writer and editor who routinely feasts on romantic comedies. She’s been known to spontaneously reenact scenes from classic favorites like When Harry Met Sally.

A self-proclaimed moderately talented home-cook, Sheri spends a fair amount of time concocting dishes that can never be repeated. A creative rebel at heart, she has always colored outside the lines and has an instinctive aversion to recipes. To keep the calories from getting too out of hand, Sheri does step and aerobic workouts in the privacy of her bedroom, where no one has to be subjected to her lack of rhythm.

An avid word fan, Sheri frequently plays Just Words, Boggle, and Scrabble, mostly against the computer so she has excellent odds of winning. With her four kids all grown up, three of whom live in various locations across the map, Sheri and her guy, Brad, spend much of their downtime watching General Hospital and football, shopping, and pursuing the best ice cream on the planet. Much to the chagrin of their waistbands, they can often be spotted sitting on a bench outside their favorite creamery, eating obscenely overstuffed giant waffle cones.

Please feel free to connect with Sheri on social media. You can help her procrastinate by engaging in spirited exchanges or viewing pics of her great-looking family and ridiculously adorable cat, Zoe.

Books:

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Sheri Langer, here are some author links…

 

Once again, I want to thank Sheri Langer, the brilliant author of this romance, for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Books, characters, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Guest Writer, Interview, Readers, Romance, Writers, Writing, Writing Tips

Blog Tour Feature: The Destiny Series by Gloria Silk

Will Lia choose duty over the desires of her heart?

I am pleased to announce a cool book blog tour going on right now, presented by Gloria Silk, an author I met during my journey! We wish you many successes with your series! :)

Here at the I Love Romance Blog, we love discovering romance novels! ♥

Let’s hear a little about this great book series…

Nice!

This is the blurb for First and Only Destiny, The Destiny Series, Book 1:

Second edition of USA Today Bestselling Author’s debut novel.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
First love has never been more intense, heartbreaking, and oh so worth it!
Shy artist Lia cannot resist gorgeous genius, Devraj. Sparks fly and their families and friends try to break them apart.

FIRST LOVE…
It’s love at first sketch for shy, sheltered art major Lia Abraham, when she meets the Bollywood-gorgeous Devraj Shah at a London university. But she refuses to show her undeniable attraction to the gregarious genius who is being groomed for his family business empire. Nothing can stand between her and her dreams of traveling and teaching art across Europe. No taking risks or detours for Lia!

FIRST KISS…
The last thing Lia needs is a handsome distraction from her true love: art. Although she protests, the charming Devraj, with his dimpled grin and sparkling eyes, convinces Lia to be “just friends”.

But inevitably—with one rain-soaked, sweet yet sizzling kiss—their unleashed desire becomes stronger than their cultural divides—a Hindu boy and a Jewish girl? Gods forbid!

As their friendship flares into an all-consuming passion, the growing pressure from both families changes the landscape of both their lives.

FOREVER LOVE?
Despite loving him to distraction, will Lia’s gratitude to her frail grandparents, who raised her, and her loyalty to her cultural ties, force her to forsake the forbidden fruit of her love for Devraj?

Or can she stand up for her first and only love and face their uncharted future head on?

A PORTION OF ALL GLORIA SILK BOOK PROCEEDS GO TO THE CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY.

Gloria is giving us a peek at at this new adult multicultural romance, First and Only Destiny, today.

Great cover!

 

Book Info:

Author: Gloria Silk

Series: The Destiny Series #1

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Multicultural, New Adult Romance

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Chapter One:

University of Central London, eight months earlier

 

Lia stole another glance at the beautiful, exotic young man whose image she was trying to capture in her sketchpad. Ignoring the bustling atmosphere of the campus cafeteria, she focused on the sensuous feel of the charcoal stick within her shaking fingers as it stroked the paper. Surreptitiously, she studied her subject’s confident body language and his slightly amused, slightly superior expression, which acted on all her senses.

Once again, everything around her had faded to background noise as soon as she had seen the tall, young man several yards away, standing with his friends, yet seeming to be apart from them.

What a perfect Rajah he would be, dignified and confident, waiting for his beautiful Hindi bride to appear. Lia imagined the delicate fragrance of a jasmine-and-rose wedding garland around his neck. She resisted the temptation to draw him in a traditional white-and-gold bridegroom’s suit.

Why had she never met a ‘suitable’ Jewish man who captured her imagination like this?

Suddenly, her subject turned away from the girl smiling up at him and looked straight at Lia.

Immediately she glanced away from those bright hazel eyes. Heat flushed her cheeks and her shaking hand stilled above her sketch. Why had she chosen to draw him again? Was she watching too many Bollywood movies with her aunt and grandmother?

Compelled by fascination with the forbidden, Lia hesitantly lifted her head. She watched the young man stride towards her across the short span between them, his gaze never releasing hers.

She gulped, forgetting how to breathe.

Hunching over her sketchpad, she wished she could disappear. He would not understand her interest in him was purely artistic.

Or was it?

Her world slowed as his bold steps covered the distance between them, like a conquering Maharaja with golden-dark skin claiming his bride. The charcoal stick snapped in half in her hand. A sense of inevitability rippled through her as he reached her table and she raised her head to look fully into his face.

Her many sketches had not done him justice.

Drawing in a revitalizing breath, she stared into those amber eyes that seemed to shine from within.

Lia absorbed his relaxed aura and easy-going smile, the tones of his skin, and the shiny black hair stroking his denim shirt collar. Even the slight bump on his regal nose added to his attraction.

His eyes lowered to her sketch.

With clammy, shaky hands, she snapped the pad shut but could not look away from him.

He rested one large, golden, beautifully shaped hand on the edge of the table and leaned toward her.

“Like what you see?” he asked in a rich baritone that caressed even as it teased.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Her face prickled, leaving her as hot as if sunburned. She probably looked as red as a cooked lobster.

Smile widening, he sat opposite her. “Let me see?” his tone a mix of request and demand she found arrogant…and maybe a little attractive.

She clutched her sketchbook. “Absolutely not.”

Her refusal did not dim his smile. “Did you give me horns and crossed-eyes?”

Lia shook her head. “No, of course not! I mean it’s…it’s private.”

He shrugged, studying her. “Well, it’s my image you’re using. I should be allowed to see what you’ve done.”

She took a slow, steadying breath. “I…I’m sorry. I won’t sketch you anymore.”

“I don’t mind. In fact, I’m flattered. I just want to see—”

“Please leave me alone.”

His dark brows rose. “Hey, now. That’s not very friendly. You seemed to be interested—”

“Please?” she interrupted softly, but clearly he heard her because he stopped in mid-sentence and watched her reproachfully.

It was her own fault. She had been staring at him, drawing him, for several days. Treating him as if he were a still life. But he was a live, healthy, attractive man, not a bowl of fruit, so of course he had misunderstood.

She glanced at the group he had left minutes earlier, several young men, as dazzlingly handsome as the hunks in Gillette adverts, and sophisticated girls draped next to them, all students, and all strangers to her.

They had gone silent, their eyes fixed on her with open curiosity. Also obvious was the hostility in the narrowed eyes and flattened lips of one young blonde woman, fashionably dressed, and boldly made up. Her confident and assertive body language proclaimed her a woman who belonged here, not intimidated and out of her depths, like Lia felt.

Heat penetrated from her neck up to her face as Lia shifted her gaze from the scrutiny of this man’s friends and looked up only far enough to focus on his chin. “Please go away.” In the silence that met her words, she suddenly heard how rude, how unfriendly she sounded.

Maybe if she explained. “I’m sorry, I-I’m here…just to study. I’m not supposed to…mingle.”

She watched as he weighed her words, holding her breath, willing him to accept her explanation and simply retreat to his own world.

Instead, he grinned and shook his head. “I’m Devraj, but people call me Dev, or Dave.” The long fingers of his outreached hand drew her attention but she was not supposed to have physical—or any other—contact with men.

Devraj. Even his name was striking, regal. Feeling panicky because she wanted to touch his hand, wanted to feel his fingers on her own, Lia stood so quickly that her chair made a harsh noise against the floor.

Devraj stood up, too. Staring at him, slightly swaying forward Lia suddenly understood how magnetism worked. Grabbing her large cumbersome bag and draping it over her left shoulder she said, “I told you, I’m here, at this school, to study, not t-to meet strangers. I…I have to go. Excuse me.”

Her pulse galloping, Lia clutched her sketchbook to her chest and spun round to flee.

But he blocked her way.

~♥~♥~♥~♥~♥~

Purchase Link:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/31P0Rl

PRAISE FOR FIRST AND ONLY DESTINY

“Beautifully written love story. The prose in this book is extraordinary, the emotions heart-breaking and the author leaves you hanging on the edge right to the end of the story. I could feel the characters’ happiness, confusion, pain and sadness. When it rained, I felt that rain on me, when the characters were laughing, I laughed – it was really that good! I can’t wait to read the next story in this book and will add Ms. Silk to my “must-buy” authors. Love her writing! Ms. Silk fills the pages with emotion – hope, happiness, sadness, guilt, joy – you will run the gamut with this book.”Elizabeth Lennox, Author of the Thorpe Brothers series

The quintessential love story of two people in love who must overcome obstacles that should not make a difference to their happiness; but does!
Will we ever learn? Will there come a time when race, culture and all the other things that supposedly separate us as humans be done away with?
Gloria Silk’s beautifully written “First and Only Destiny” intends to do just that!
Yvonne Finn (Amazon)

I have never been deeply touched by any other book like this one, and to think that I found this through a random search only in my Kindle from Amazon! I’m a believer of first ❤️ love, and this is just the right story for me… well written with amazing characters, incredible racial interactions between two young students belonging to different faiths or beliefs but so much in love, nothing could stop them! Oppositions from both families kept them apart, this heart wrenching love story made me cry, with so many frustrating situations, Devraj’s obsession is incredibly designed by this talented author, hopelessly but determined in his one and only love… we need to follow whats in store for this star-crossed lovers in the second book of this phenomenal story!!! – Maria B (Amazon)

Squee! Love all the tension. ♥♥♥

Here’s the book trailer…

This book is only 99 cents on Amazon, so grab it on sale while you can, readers! 😉

Let’s also check on the second book in the series, see what it’s about…

This is the blurb for Second Destiny, The Destiny Series, Book 2:

From USA Today Bestselling Author, Gloria Silk

The standalone bestseller, First and Only Destiny gave Lia and Devraj their own well deserved dramatic and satisfying happy-ever-after! BUT what if…

What if Lia and Devraj lose each other within minutes and are both left devastated, unable to forget each other?

Second Destiny is an emotional, sensuous story of the star-crossed lovers reuniting 19 years later. Just as Lia discovers her husband’s infidelity, her first love, Devraj is at her door. Lia’s 18-year-old daughter and Devraj’s nephew are repeating romantic history.

Can Lia and the Bollywood-gorgeous hero put their past behind them, or will their sizzling, intense passion reignite and endanger everything in its path?

THE OLDER GENERATION BROKE THEM APART…
Lia Abraham gave up everything for her family and culture—art, autonomy and even self-worth. Worst of all was the sacrifice of Bollywood-gorgeous, idealistic Devraj Shah, when Lia caved in to pressure from both their families. She broke her first love’s heart by marrying the “right” Jewish man.

THE YOUNGER GENERATION REUNITES THEM…
Nineteen years later, minutes after Lia demands a divorce from her cheating husband, her world turns upside down again; Devraj is at her door. His nephew and Lia’s feisty teenage daughter are repeating history. They’re in love, but the now reserved, enigmatic Devraj is dead-set against the couple’s marriage plans. He is convinced Lia’s daughter will ultimately reject his nephew the way Lia had rejected Devraj.

After years of feeling caged in a loveless marriage, Lia embraces her newly found freedom, and her resurgent passion for Devraj is irresistible. Once again, she surrenders to the true love of her life, but their affair re-ignites opposition from both families. Will Lia’s second chance at love again destroy her loved ones and her dreams?

Torn once again between her love for Devraj, her family responsibilities and her need for true independence, will Lia choose duty over the desires of her heart?

Another stunning cover!

 

Book Info:

Author: Gloria Silk

Series: The Destiny Series #2

Genre: Multicultural Romance, Second Chance Romance

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Chapter One:

Something was wrong but Lia could not put a finger on it as she glanced around the long dining table at her in-laws. Her ever-silent father-in-law, Jonathan was nursing his third brandy since their arrival. Nothing new there.

The residual smells of Grace’s famous matzo ball soup, with its swirling rainbow of grease reflecting the chandelier lights, intermingled with the fresh yeasty challa rolls her mother-in-law had baked, as she did every Friday night for Sabbath.

What I wouldn’t give for a bowl of curry at this moment. Maybe tomorrow she would order it with her girlfriends at their bi-weekly lunch date. But tonight routine and tradition ruled this ritual Friday night dinner in London’s suburban Oakwood.

Watching her two silent children Lia concentrated on being in the moment. The only sounds in the slightly oppressive, antique furnished dining room were the delicate clatter of cutlery against the plates and her husband’s response to his mother’s probing questions about his latest problems with his business partner. As usual, mother and son were the two center stage entertainers, while the rest of them were their audience.

Lia observed Howard. Tonight he seemed even more distracted, obsessed, as always searching for bigger ways to promote his cosmetic-surgery practice, and still waiting to be recognized for his genius.

Nothing new here, either.

Studying his roast chicken breast through his designer glasses, Howard said, “Of course I want him out, mother. My solicitors agree that Tom’s got too unrealistic expectations of me, but I have a busy clinicto run.”

Grace expelled one of her loaded sighs. More questions and reluctant answers ping-ponged between them.

Lia was tired of these conversations, but at least no one expected her to contribute. Most of the time she felt invisible, but that freed her to observe everyone.

She had a busy, uncomplicated life, with a beautiful home and great friends. Her parents-in-law tolerated her well enough. Her children were healthy and for the most part happy.

If she had not pursued her art, it was her own choice, and she had made peace with it.

She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and reminded herself to be more grateful.

Her husband of nineteen years may not be the perfect mate, but he was a good provider and, mostly, an indulgent father to their children.

Swaying her attention back to their children, Lia glanced at her ever silent thirteen-year-old son, Gabriel—nicknamed Gabe and sometimes Gaby—sat slouching beside her. Then Lia regarded Danielle who sat across from her.

Lia’s spine went rigid.

This was where something was definitely wrong.

Her eighteen-year-old had hardly eaten much in the past few weeks. Tonight Danielle seemed extra moody and withdrawn. What was going through the med student’s mind, sitting with her head downcast?

Medicine seemed to be her passion, but she was not the talkative type if she did have any issues with her studies.

At least Danielle had not gone through with the tattoo or belly-piercing rebellion, Lia thanked God.

Where was her funny, vivacious little girl who could not wait to spill her every adventure the moment she burst through the doors after school?

And would she ever resurface?

How could she help her daughter’s somber demeanor, while the teen appeared to act like a caged animal, yet again wearing those dark, tight fitting clothes Howard disliked?

Lia realized she was again twisting her tight engagement and wedding bands around her ring finger as if they were a double noose. She picked up her fork.

Guilt seeped through her. Were her children noticing her growing discontentment? The English spring weather always brought it on, along with the memories of a lost love.

Danielle broke the momentary silence between her grandmother and father. “Daddy, I have something to tell you.” Those wide shining eyes were a warmer shade of her father’s blue eyes.

Electricity seemed to crackle in the air around Danielle.

“What, sugar-plum?” Howard asked just as Gabe reached across the table for another roll.

“Where are your manners, Gabe?” Howard did not raise his voice, but just glared through arctic-blue eyes. “Ask if you want something.”

“S-s-sorry, D-dad.”

Lia’s heart squeezed hard. Gabe’s stutter never bothered him when mother and son were alone.

These days he spent almost all his hours in his room with his books and computer.

Picking up the basket, she held it out to him.

He shook his head. Putting down the basket, she discreetly patted his knee.

He did not pull away, but his expression made her question why she never stood up for him, or took his father to task. Oh, she had, after both children had gone to bed—or in the privacy of their bedroom when they had still shared one—arguing, reasoning with Howard, until she was emotionally exhausted talking to a human equivalent of a brick wall.

“Daddy, will you please listen?” Danielle’s voice broke through her thoughts.

Ever patient with his daughter, Howard glanced at her, resuming cutting his chicken with the precision of a perfectionist surgeon.

“I’ve met my Mr. Right. I’ve been seeing him for a year and I love him. I’d like you to meet him.”

Danielle’s honey-gold bob framed her pale face. She sat reed-straight as if expecting an explosion or at least a rare shouting match. “Sanjay is of a different culture—”

At the mention of this familiar name, Lia’s airways seemed stuffed with hardening cement, choking the breath out of her.

Someone’s cutlery clanged loudly against a plate.

“Sanjay?” Both Grace and Howard pronounced the name as if smelling something disgusting.

A warped sense of déjà vu settled over Lia, heat prickling under her arms, neck and up her face.

Danielle stared back at her father. “He’s of Indian background, but—”

“Danielle, are you out of your mind?” Grace demanded in her haughty over-British voice.

“Let me handle this, mother.” Howard continued glaring at their daughter. Wiping his mouth on his damask napkin, he stood up to his full height of five feet seven inches.

Lia could not move.

“You’ve been seeing him for a whole year.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “Why now? I thought we talked about everything.” Lia heard the tinge of betrayal.

“We do, but at first we were just friends, then it became more important and…I didn’t think you’d accept him because he’s not Jewish—”

“Glad you know your father so well.” He looked at Grace. “That was tasty, mother.” He thanked her as he thanked Lia after every meal.

He squinted back at Danielle through his glasses, his thinning oatmeal hair shone on his pinkish scalp under the chandelier lights. “This was in very poor taste, to come out with this nonsense at your grandmother’s Friday night table. Now you’ve ruined everyone’s dessert with this rubbish. I won’t get angry, but you’ll never see this person again. Or mention him. It stops now! End of conversation.”

Although his voice was firm, he gave Danielle one of the smiles he reserved for his female patients, their best friend and beauty god promising to make them look younger, more beautiful or desirable again.

But as Danielle stared up at him with that brave expression, Lia knew it was far from the end. “No, Daddy. If you won’t meet him, we’ll elope.”

Lia needed water to help her constricting throat, but she could not trust her fingers to pick up the crystal water goblet. Had she not said almost the same words to her grandfather nearly two decades ago, about an intense yet fun loving—Indian—young man?

“If you promise to see Sanjay then I’ll continue my studies after—”

“Like your mother did after I married her?” He sneered. “At least that was only art, no loss to the world. But medicine’s not to be taken lightly, young lady.”

“I don’t care about medicine, never have, and I don’t want a marriage like yours.” Danielle almost shuddered. “I want a real marriage, real love, and I will get it.”

Fists by his sides, lips even thinner, Howard turned to Lia.

For the first time in years, he glared right at her, not through her. “Do you know anything about this, considering the background of this…this…?”

“No, but the boy may be—” She started.

“He’s nearly twenty-one, Mom. He’s hardly a boy.” Without glancing at her, daughter and father dueled with each other with the same challenging eyes. “Sanjay’s smart and kind and such a hard worker, Daddy. He’s doing his MBA, and then plans to join his uncle’s business—”

Howard’s hand shot up in front of him. “Spare me the details.”

Watching, Lia’s sense of déjà vu grew stronger and her chest felt overtaxed from ineffective, too shallow breathing. Devraj had also been subtly groomed for his family business empire. Her memories were torture enough, almost distracting her from the crisis at hand.

“Why have you let this go on, Lia?” Grace asked, blinking profusely while holding her hand against her pearl-clad neck and cream cashmere sweater.

~♥~♥~♥~♥~♥~

Purchase Link:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/brpEwe

PRAISE FOR SECOND DESTINY

“Beautifully written love story with a perfect happy ever after.” – Elizabeth Lennox, Author of the Thorpe Brothers series

A decision is made at the end of the first book, but is it the right decision? Only time, and the next book, will tell. 🙂 In the second book, an unsettling replay in the younger generation haunts Lia and Devraj, and they face another life-altering decision. I’m so glad I bought both books at the same time so I didn’t have to wait for the answer in these emotionally-charged page turners. Get your hankies ready. – Joan Lecott (Amazon)

Loved this book, couldn’t stop reading it. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. I suggest reading the first book since this is a continuation of their story. Can’t wait to read more of your books!  Saguaro (Amazon)

This is the story of second chances. It follows through with Lia starting a new job and trying to start life over. She doesn’t want the distraction of dating and her pride is only going to hurt her. The twist in this story from the first story was great. I was happy to see where the author went with this book. – Terry M (Amazon)

Wow, sounds like quite a dramatic tale!😉

Here’s the book trailer…

Both of these titles can be read as standalones.

 

Gloria is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember, there is a chance to enter everyday so be sure to follow the Blog Tour for the contest and exclusive content. You may find the tour link here.

Thank you for telling us about your multicultural romance series, Gloria! I know I can’t wait to read these novels! 🙂

Readers, don’t forget to grab a copy of this awesome book series, or add them to your Goodreads list!

The Destiny Series looks great! ♥ We’ll be sure to check it out! Don’t miss the giveaway!

Author Bio

USA Today Bestselling author, Gloria Silk, loves writing sensuous, uplifting and unforgettable romance and women’s fiction. Her powerful stories are filled with passion without cultural borders, which will take you to various exotic locales around the world. Her books focus on the many facets of romantic relationships with strong and complex family bonds.

Born in Russia, her love of travel was ingrained within her from a very young age, as she has lived in various parts of Europe and the Mediterranean. Some of her favorite visited places are Austria, France, the Middle East, Hawaii and Hong Kong. Her next planned excursion is to Australia and New Zealand.

England (where she was brought up) holds a very special place in her heart with all its history and lush, green landscapes. Her background in English literature, writing and psychology help her create well-rounded, unique characters.

After spending many years in London, England, where she met and married her own loving hero, she now lives – and happily writes – in Toronto, Canada.

For a very special reward of a custom book gift set go to gloriasilk.com/books

Author Links

Website:  http://www.gloriasilk.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/gloriasilk

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/glorialsilk

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Gloria-Silk/e/B00IZSLZZS

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8549461.Gloria_Silk

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/gloria-silk

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/gloriasilk5

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/silkgloria

 

Thank you for telling us about your wonderful book series tour! I know readers can’t wait to get ahold of these multicultural romance books!

Thanks again to Gloria and her blog tour sponsor!

We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!  ♥♥♥ Have a great week! 😀

3 Comments

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Books, Contemporary, Event, Faith, family, Fiction, Gifts, giveaway, Multicultural/Interracial, Readers, Romance, Second Chances, Tour, Writing

Exclusive Interview with author Nicolina Martin, plus a look at mafia romance/suspense, HEAT!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our ninth official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author of steamy romance novels. Please join me in welcoming Nicolina Martin to ILRB! 🙂

Marie Lavender:  Hello, Nicolina. Please have a seat.

Author Nicolina Martin:  Hi, Marie!

Marie:  Hey, it’s such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Nicolina:  I write romance, living with my bad boys and fair ladies, 24/7, or so it feels. But what’s bringing food to my table is my day job as a radiologist.

Marie:  Oh, nice! 😀

So, tell us…what is your family like?

Nicolina:  I’m a mom of three teen daughters and three kitties. We’re a…loud family. The kids are very much teen ladies right now, with life being dramatic all the time.

I can’t remember being like that. Was I?

Marie:  (Chuckles.) I hope I wasn’t that bad too! 😉

Let’s try something else, okay?

If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?

Nicolina:  My parents were working class. Very tidy. Home cooked meals. Mom stayed at home with me and later on with my sister for the first five years of our lives. In Sweden both parents often work, so having Mom at home was a bit of a luxury. I had a very traditional upbringing, I think. A bit strict.

Marie:  I see…

Do you have any hobbies, Nicolina? What do you enjoy doing?

Nicolina:  I sing in a gospel choir, and I love gardening. I should work out, you know…it just doesn’t seem to happen.

Marie:  (Laughs.) I know what you mean!

So…what is your greatest dream?

Nicolina:  Well, authoring related it is to make an impact, to know that readers get a few hours of complete distraction, and that they close the books with a deep satisfaction. That, and I could live off writing. That would be cool.

The greatest, greatest dream is that my daughters will have rich, fulfilling, and happy lives.

Marie:  Can’t blame you for wanting all of that! 😉

Let’s try another question.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

Nicolina:  I wish I was more outdoorsy, and more social. What’s stopping me is probably laziness, and that I’m too comfortable where I am.

Marie:  Okay.

Not to pry too much, but who was your first love?

Nicolina:  A blond, skinny boy in school named Tobias. 🙂 We were 17. That was my first love. It didn’t last long, ha ha.

But it was fun while it lasted. He was kind, and a really funny guy.

Marie:  All right, let’s try something else now.

What’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?

Nicolina:  When one of my daughters, then only two months old, and as a twin, much tinier than a normal two month old baby, nearly died from RS virus. There is nothing I’ve experienced before, or since, that comes even close to the horror.

OMG! How terrifying. 😥

Let’s move on to a lighter topic, shall we?

[Nicolina nods.]

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Nicolina: Actually, to become a doctor, so I did achieve my dream. I can’t remember what I expected. More glory? Ha ha. I don’t know.

It’s a very self-rewarding job. I’ve never regretted my choice.

Marie:  Great!

So, who is your role model, Nicolina?

Nicolina:  Stephen King. Both as an author, but also as a person, his integrity, how he has stuck to his writing and not let the critics deter him, how he fought his way back after he was injured. I feel he stands up for the little people, the ones without a voice. He’s amazing.

Marie:  Okay.

Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

Nicolina:  Ha ha, no. Really, no. I’m a pretty honest and direct person.

Marie:  Good to hear!

And what is your deepest desire?

Nicolina:  Find love again, maybe? Real, deep, passionate romantic love. I’ve been single quite a while…

Marie:  I see.

So…what is your greatest fear?

Nicolina:  That no one will bother to come to my death bed. That was dark. Sorry!

That my egocentric persona will have driven everyone away.

Marie: Oh, no… 😦 I’m sure that won’t happen.

Let’s try another question.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.

Nicolina:  Books, for sure. Good sheets and two pillows. Was that four items already? Damn. Coffee!

Marie:  (Laughs.) There you go!  😀

Readers, let’s shift somewhat and get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.  🙂

We’ve heard rumors about the hero of your story, Nathan Russo. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about him?

Nicolina: The hero of my latest release, Heat, is one of five siblings born to a mobster life. He grew up in a violent and unloving environment and feels like there’s a void in him; that no matter how many women and how much wealth he has, there’s something lacking. Until he meets the woman who becomes the real and only love of his life.

Ian Somerhalder, the actor, IS Nathan, and I don’t think I’m allowed to use an image of him just like that… I do have a Pinterest board, though, with both Nathan and his love interest Sydney.

https://www.pinterest.se/authornicolinamartin/inspiration-for-heat/

Marie:  OMG, love it…Ian is sooo hot!

And what are Nathan’s greatest strengths?

Nicolina:  He isn’t afraid to make snap decisions, to take command. He’s loyal, and determined.

Marie:  Cool! And his weaknesses?

Nicolina:  His fear, that he won’t acknowledge, of being alone, unloved.

Marie:  😦  I think a lot of people feel that way…

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are some of his favorite foods?

Nicolina:  Anything Italian. Seafood.

Marie:  Great!

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Nicolina:  That he is capable of tenderness and compassion.

Marie:  Nice! 😀

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Nicolina:  They love him; they don’t want to, because he’s violent, and rough, dominant, and scary. But he has a softness to him that shines through, and that makes it near impossible not to care for him.

Marie:  Awesome! Sort of an anti-hero, then…

Now that we have a real taste of Nathan, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Heat?

Nicolina:  Heat was the first book I started on after I came back to writing, having suffered a block for eight years. I just saw this couple hitting it off on an airplane, going to some exotic place, him with a big dark secret, she a naive young woman, enticed by his attention. It built from there.

Heat had many, many versions, and titles, before it found its final shape. Initially it wasn’t part of any mafia world, or a series. It wasn’t great to begin with, and I even shelved it and wrote another book, Break My Chains, in between, along with working on two shorter stories and publishing them. Eventually I came back to Heat, found its voice, whipped it into its final form, and here we are.

Marie:  Wonderful! And readers, I can fully vouch for Break My Chains. Check out my book review of that title on the blog here.

Well…it’s interesting how the muse works, huh? 😉

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like, Nicolina? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Nicolina:  I’m a pantser, but I’ve begun plotting when I get stuck, so I seem to shift into something in between as my stories get more complicated. I write a bit choppy, minimalist, very non-purple, I’d say. With my stories you have to look around the corner and read between the lines, to build the whole picture. I know it sounds weird, saying it like that, but it’s how it feels. I like to NOT describe everything, but leave a little up to the reader to fill in. Many people say that reading my work is like watching a movie, and also that my plots are unpredictable, and my characters are unusual. Those are among the best compliments I can get, because I really strive to find my own way within the tropes, and to renew myself with every book.

Marie:  Lovely!

I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Heat or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Nicolina:  A friend told me to submit Heat to Blushing Books. I was so sure a publisher would never be interested in my work, that I very nearly didn’t, but then I submitted Break My Chains, just taking the chance with it, and got accepted, so later on I dared submit Heat as well. I wasn’t going to pursue the traditional publishing route, I was so sure I was going to self-publish, but now I’m really happy with the collaboration with Blushing Books. So that’s maybe one advice: dare to put yourself out there.

For Heat, being my first work after that long, long break, I had a ton of beta readers over the course of several months. A ton of betas bring a ton of different opinions, and it isn’t easy navigating everyone’s advice. Stay strong with what you feel is the ‘voice’ of the book, and yourself, and filter the advice through that.

Also. Write. Writing feeds writing. Words give birth to more words. Love the story you want to tell. Unless writing is what stands between you and a house over your head, don’t force yourself to write something you don’t feel, for it should be a passion. It should be fun. Then it will show in your books.

I write what I want to read. Writing to me is like existing in my favorite movie 24/7 for months.

Marie:  Well said!

It was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Heat appears to be… ♥

Here is the blurb:

Anything can happen during the hot nights in the Dominican Republic.

Sydney

I just wanted a tan and to sip drinks with little umbrellas in them. I didn’t know that vacation would mean sleeping with a hot stranger, being drugged, and nearly killed. My instincts tell me there’s more to the smooth facade of Nathan Russo, but my heart won’t listen. He’s my opposite: hot where I’m cool, experienced while I’ve never really lived. What starts out as a steamy fling can’t be more…can it?

Nathan

I’m a dangerous man with a mission to complete and people to kill. Sydney Lewis might literally cost me my life. As the stakes increase, I have to decide whether to follow my head or my heart. My life is too dangerous, I’m too much of a monster. She’s a good girl. She can’t be a part of this. I have to be cruel. I have to cut her out.
But she’s the only one who can save me.

Heat will take you on a journey to paradise, through hell, and back.

Publisher’s Note: This steamy, dark romance may contain triggers. It contains elements of danger, adventure, explicit scenes, power exchange, and a guaranteed HEA.

Nicolina is also offering us a teaser from the book!

Sydney

I hurry from room to room. There are opened double balcony doors and long white curtains that move lazily in the warm breeze. The wood panels are dark, the colors of the bedspread, decorative pillows, and carpet are warm and inviting.

On the bed I find neat piles of my things. I rummage through them and am satisfied to see that everything seems to be there. In the bathroom someone has already arranged my toiletries. I frown. Who took the liberty to go through my things? The man who drove me here? Nathan? The hotel staff?

I see no sign of anyone else living here. It confuses me. I would totally have expected him to install me in his place. Will he come? Or is it all for me? Will I see him at all? I sink down on the bed and wait. Nothing happens. I listen to the distant noise from the city, the sound of birds singing, and the soft rustling of the curtains. I feel ridiculous in my bikini, so I pull the tunic over my head and drop it next to me. As I look for something to wear, I find the two wrinkled skirts, smile at the memories and put them to the side. Stripping to change, I realize I’m sweaty, and a bit sandy. Shower it is.

Through the clattering of water against the tiles, I keep listening for sounds from the outer rooms, but nothing disturbs my weird solitude. After, I wrap a towel around me and go sit on the balcony, still wet. I’ll dry in the heat soon enough and it’s a wonderful way to cool off. Comforted by the noise from the street, I fall asleep in the recliner, in the shadow, with the warm breeze caressing me. I dream of being a passenger on a ship, with no idea where I’m going. I dream of hands on my breasts, of a soft voice in my ear. ‘Sydney’. I wake with a jolt. I hold my breath and listen with a pounding heart. I’m alone. Still nothing but silence from inside. I pick up my phone and look at the clock.

It’s been three hours. I’m confused, annoyed, and very hungry.

It’s six p.m. I’ve had it. I’m not waiting for the bastard.

“Miss Lewis.” In the reception the same man from before greets me with a wide smile.

“Good evening. I was wondering if you know anything about the person who rented the room I’m staying in?”

“I’m very sorry, Miss. The information about your stay has been relayed to us over the phone.”

“Yes, but…Do you have the number that was calling you, maybe?”

“This is not information we can give out.”

“Okay, fine. That’s fine. No worries,” I growl, and I grit my teeth. “Are you at least able to tell me the location of a nice restaurant?” There’s venom in my voice, but I can’t help it. I feel that this man is an accomplice in my abduction, and I have now lost yet another half day of my vacation. I’m so gonna kick Nathan’s ass when I see him.

“By the ocean or in town, Miss?”

I force a smile. I have no reason to take anything out on him.

“Ocean,” I mutter.

“Absolutely,” he says cheerfully.

I get directions to a restaurant. Outside, I’m met by a wall of sounds, and scents of flowers and food. I relax a little. I guess I can at least have a meal and watch the sun sink behind the horizon before I get back to seething. I curse Nathan to Hell. Is he toying with me? I thought we were going to meet. I buy a paperback in a little shop I pass. The sleazy romance I was reading got lost when I ‘moved’. It’s probably being ‘accidentally’ read by some other lonely woman right now. At least she won’t have to encounter fucking James Fintan, as they told me his full name is. He’s locked up. For a very long time, I hope.

At the restaurant I have a shrimp salad and a glass of white wine. One glass turns into two and I enjoy the book as my only company. This is, in part, what I wanted to do on this stay. No obligations. No one calling me. Just me and some peace.

Staff has changed when I get back. I present myself to the front desk woman. “Did anyone leave a message for me?”

“No, Miss,” she says in what sounds like British English.

“Okay…Did anyone come here, maybe? Is there anyone up in my room?”

“No, Miss.” She shakes her head and smiles.

I grind my teeth and make my way back up to the room, cursing Nathan to Hell again. The door closes behind me with a whisper. I stand in silence and listen. Nothing. No one is here.

“Nate?” I call.

I groan out loud. Fine!

I pull off my clothes and toss them over a chair, brush my teeth and wash the day off my face. Then I slip under cool sheets in a heavenly bed. It smells clean. It doesn’t take long before sleep claims me.

***

A noise startles me awake. I sit up straight, my heart pounding. In the doorway I see the silhouette of a man. I scramble back and fumble for a light switch without finding one.

“Enjoying your new accommodations?” The voice is quiet, husky.

I recognize it more than well and a shiver runs through me.

“You fucking, arrogant jerk!” I spit.

He laughs and strides closer. “That’s the way you want to greet me?”

“Yes! I can’t believe I came here.”

“And yet you did.”

I realize I’m sitting up without a thread on my upper body, having gone to bed in only my panties. I quickly pull at the sheet to cover me up before I feel for the lamp again. I flip the switch and a soft yellow light illuminates us. Nathan sits on the edge of the bed. His unreal eyes have a dark edge to them. They’re filled with hunger and some emotion I can’t define that makes my stomach clench.

“You realize, Sydney, that by coming here you passed a line.”

I swallow hard, fighting the flutter in my chest. “Line? I—”

“You gave yourself up to me. I commanded, and you obeyed.”

“No…I—” He doesn’t even have to touch me. A flurry of tingles shoots straight to between my legs. “What are you talking about?” I whisper.

“You know more than well what I’m saying, Sydney.” He leans in and brushes his lips against mine. He smells faintly of smoke and cigarettes, tinged with a hint of metal underneath the fresh soapy scent. His eyes are dark like a bottomless well, then he claims my mouth and I gasp, my body responding immediately. He caresses my neck, stroking along my throat, then his hand finds its way to my nape and pulls me closer. As he deepens the kiss, his other hand follows the curve of my shoulder down along my arm, pulling the sheet with it as it progresses downward. Cupping my breast, he rolls the nipple between his fingers.

“Naked?” he whispers into my mouth.

I shake my head. “I have panties on.” I barely recognize my throaty voice.

He pushes me down on the bed, leaning closer, covering my body with his. “Didn’t I tell you never to wear panties?”

“No,” I half squeak.

“Yes, I did. Take them off.” His voice is rough, demanding.

I hold his gaze. “What happens if I don’t?”

“You wanna play games with me?” he says, his eyes shaded and his voice suddenly dead serious.

His tone makes worry flutter in my stomach. I swallow hard.

What do I really know about this man? I was safe on the plane, surrounded by people; this suddenly feels very unsafe. “I…no…you—” I say shakily, my voice wavering.

“Syd.” He puts a finger to my lips, silencing me. “Don’t be afraid. Do as I say. Remove your panties.”

Ooh…sizzling! Can’t wait to find out what happens next. 😀

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/mY15gV

Publisher:  http://bit.ly/HEAT-NM-BB

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this mafia romantic suspense! ♥♥♥

About Nicolina Martin

Nicolina Martin is a Swedish born author who escapes the long, dark winter nights by writing hot contemporary romance/suspense.

She’s a mother of three teenage girls, a medical doctor, a quirky loner, and a social human being. She has traveled the globe, has had more lovers than she can count, has loved and hated, succeeded and failed, has gone through marriage and divorce. She has seen darkness and despair, as well as light and happiness.

All these experiences, she pours into her tales, taking her readers for a wild ride while twisting their minds. She loves showing that stories can be different even if the trope is the same.

Nicolina believes that life is too short for regrets and in looking forward, no matter what. She wants to enjoy every moment, and cherish life.

Books:

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Nicolina Martin, here are some author links…

 

Once again, I want to thank Nicolina Martin, the brilliant author of this mafia romance, for stopping by!  It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Books, characters, Contemporary, dark romance, Event, Fiction, Guest Writer, Interview, Mafia Romance, Multicultural/Interracial, new release, Readers, Romance, Romantic Suspense, steamy, Thriller/Suspense, Writers, Writing

New Release Feature: Redeemed by author Maggie Blackbird

•..•Redeemed by Maggie Blackbird•..•

There’s nothing he isn’t willing to do to win back his son–and Bridget…

I am pleased to announce a great book release by Maggie, a talented author I met during my journey! Her new erotic multicultural romance novel, Redeemed, book two of the The Matawapit Family Series, officially released a few days ago!

Yay! That’s awesome! :) Congrats on your new release!

When a new book comes out, it’s always an exciting time for an author!

Maggie is giving us a look at her steamy multicultural romance, Redeemed, today.

Great cover!

This is the blurb for Redeemed:

A single woman battles to keep her foster child from his newly-paroled father—a dangerous man she used to love.

Bridget Matawapit is an Indigenous activist, daughter of a Catholic deacon, and foster mother to Kyle, the son of an Ojibway father—the ex-fiancé she kicked to the curb after he chose alcohol over her love. With Adam out on parole and back in Thunder Bay, she is determined to stop him from obtaining custody of Kyle.

Adam Guimond is a recovering alcoholic and ex-gang banger newly-paroled. Through counseling, reconnecting with his Ojibway culture and twelve-step meetings while in prison, Adam now understands he’s worthy of the love that frightened him enough to pick up the bottle he’d previously corked. He can’t escape the damage he caused so many others, but he longs to rise like a true warrior in the pursuit of forgiveness and a second chance. There’s nothing he isn’t willing to do to win back his son–and Bridget.

When an old cell mate’s daughter dies under mysterious circumstances in foster care, Adam begs Bridget to help him uncover the truth. Bound to the plight of the Indigenous children in care, Bridget agrees. But putting herself in contact with Adam threatens to resurrect her long-buried feelings for him, and even worse, she risks losing care of Kyle, by falling for a man who might destroy her faith in love completely this time.

Here is an excerpt to entice you with!

Adam took another drag. “I’m talking now, ain’t I?”

“True.” The heat in his gaze seemed to touch Bridget’s cheek. She rubbed the purse strap.

“I don’t got nothing to hide. ’Kay?”

“You were hiding something last time?”

“Nope. But I know my not speaking pissed you off.”

“There’s no reason to bring up the past. I told you I’d help and that’s what I’m doing.”

“Yeah, you agreed to help…” His gaze roamed around her face.

Bridget recoiled and glanced away.

“Y’know, kwe, we’re doing a lot of dancing.”

“Dancing?”

“Lookit me.”

She forced herself to raised her head.

His dark eyes smoldered. He leaned forward. His hand stretched out, and he ran his strong fingers along her braid.

Sensuous heat and angry lightning erupted under Bridget’s skin. “Don’t you dare.” The words hissed from her mouth.

“What’re you afraid of, kwe?”

“Quit calling me that.” The order snapped from deep inside Bridget’s constricting chest. “You have no right calling me by that name. Not after what you did.” She stood and yanked her purse off the bench.

He tilted his head up, his jawline tightening. “I know what I did, kwe. You remind me all the time.”

“I do no such thing.” How dare Adam turn this around as her fault.

“Yeah, you do. It’s in your eyes. They hang me like a noose. It’s in your lips. They condemn me like a villain. It’s in your voice. You slap me with your tone.”

“What’d you expect after what you did?” she huffed out. “You were charged with aggravated assault. The judge had every right to throw the book at you.”

“I know what I did, kwe.” Adam’s voice remained flat. “I live with it every day. I don’t take the easy way out and blame it on the booze.”

“You were skidding around for months. I can only imagine what else you did.” And no, she wasn’t jealous.

“I drank. I drank some more. I did something really bad to another human being. Got arrested. Sat in remand until my trial. I won’t say he deserved it. I won’t say anything. I did it. I went to prison for it.”

“And did you only drink?” She silently cuffed her rear end for continuing to poke at the damned same question.

Adam’s thick lips tugged at the corner. “If you mean was I out screwing around? Nope. You’re the only woman for me, kwe.”

Delight exploded through Bridget’s veins. Then she clamped a lock on her heart. Only a moron bought his answer. He’d been drunk for four months in Winnipeg. He must have picked up some woman in a bar.

“I was hurting bad.” His voice sagged. “You think I was happy when you told me to fuck off? You killed me, woman.”

The sharp tone of his last statement was pure insult, an affront to the feminine strength that had dragged Bridget up from the depths of Hell where Adam had stuck her. “If you want to continue speaking, tell Dirty Harry to leave. I only deal with Mr. Darcy.”

Adam stood and set his enormous hands on his hips. “Mr. Who—? Look, I’ll tell Dirty Harry to take a hike if you call off Sarah Conner. I’m not the Terminator sent back in time to harm you.”

At his full height, Adam towered over Bridget, made her five-nine stance shrink to a doll. He’d reduced her to a doll, helpless in the possession of his hands, made to dance, talk, or walk under his orders.

Heat built in her lungs. She was too independent to draw back and scuttle away. No man provoked fear in her. The worst part was, she didn’t fear Adam’s physical presence, she feared the thick, steamy aroma of testosterone he forever used to challenge her, weaken her, seduce her. The masculine aroma dripped from the pits of his arms, his thick chest, and the bulge of his biceps.

“Out of my thirty-eight years, I fucked up thirty-seven of ’em. I ain’t fucking up again.”

“Thirty-seven?” His scent kept assaulting Bridget’s knees, swirling around her, until she wobbled.

“Yeah. Thirty-seven. I can’t count the year the three of us were a family. Me. You. Kyle.”

Bridget’s resolve continued to crumble. Adam kept dusting her femininity with his husky declarations, fierce scent, and sensual stare.

She pivoted on her heel and bolted for the truck. She’d dump him off at the halfway house and go home. If he wanted to tease and torment her during their drive, he could, but she’d don her mask of hate-fueled resentment created by him.

She pushed the button on the keys, and the locked doors opened.

Purchase Links:

Publisher link:  https://www.extasybooks.com/product/product/?series_id=1534&product_id=6400

Publisher: EXtasy Books

Nice tension! Gotta love this sneak peek. ♥♥♥

Thank you for telling us about your new book! It sounds fabulous! 🙂

Readers, don’t forget to pick up a copy of this intriguing read! Or add it to your Goodreads bookshelf!

Author Bio

An Ojibway from Northwestern Ontario, Maggie resides in the country with her husband and their fur babies, two beautiful Alaskan Malamutes.  When she’s not writing, she can be found pulling weeds in the flower beds, mowing the huge lawn, walking the Mals deep in the bush, teeing up a ball at the golf course, fishing in the boat for walleye, or sitting on the deck at her sister’s house, making more wonderful memories with the people she loves most.

Author Links

Website:  https://maggieblackbird.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/maggieblackbirdauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BlackbirdMaggie/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/Maggie-Blackbird/e/B07KQP1FFG

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18176196.Maggie_Blackbird

LinkedIn:  https://bit.ly/2Ut8kbY

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/maggie-blackbird

Publisher:  https://www.extasybooks.com/maggie-blackbird/

 

Thanks again, Maggie! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!🙂

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Filed under Authors, Book News, Book Release, Books, Contemporary, Erotica, Event, Faith, family, Fiction, inspirational romance, Multicultural/Interracial, Readers, Romance, Writing

Big Myths That Should Be Dispelled About Romance Novels: a romance blogger post by multi-genre author Marie Lavender

Big Myths That Should Be Dispelled About Romance Novels

 

If you’re a fan of romance, then you’ve probably heard an insult or two regarding your favorite genre. And for those who don’t often gravitate towards romance for various reasons, now is the time to listen up and take this into consideration. You might be wrong about your assumptions! 😉 So, read on and learn more here…

I’ll list some myths that I’ve heard and read before.

  1. “It’s all smut.”

    freestocks.org, Unsplash

    Uggh…this word can annoy an avid romance reader. Some might think this myth is outdated, but there are people who still believe romance novels are smut, or trashy reads.

Bodice rippers went out of style by the mid-80s. The genre, as well as authors and readers, have evolved considerably. Erotica is a different subject matter entirely. Plus, bodice rippers promote rape culture, and most romance novels nowadays don’t even touch on that topic in a romantic relationship. With good reason, of course. Both sexual partners should be willing.

‘Mommy porn’ is also a derogative term which is used by certain parties in reference to romance books. Come on, not every romance author writes Fifty Shades-esque material, and readers are certainly not just mothers. Some are single, professional women. Romance readers are intelligent, capable people just as they are, and they’re not reading ‘smut’ or even ‘fluff’. It takes a lot of effort and smarts to digest a full romance novel (historical romance is heavy on time period description) – or in the case of fantasy and sci-fi romance, lots of world-building – in one sitting, and keep coming back for more.

Yuri Efremov, Unsplash

And no, we don’t just skip to the good parts! 🙄

  1. “Gross! I’m a guy. Men don’t read or write romance.”

Geez…get with the times! Men like to read romance too. ♥ For God’s sake, my reviewer for this blog is a guy. He adores reading romance books! And yes, he’s also a romance writer. I’ve also met a handful of other male authors who sometimes write in the romance genre.

There’s nothing wrong at all with dudes getting into romance reads, as writers or readers. More power to them! 😀

  1. “These books are so simple. 1+1 = 2, right? It’s not that difficult to understand.”

Actually, romance stories are complicated. It takes a hell of a lot more than just throwing two unique people next to each other, and then expecting fireworks. Life is full of ups and downs, a roller coaster journey, so to speak. Why wouldn’t a romance read have the same drama and tension?

Created by bearfotos- freepik.com

Authenticity is everything. Readers won’t care about characters or a story which isn’t relatable, or read something that couldn’t feasibly occur in reality. Even if the tale has fantastical elements, we have to believe in what’s happening, and see the reason why these characters are compatible.

Carly Rae Hobbins, Unsplash

  1. “Romance books are standard, or boring! Not for me…I need something that holds my attention.”

Really? With the constant evolution of multiple themes and sub-genres of romance, we’re not likely to run out of new ideas, nor are readers liable to call it quits any time soon. It’s one of the most popular book categories for a reason! 🙂

If you like shapeshifters, there’s always paranormal romance. Who doesn’t like vampires, werewolves or witches?

Favor a good spy tale or mystery/thriller? Try romantic suspense or a romantic thriller for some heart-pounding action.

Do you crave stories that are…a tad darker? There’s a type called dark romance, and even unique themes such as mafia romance or MC (biker) romances are available.

Prefer adventure tales? Maybe fantasy romance or romantic adventure is more your style.

You could be a science fiction fan, but might be willing to try something with a romantic storyline. As you know, many of the most popular sci-fi films usually have a romance angle to appeal to audiences. Why not go for science fiction romance, dystopian romance or even a good time travel tale?

 

Maybe you like stories about war veterans. Well, we have military romance

In other words, this genre has sooooo many options! ♥

  1. “I don’t believe in love at first sight. I can’t get into romance novels.”

Even as someone who has read tons of romance novels in some capacity since the age of thirteen, I can’t say I go for love at first sight either. However, I do believe that two people can connect right away. Lust also happens pretty fast too, but that’s beside the point. With these two facts, I know it still takes time to build a good relationship. I’ve read plenty of novels that don’t fall into the trap of the love at first sight ideal. I think it’s why the ‘Happy for Now’ ending works so well; most novelists get that this is more realistic on some level. I think that a lot of writers these days are doing their best to show that it’s not really love at first sight – rather it’s more about chemistry and an instant connection evolving quickly into something substantial. And this isn’t unheard of in real life.

But we don’t have 1,000 pages to explain the whole courtship/dating period; therefore it falls on the writer to try to make it a believable story in a short amount of time.

As a writer of romance as well, with twenty-four published books and 125+ works-in-progress, I usually do my best to avoid the idea of immediate love. Chemistry is easy, though.

Created by yanalya – freepik.com

It’s everything else that complicates the story. Even in my shorter romantic fiction, I try to explain that enough time – even though I don’t always go into the normal life details – has passed for these two people to actually develop feelings.

With The Missing Piece, a story that was part of a holiday romance anthology and was then made into a single ebook (new adult romance), I was careful to simply show the stirrings of romantic interest in such a short time.

For me, I see insta-love as a notion that often works well for supernatural creatures in fiction, simply because their primal, possessive instincts are winning out over logic. This can merge into affection rather quickly because all of their senses are more heightened than usual. Everything is so vivid that it must be love.

  1. “Romance novels are too sexy. I can’t handle all that heat.”

So steam isn’t for you. We totally respect your preferences! If you find that most romance reads are rife with heated or even graphic content, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Try inspirational romance. Have you seen Amish romance in bookstores? Yeah, that’s one type, among so many others.

But let’s say you’re open to looking outside spiritual reads. Also available on the market are clean romance and sweet romance. Plus, cozy mysteries typically lack sexual content, and amid all the other events in the books, there’s sometimes a romance angle.

In any case, the authors of these clean reads subscribe to the notion of a sweet romance, or at least closed door romance. We’re all adults here, right? But at least if sexual content bothers you in any fashion, you can rest assured that with these types of books, it usually won’t go beyond kissing. And even if it does, what happens is implied and never vividly described. Cut to the next scene!

Anyway, if you believe you can’t read romance because it’s just too hot for your taste, that no longer has to be the case.

  1. “Please…romance novels aren’t even real fiction!”

Hmm…ouch. 😥 Still, this myth is just wrong.

Let’s look at the basic formula for fiction.

The character is introduced. There is some action happening, a type of conflict. Something prevents him from getting what he really wants (usually the antagonist, which can be a person, place, thing, or even a concept). By the end of the story, this character must change in some capacity, internally or externally. The tale reaches its conclusion, however satisfying – or unsatisfying – it may be for readers.

These are the principles of fiction, of course. And you have interactions with secondary characters, dialogue and tension that help shape the story and your idea of who this person is. There’s also the climax of the tale, that pivotal movement when things get really tense for the character – the reader too – and he or she is close to losing everything. But I digress.

Every romance meets the requirements of fiction as well. It’s a lot more than two people being brought together like magnets. Chemistry is just a small part of it. The question becomes…how do we realistically connect these individuals? They have to fit somehow.

Created by yanalya – freepik.com

Numerous elements go into making that happen. There’s a specific plot, as well as subplots. The character must want something, have a goal in mind. The story isn’t always just about romance, but also the way characters come to believe new truths about themselves. They’re not only capable of love. Maybe the main character wants a promotion. But to do that, she’ll have to step outside her comfort zone to impress her boss. In any case, an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happy for Now) is only possible if the character reaches the proper mindset to have a real romantic relationship. Without that, it’s just attraction – then it becomes erotica alone, which is something else altogether.

For example, being with an emotionally unavailable person is like hitting your head against the wall. In the end, it’s just pointless. For this type of relationship to qualify as a real romance, the characters must change – events might happen in their lives to help adjust their worldview – and they can reach a certain level of happiness. But it’s going to be a hard journey to get there. Romance stories aren’t all hearts, flowers, and butterflies.

Frank McKenna, Unsplash

True fiction is housed in every romance tale. The character still goes through a range of emotions to achieve what he/she wants. As aforementioned, often there is an antagonist preventing the couple from being together, whether it’s a person, a misconceived notion, or another external force that keeps them apart.

Sometimes it’s more than one antagonist. It’s never easy right away. Eventually, the characters must find a way around the barrier. Every relationship in real life takes effort, and these stories are no different.

Oh, wait!

Pixabay, pexels.com

The character wanted something, had a goal in mind. To reach that aspiration, he took action, and then the events that occurred reshaped his way of thinking. But at least he found what he was looking for. And he changed on some level, right? Yep…sounds like fiction to me! 😉

  1. “These books are useless drivel, and they create unrealistic expectations for people.”

To me, that sounds like it’s coming from someone who is afraid of the power of genuine emotion. But, let’s explore the aforesaid theory.

Relationships are hard work, and those in romance novels take just as much effort. If a writer is doing his or her job correctly, this will come out on the page.

Unrealistic? Hmm…if anything, I think the romance reader will see reality for what it is. No, finding happiness is never easy, but it’s worth the journey.

To illustrate this point, I’ll reference the trope often seen in historical romances…Marrying for Convenience versus Marrying for Love.

The truth is that even modern readers understand the benefits of a marriage of convenience. With financial and social stability, it’s a match that makes sense. But more often than not, we’ll root for the opposite outcome.

Why? Are we silly dreamers?

Not at all. It’s just that deep down, we all want to be happy. This is in our nature as human beings. We’re conditioned to know that events should play out a certain way – getting married and having kids is usually expected – but our instincts tell us there’s more to the story. Of course, those eventualities don’t work for every person. Still, why wouldn’t we want happiness for the characters we’ve come to care about?

Inna Lesyk, pexels.com

So, is it unrealistic to crave love? I don’t think so. At least in my opinion, romance novels have the power to teach us what we want in life. And who couldn’t use a little more self-awareness? I know I’d rather be in a relationship that works well, which helps me evolve as a person, rather than one that might look okay on paper, yet will only serve to hurt me in the long run.

Plenty of people are unhappy because they made the wrong choices. Maybe they feel trapped, but in the end, they have to figure a way out on their own. Some will settle, others won’t. That’s the thing about life, though. If you make a mistake, the best you can do is try to repair it. And if that’s not possible, you get creative and find a new route to achieve your goal.

Being logical is one way of thinking. Listening to your heart, really opening yourself up to what will make you happy? That takes courage.

I believe romance novels can teach us a lot about ourselves, and help us to understand the motivations of other people too.

Is this realistic? Probably not. But it can prevent someone from making a rash decision, to use their heart and instincts to discover what they want, and determine the best solution for them. How admirable, right? Outsiders can judge all they want, and it won’t matter as long as that person is satisfied with what they’ve chosen.

At any rate, romance novels are lot more complex than they may seem at first glance. Reading these books can offer many benefits – numerous insights and a source of entertainment, just to name a couple! If you’re interested in learning more, you can view a full list of sub-genres and romance tropes below.

https://marielavender.blogspot.com/2016/03/understanding-romance-genre-by-marie-lavender-plus-giveaway.html

https://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/for-writers/romance-tropes/

I hope I’ve reaffirmed some aspects for loyal fans, and offered advice worth considering for people who are new to the romance genre. If you know of anyone who still believes these myths are valid, please refer them to this article. 😉

Have a lovely rest of your week, readers! 🙂

Host Blogger Bio

Multi-genre author of Victorian romance, UPON YOUR RETURN, and 23 other books. Reached the Top 10 Authors list on AuthorsDB.com for the last 4 years. Featured interview in the January 2018 issue of Womelle Magazine. The Heiresses in Love Trilogy made the TOP 10 on the Anthology category on the 2018 P&E Readers’ Poll, and BLOOD INSTINCTS reached TOP 10 status in the Romance category. The Heiresses in Love Trilogy and DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART both reached the semi-finalist round in the 2018 AuthorsDB Book Cover Contest. Voted TOP BLOGGER for 2018 on the Romance Lives Forever Blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2018 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated and made it past the first round in the 2018 Author Academy Awards. UPON YOUR LOVE and THE MISSING PIECE placed in the TOP 10 on the 2017 P&E Readers’ Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the 2017 Reader’s Choice Awards. The I Love Romance Blog became a finalist in StartDating DK’s Romance Blog Awards of 2017. ILRB landed on Feedspot’s 2017 TOP 100 Novel Blogs and TOP 100 Romance Blogs. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP 10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013, 2014 and 2016. 2013 and 2014 Amazon Bestseller Ranking for UPON YOUR RETURN. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She has also contributed to several anthologies. Her current published series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.

Links:

Official Website: http://marielavender.com/

Blogs: https://iloveromanceblog.wordpress.com/
http://marielavender.blogspot.com/

http://marielavenderbooks.blogspot.com/
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/marie.lavender.58
https://www.facebook.com/MarieAnnLavender
https://twitter.com/marielavender1
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/marie-lavender/27/187/10a

https://www.instagram.com/marielavender1/

Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2SMRcRD
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6938764.Marie_Lavender
http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/1578-marie-lavender

http://marielavender1.allauthor.com/

http://www.pw.org/content/marie_lavender
http://manicreaders.com/marielavender/

Publisher: http://www.solsticeempire.com/products.aspx?categoryid=262

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJu8HjRVYCFOqcIoX6ZxdqQ/videos

Sign up for Marie’s Newsletter: http://bit.ly/1g3wO13

Follow her on BookBub for new release updates: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/marie-lavender

 

Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

Pixabay, Pexels.com

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Filed under Action & Adventure, Authors, Blogging, Book News, Book Release, Books, characters, Contemporary, dark romance, Event, Faith, Fantasy, Fiction, Guest Writer, Historical Romance, Hope, inspirational romance, Love, MC and biker romance, Message, Military Romance, Mystery, New Adult, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Readers, Relationships, Romance, romantic ideas, Romantic Suspense, Stories, sweet romance, Thriller/Suspense, Writers

Book Feature: Loving Justice by author Sable Hunter

I am pleased to announce a great book by Sable Hunter, an author I met during my journey! She’s stopping by to tell us about her steamy contemporary western romance, Loving Justice, which released back in 2015!

Woo hoo! It’s always fun to discover romance authors and books. 😀

Sable is allowing us a look at a hot western romance, Loving Justice, today.

Great cover!

This is the blurb for Loving Justice, book two of El Camino Real Series:

Justice King and Charlee Parker are best friends…or they were until the day her feelings changed and she fell madly, hopelessly in love with him.
He didn’t feel the same way. And who could blame him? Justice King was perfect.
He could have any woman he wanted.
And she was just Charlee – a flat-chested tomboy with her heart in her eyes.
But some things are just meant to be.
Some are luckier than most. Soulmates, friends as well as lovers.
When fate begins to weave a thread of hope to bring them together, they go from an ill-fated night of passion to a misunderstanding which separates them for eight long years.
But destiny will not be denied – a calamity at El Camino brings Charlee home and from the moment he sees her, Justice knows he’ll never let her go again.
But Charlee has a secret…a secret she’s afraid to tell Justice. She’s been keeping something from him, something he might not be able to forgive.

**CONTENT WARNING: This book contains adult situations and language and is not intended for an audience under the age of 18**

Release Date: January 21, 2015

Genre: Steamy contemporary romance, western romance

And here is an excerpt to tease you with...

“I can’t believe you drank too much. This isn’t like you.” When he grunted and grumbled under his breath, she retorted, “Yea, I’m fussing a little. Sue me.”

“Just help me upstairs, boss.” His voice held that teasing note she’d heard so often years ago.

“Don’t you want me to fix you something to eat first?”

A groan was her answer to that question. “We’re alone,” he announced. The house was deserted. His parents and the twins, Trace and Trevor, were in Austin with Abby. All the rest of the boys were at school. Apparently, Abby had insisted her injury be downplayed to such an extent that most of the family was going about their normal routine.

“Don’t worry, your virtue is safe with me.” She did some teasing of her own. The second and fifth stair creaked like normal. Charlee didn’t need to be told where Justice’s room was located. She’d snuck up these stairs or shimmed up the drain pipe to his window more times than she could count while growing up. “Let’s get you into bed,” she winced, he was getting heavier by the second.

“Sounds good to me,” Justice murmured. “I’m beat.”

“You’ll feel better soon,” she assured him, checking the thermostat, making sure his room was warm enough for him. He obediently stood next to the big four poster bed, looking to her like a cross between a sexy teddy bear and an Old West desperado. Justice always reminded her of Chris Pine in a cowboy hat.

“You smell good, like a woman.”

Charlee had to laugh. “You are drunk.” At his snort, she added, “At least something about me is womanly.” It sure wasn’t her shape. Charlee’s unfortunate chest was as flat as a board.

“There’s not a damn thing wrong with you.” His voice was low and raspy.

Charlee shivered. “Never mind. Let me get the covers turned back and I’ll help you get your boots off.” This wasn’t the first time she’d helped him to bed. Of course, the other times he’d been hurting with one of those damn headaches he was plagued with.

“I think I need help with the rest of my clothes.”

His whisper sounded a little suggestive and Charlee blushed from her nose to her toes. “I think you need a cold shower.” She made light of his comment. Charlee had seen Justice flirt many times, but she’d never been the recipient. She’d always been relegated to the role of best buddy.

“Will you take one with me?”

“A shower?” She choked back a laugh. Was he tormenting her on purpose? “Not a good idea.” Charlee fluffed the pillows and turned on the bedside lamp, anything to keep her eyes off the handsome hunk who was unbuttoning his shirt and eyeing her like she was a tasty treat. How many times had she dreamed of this moment? The only problem was – the Jose Cuervo was talking, not Justice.

“Come here. I need to hold you.”

The teasing tone had left his voice completely. This sexy Justice was almost more than she could handle. “Hush. Let me help you. You’re making a mess.” She stepped close to him, her whole body quivering at the sight of his gorgeous chest, lightly furred, muscles rippling as he struggled with the shirt which was behind him, still fastened at the cuffs.

While she was so near and he was otherwise occupied, Charlee dared to do something she’d only dreamed about. She placed a small quick kiss over his heart and felt hers jump in her chest.

“That’s good. Now kiss me up here.”

Caught. She lifted her eyes and he was staring at her with unmistakable heat. “Sorry.”

“God, don’t be. I need you.” He tossed the shirt across the room and began tugging at his pants. “Damned buttons.”

“Justice, you don’t want me.” The words slipped from her lips unbidden even as her hands joined his, tugging to get his belt out of the loops.

“Yes, I do. I want you. I need you.” He bent his head and she felt his lips on her neck. “Feel.”

He took her hand and moved it below his waist – and he was right. She could feel him big and hard. For her? Not possible. Unable to rest, she shyly cupped him, marveling at the way he throbbed in her hand. “I’m not your type, you said so. Remember?” Each word tore a little bit of her pride away.

“You’re my friend. A guy isn’t supposed to lust after his friend. But I can’t help it.” His words were still a bit slurred, punctuated by kisses as he licked a path from her cheek to her collarbone. “Don’t think I’ve missed those hot little nipples pressing against your shirt, or that wild flush on your cheeks when we sit close. You want me, Parker.”

“We don’t always get what we want, Justice.” Charlee tried to muster up some fight, some strength to push away his hands. But she couldn’t. She had wanted him forever. By age fifteen, she’d been aware of Justice as a man and by the time she was eighteen, she’d burned for him.

“I do, I’m not afraid to reach out and take what I want when I see it.”

God, he was potent. “All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy,” she offered as she tilted her head to give him access. Frissons of excitement covered her skin.

“I want your soft touches, like how you used to caress my forehead when I was sick. Now, I want you to whimper for the pleasure I can give you.”

Right on cue, she moaned for him as he skated his hands up under her shirt. “Justice,” she gasped his name in prayer.

“Your skin is like toffee-colored silk and your hair drives me mad.” He ran his fingers through the long, thick chocolate colored waterfall.

“It does?” Charlee was losing her mind. This was surreal. His hands were now working on her clothes, soon she would be naked in his arms.

“Yea, I love the taste of you. Sugar cookies. You’re sweet on my tongue.” Justice kissed her neck again, this time sucking a bit of soft flesh between his teeth. God, he was so excited, he was seeing stars. “Are you gonna let me love you?”

Did she have a choice? Her mind might be wary but her body was melting at his touch.

Justice slipped an arm around Charlee and lifted her to him, his other hand making quick work of the remainder of their clothes. Wrapping Charlee’s hair around his fist, he pulled her head back and claimed her lips with his own.

Their first kiss.

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/mvvyaX

Woo! ♥♥♥ Love how sexy this is. (Fans herself.) Seems like a sizzling read!

So, what are readers saying about this novel?

Great read! A second chance at love with your best friend. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Charlee Parker comes from a life that taught her to be strong the hard way, but when things got too much she ran. She left it all behind, especially the love of her life, Justice King.
Justice lost a part of himself when Charlee left town, and worst of all, he didn’t know why she left. But when she returns and he finds out the reason she left, he doubles his efforts to win her back for good…
” – Chrys Anthi, Amazon

“Books by Sable are always amazing! loved this story of Justice and Charlie! They were meant to be together.
There hasn’t been a Sable Hunter book I haven’t liked. You fall in love with the characters.
And her knowledge of the histories of the places they live in is so cool. I love that little history lesson in each of her books.
” – TammyS329, Amazon

“So beautifully written. Words cannot begin to express how much I loved this book. Sable has a way with words like no other. I fell in love with the characters in this book right away. I’m hoping I will get all the King brothers stories. This book is for anyone who loves true romance. ” – Amanda Smith, Amazon

Thank you for telling us about your book, Sable! I know I can’t wait to read this contemporary western romance!

Readers, don’t forget to pick up a copy of this awesome book! 🙂 Or you can add it to Goodreads!

Author Bio

Sable Hunter is a New York Times, USA Today bestselling author of nearly 60 books in 9 series. She writes sexy contemporary stories full of emotion and suspense. Her focus is mainly cowboy and novels set in Louisiana with a hint of the supernatural. Sable writes what she likes to read and enjoys putting her fantasies on paper. Her books are emotional tales in which the heroine is faced with challenges. Her aim is to write a story that will make you laugh, cry and swoon. If she can wring those emotions from a reader, she has done her job. Sable resides in Austin, Texas with her two dogs. Passionate about all animals, she has been known to charm creatures from a one ton bull to a family of raccoons. For fun, Sable haunts cemeteries and battlefields armed with night-vision cameras and digital recorders hunting proof that love survives beyond the grave. Welcome to her world of magic, alpha heroes, sexy cowboys and hot, steamy, to-die-for sex. Step into the shoes of her heroines and escape to places where right prevails, love conquers all and holding out for a hero is not an impossible dream.
Author Links:
Website:  http://www.sablehunter.com/  
Newsletter:  http://eepurl.com/qRvyn
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorsablehunter/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/huntersable
Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Sable-Hunter/e/B007B3KS4M/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4419823.Sable_Hunter
BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sable-hunter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sable_hunter/

 

Thanks again, Sable ! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!🙂

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Filed under Authors, Book News, Books, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Readers, Romance, steamy, western, Writing

Blog Tour Feature: Expecting Ty’s Baby by Empi Baryeh

.•*´¨❥¸.•*´¨ NEW RELEASE¸.•*´¨❥¸.•*´¨

Nothing will prevent him from claiming his child or the woman he considers his…

I am pleased to announce a cool book blog tour going on right now, presented by Empi Baryeh, an author I met during my journey! Congratulations on your new multicultural romance! :)

When a new book comes out, it is always an exciting time for authors!

Plus, here at the I Love Romance Blog, we love discovering romance novels!

Let’s hear a little about this great book…

Nice!

This is the blurb for Expecting Ty’s Baby, From Ghana with Love Series, Book 2:

Abandoned by her father at a young age, beauty therapist, Patricia Owusu, has learned the hard way that men can’t be relied on. She’s determined to make it on her own without falling into the cultural trappings of marriage. However, when she finds herself pregnant after a torrid love affair with African-American financial consultant, Ty Webber, she discovers one man’s resolve to stick around.

When Ty discovers Patricia is carrying his baby, he offers marriage; because real men take responsibility for their actions. He isn’t prepared for Patricia’s stubborn determination to make it on her own. But nothing will prevent him from claiming his child or the woman he considers his.

Can Ty convince Patricia to take a chance on him to help provide a loving home for their baby, or will Patricia’s mistrust lead her to miss out on true love and rob her child of the type of father she never had?

Empi is giving us a peek at her hot multicultural romance, Expecting Ty’s Baby, today.

Great cover!

 

Book Info:

Author: Empi Baryeh

Series: From Ghana With Love #2

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Multicultural

Heat Level: Sensual

Cover Artist: Kim Killion

Release Date: March 30, 2019

 

Here is an excerpt.

I don’t need taken care of, you know,” Patricia said when they stepped outside. Her voice came out low, a whisper, which nonetheless projected in the still warmth of the night.

After several seconds without a response from him, she turned sideways. He stared ahead, his profile stoic. Finally, she heard his deep intake of breath.

He looked at her, and thunder might as well have struck after the flash of…annoyance? Impatience? Incredulity?

“Are you always on the defensive?”

 Aggravation. Despite the balmy, breezeless air, Patricia shivered. Perhaps she should have been scared, but she wasn’t. Somehow, Ty didn’t strike her as the kind of man whose patience wore thin as easily as wind blew away flakes of cotton. Yet, she also realized she’d pushed a button or two between yesterday and today.

She began to say something, but her response staggered as she realized she didn’t know how to answer his question. She sighed. “It’s always been just me and my mum. I guess I’m simply used to having to stick up for myself.”

His look softened. “Trish, I know you’re a strong woman. Hell, it’s one of the things I admire about you. But did it occur to you I only wanted some alone time with you?”

She couldn’t help it. She giggled. “You could have just said so.”

“In that case, how about this?”

He faced her fully, subjecting her to a powerful blast of his magnetism. Electricity jolted through her, and she realized he’d touched her; warmth infused her body where his hands bracketed her waist.

The next instant, she was plastered against him, her soft abdomen privy to the state of his desire. His heated breath wafted over her face, a mix of him and the whiskey he’d had at dinner. An avalanche of sensations, fierce and unrelenting hit her in the gut.

Then the worst thing happened. The most embarrassing moment of her life.

She threw up.

On him.

For several seconds, she could only stare in horror at her dinner, now a less than palatable concoction splattered on Ty’s clothes and shoes.

He still held her as she doubled over, one hand on her shoulder, the other rubbing her back.

“Trish, what’s going on?” He pushed back a few strands of her braids hanging loose from the confines of her up do.

“I am so sorry,” she said.

“We need to get you to a hospital.”

Crap! Her stomach lurched again, and she figured out what had triggered the emesis. Thankfully, what came out the second time was minimal. She took in a deep breath, exhaling through her mouth. It seemed to help.

Ty held up the bottle of water he’d taken with him from dinner. “Here—”

“Please stop talking,” she gasped, turning away from him. “I need a minute.”

“This could be food poisoning. You need a doctor.”

“I don’t, and it’s not food poisoning. It’s the alcohol.”

“You didn’t drink.”

“No, but you did.”

His features assumed a frown, his confusion absolute. “You’re sick because I drank?”

“I’m not sick. I’m—”

She stopped abruptly, tossing different possible explanations in her head, all of them partial truths. No matter what anyone said, keeping quiet and outright lying were not the same. She wasn’t prepared to do the latter, but she’d spoilt her chances of doing the former.

“I’m…uh.”

His eyes narrowed. “You’re what?”

“I’m…”

Shiiit.

She couldn’t believe she was going to tell him. “I’m pregnant, Ty.”

Purchase Links:

PRAISE FOR EXPECTING TY’S BABY

 Well written, enchanting, and heart-warming, this is one romance fans should love. TAYLOR JONES (Reviewer)

 Poignant, charming, and full of wonderful characters, Expecting Ty’s Baby will warm your heart right down to your toes. A wonderful love story and a worthy addition to the series. – REGAN MURPHY (Reviewer)

OMG! Love all the tension. ♥♥♥

Ooh…what a tale!😉

Empi is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter. Please use the link below to enter. Don’t forget you have a chance to enter every day, so be sure to visit all the stops on this tour. You may find those locations here.

Giveaway Link:  https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/537f0b386/

Thank you for telling us about your new multicultural romance, Empi! I know I can’t wait to read this hot novel! 🙂

Readers, don’t forget to pre-order a copy of this awesome book, since it comes out on Saturday! Or add it to your Goodreads list!

And catch book one in the series!

Expecting Ty’s Baby looks great! ♥ We’ll be sure to check it out! Don’t miss the giveaway!

Author Bio

Empi Baryeh is the award-winning author of Most Eligible Bachelor (Book of the year, 2017 Ufere Awards). She writes sweet and sensual African, multicultural and interracial romance, which happens to be her favorite genres of romance to read. Her interest in writing started around the age of thirteen after she stumbled upon a YA story her sister had started and abandoned. The story fascinated her so much that, when she discovered it was unfinished, she knew she had to complete it. Somehow the rest of the story began to take shape in her mind and she’s been writing ever since.

She lives in Accra, Ghana, with her husband and their two lovely kids.

Author Links

Website:  https://www.empibaryeh.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/empibaryeh

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/EmpiBaryeh

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Empi-Baryeh/e/B007592E12/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5625111.Empi_Baryeh

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/empi-baryeh

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/empibaryeh/

 

Thank you for telling us about your great book tour! I know readers can’t wait to get ahold of this sizzling romance!

Thanks again to Empi and her blog tour sponsor!

We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!  ♥♥♥ Have a great week! 😀

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Book Release, Books, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Gifts, giveaway, Multicultural/Interracial, new release, Readers, Romance, Women's Fiction, Writing

Recommended Read: Break My Chains by Nicolina Martin

I know Kevin usually does a review per week, but I couldn’t help jumping in here to talk about the book I just finished last night! ♥ Nicolina Martin’s Break My Chains is so spicy, a little dark, and has enough suspense to keep you going. I just couldn’t put this one down…

I literally stumbled across this novel on Amazon. When I read the sample, it just drew me in and I had to buy it!! ❤

With elements of dark romance, some erotica, and enough suspense to keep the storyline moving, you can’t go wrong with this read. Mia and Martin are such fascinating characters, each tough in their own right. It makes them quite a match, and just adds to the steamy tension. Loved this book…and I don’t hand out five stars easily!
I simply devoured this book! 😀
Book Info:
When nothing is what it seems, who can you trust?

Martin Garrett has sworn to die rather than go back to prison. He’ll stop at nothing to reach freedom, but even he can’t win over the forces of nature. When he gets caught in a violent snowstorm, he has no choice but to seek shelter. He can’t know that the young woman opening the door will change his life forever.

Fleeing her troubled past in Arizona, leaving her loved ones behind, Mia Cassidy has found solace in an isolated cabin in the deep woods of Colorado. She’s hesitant to let the tall, hulking, and oddly attractive stranger into her home, but the storm is lethal. She has no way of knowing this chance encounter will rip her from her cocoon and make her question everything she thought she knew.

Trapped together, their unexpected meeting soon turns into a battle of wills and a fight against the irresistible pull between them. When the fragile trust they’ve built is betrayed, everything comes crashing down. Mia must unravel the secrets and find the truth before it’s too late to save either of them.

Publisher’s Note: This steamy contemporary love story is not your typical wine and chocolates romance. It has a dark edge but if you’re up for the ride there is a guaranteed HEA. It contains elements of mystery, suspense, action, adventure, danger, betrayal, and power exchange.

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/3LGnwD

Here’s a peek at the book…

Martin Garrett, convicted five years ago almost to the day for committing a heinous series of murders between 2011 and 2013, escaped this morning from Penitentiary Florence High. The details of his escape have not been revealed. Garrett is considered extremely dangerous and caution is recommended. If anyone sees this man…

The whistling from the water kettle drowns out the rest. I’m leaning my elbows on the kitchen counter, staring out the frosted window. A thick layer of snow has covered everything during the night. It’s so white from where I’m standing; I can’t even make out the shapes of the outside world. It’s like someone wrapped a large sheet around my house. I’m not entirely taken by surprise. It’s my second winter here and it gets really cold, and really wintery in Colorado. The difference between Arizona and where I live now couldn’t be greater. Sighing, I move away from the window and take the kettle off the stove. The whistling fades and comes to a stop. They forecasted snow. I don’t think I listened well enough. Pouring the boiling water in the cup, I watch it turn black as the instant coffee dissolves. I stare vacantly at the mug, my thoughts sprawling in every different direction. I need to locate the shovel and find my truck under those masses. I have cans but not a lot of fresh food, so I really need to go into town if I still want bread, milk, eggs, cheese and… I look around me. Fruit. Grimacing, I grab the cup and head off into the living room, which also doubles as office, dining area and hallway. That’d be ‘quadruples as’, I think as I sink down on the chair and set the cup on the table.

As I flip open the lid to my old MacBook it chimes pleasantly, and I realize I forgot to shut it down last night. Again. I yawn, stretch and glance at the clock on the wall. Twenty past nine. The morning passes too quickly and I need to get some work done. I’m helping a local store with some images for marketing, a newspaper ad, some flyers and whatnot. I’ve strayed far, far away from the exhibition at the Etherton Gallery I had when I was twenty-one. When I was young and ‘promising’.

Three years ago.

What happened then was a nightmare I am still trying to wake up from. Pushing the thoughts away, I click on the folder for Farman’s Fishing Lodge. I trekked the woods day in and day out, walking along the river, catching the fine rainbow-colored mist as the water slammed against the rocks in its path downstream. The pictures turned out fantastic. Local flora and fauna, fishermen standing in their yellow pants, the color reflected in the calm surface, sun glittering in tiny ripples. For a few days I was really happy with my choice to move here. The fresh air, the smell of approaching snow, the sometimes near-silence out there.

The tranquility only lasts moments before I return to myself, but I cherish them.

I start sorting the images: by motifs, by colors, by how the sky and the ground harmonize with each other. Choosing a few I intend to show Mr. Waltman, I copy them and begin to toy around with effects.

As I lose myself in work, I don’t register how many hours pass until I notice the corners of the room are darker and that my stomach aches. I study the processed images on the screen. Several of them are everything he asked for, and I hope my client will see it as well. I need the money. Desperately. I stand, straighten my back, and stretch my arms until my hands almost touch the low ceiling, then I close my laptop and head for the kitchen to see if I can find anything that appeals to me.

Armed with canned soup I heated in the microwave, and a bottle of beer, I sink down on the couch and turn the TV back on. I doubt anything interesting has happened in my little corner of the world.

Terrorist attacks in Europe. A gas line leaking in Russia. Price of oil increasing. Some prisoner on the run.

I eat and keep flipping through the channels until I give up and resort to watching a cop show that doesn’t crave my attention. Everything is very dramatic, with shaky camera movements, flashing blue and red lights, men screaming when they’re pushed to the ground, women screaming when their men are pushed to the ground. I study the handiwork of the cameraman. It looks sloppy and haphazard, but he’s really clever in how he switches between objects and with the angles he chooses. I like being surprised by a random TV show.

Dropping the spoon on the table next to the bowl, I lean against the backrest, and stare at the ceiling. It’s made of pine boards, yellowed with age, giving the cabin a dark and moody feel. Then and there I decide to paint it when I get the money from this gig. A soft white should go well with the dark hardwood floor and the cute floral patterns on my couch and armchair. I rub my face and glance out the window. It’s not dark yet and I need to get some of the snow off my porch and make a path to my truck. There’s at least thirty feet to plow to get to the truck, then I have to keep shoveling until I get to where my yard meets the road. I doubt they’ll plow it today, though. Shit. Probably not tomorrow either.

I down the rest of the soup but leave the beer, then I rise. Jack, who’s been sleeping on his rug in the corner, immediately starts panting. He lifts a thick, furry eyebrow and watches me carefully under a heavy, barely open eyelid. Am I going where he thinks I’m going? When I lift a foot to put it in my boot he realizes that yes, I am indeed. Giving off a robust bark, he jumps up with ease, despite his huge body, and trots toward me, his tail wagging eagerly. He puts his snout against the back of my knee and pushes, looking at me pleadingly. I rub him behind an ear as I push my foot into the other boot and tie it.

“Did you think I’d forget you, silly dog?” Grabbing my jacket, I pat my thigh. “Come on!”

Jack doesn’t need to be told twice and lays his paws on the door, reaching up level with my face. He was such a cute little puppy when I took him in, having been abandoned when his former owner died, but Bernese Mountain dogs don’t stay small. He’s my company, my only friend, and my protection. Our long walks every day have healed me somewhat over the year I’ve had him.

As I pull down the handle, he pushes at the door, but is met by resistance. I frown and help him, slowly opening the slit until it is wide enough for us to squeeze through.

With a loud groan I take in the massive cover of snow. It’s gotta be a foot deep. Or more. It’s beautiful. Pure and untouched. But it needs to go.

“Get out there, boy,” I tell Jack and he jumps straight out, giving out a squeal of surprise when the cold white layer hits his belly. I laugh, push the door closed and go in search of the shovel.

After forty minutes there’s a narrow path to the truck, and a visible front window and driver’s door. I’ve had to shove Jack off me over and over, him thinking it’s a game. Panting, and drenched in sweat, I lean on the shovel and study my handiwork, then I lift my gaze to the prematurely darkening sky. The clouds are a heavy dark blue. Menacing. More snow is on the way. Much more. Fuck. I clutch at my burning chest. I’m exhausted, in need of a shower, a good book in front of the fireplace, and then sleep. I pray my hard work won’t be undone come morning.

I call for Jack who is happily jumping around at the edge of the forest and go inside. Pulling the door shut throws us into semi-darkness. Before I head for the bathroom I start a fire. Crumpling pages of old newspapers into little balls, I push them between perfectly dry logs and light them up. Soon orange flames lick the wood, charring it, creating beautiful gleaming serpentines around the edges. I put the cast iron mesh in front of the fireplace, and head for my well-deserved shower.

When I get back out Jack is restless and whining. He paces the room, and starts circling me as soon as he spots me. I have a towel wrapped around my body and dab my hair with another.

“What is it, sweetie?” I crouch in front of him, rub the thick fur on his neck and look around, but nothing seems out of the ordinary. The room has that good, dry warmth that only comes from a lit fireplace. Despite that, a shiver runs through me, and I quickly put on a pair of sweatpants and a flannel shirt. I postpone my own pleasure a little longer and go to give Jack some fresh food. It seems to calm him and soon he guzzles down the canned meat with his usual sloppiness, tail wagging. I give him a pat and, finally, I can sit down again with the intent to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the night. I turn the TV back on and flip through the channels, but then I just mute it and look at the fire instead, drinking my lukewarm beer.

I nearly fly through the roof when Jack suddenly howls, barks, then howls again. He runs to the front door, then back, then in circles. I stand, the hair rising on the back of my neck.

“Jack, boy, what is it?”

He looks at me and whines, crouching, his tail between his legs. Then he jumps up again and runs toward the door, barking.

“Enough!” I go to him and grab the loose skin at his neck, crouching before him as I glance at the silent door. “Shh!”

He’s quiet, but on high alert. I’m quiet too, also on high alert. Holding my breath, I listen intently but hear nothing. I rise and that’s when a loud rap on the door pierces the silence, quickly followed by two more.

Three heavy, ominous knocks.

My heart instantly jumps up in my throat and nearly suffocates me with its wild pounding. No one comes here. Not normally, and most certainly not when the snow is so thick you can’t come unless you are in a tracked vehicle, and they only do that if there’s a medical emergency. If you’re snowed in, you’re snowed in.

Who is out there? I swallow nervously and take a step toward the door when three new loud knocks make me jump. I shake my head at my own suspiciousness. Whoever it is, it must be someone who needs help. Covering the remaining distance, I then press down on the handle and try to push the door open, but it’s jammed again. I manage a couple of inches, then a hand grips the edge and suddenly the door flies wide open.

I stare at the vision before me. It’s a man: tall, wide, covered in snow from top to toe, and with clothes that are way too thin. Even in the faint light I see how blue his lips are. I open my mouth to ask, I don’t know, maybe what he wants, but then I change my mind. Whoever he is, he is clearly in some kind of emergency. Looking out at the wintery night, then back at the yeti before me, I shake my head in disbelief.

“Good God. Come inside!”

He doesn’t need to be told twice and takes a step forward, past the threshold. Towering over me, his hulking appearance dominates the room. I swallow hard and reach past him to close the door. The wind fights me and snowflakes whip in my face. I hadn’t realized it had started snowing again, and blowing. Behind me Jack is letting out a high-pitched noise.

The door slams closed and I turn back to the man. The top of my head reaches to his shoulder. He is gigantic. He has a big, dirty-blond beard, covered in snow. The snow in his eyelashes has started to melt. I have to crane my neck to meet his eyes. He’s frowning, looking down at me with an unreadable expression as he rakes a hand through his hair and shudders.

“Thanks.”

His voice is hoarse, a deep baritone that challenges the sudden silence in the house. I still don’t move, cornered in the narrow space between him and the door. A girl alone letting in a stranger is not a clever move, but what choice did I have? Let him freeze to death?

AUTHOR: Nicolina Martin

TITLE: Break My Chains

GENRE: New Adult Romantic Suspense, Some Erotica, Dark Romance

RELEASE DATE: February 6, 2019

PUBLISHER: Blushing Books Publications

ISBN/ASIN: B07NGQT8LB

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Marie Lavender

Anyway, just wanted to give you my thoughts on this fantastic read! Grab a copy of this new release! 😉

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Filed under Blogging, Book Release, book reviews, Books, Contemporary, dark romance, Erotica, Event, New Adult, new release, rating, Readers, Reviews, Romance, Romantic Suspense, steamy, Thriller/Suspense, Writing

Exclusive Interview with author Kimberly Stuart, plus a look at contemporary romance, SUGAR!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our seventh official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author of romance novels. Please join me in welcoming Kimberly Stuart to ILRB! 🙂

Marie Lavender:  Hello, Kimberly. Please have a seat.

Author Kimberly Stuart:  Hi, Marie!

Marie:  Hey, it’s such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Kimberly:  I am a mom and a writer, most days in that order. I feel very grateful to have both of those jobs and to get the chance to pursue both at once. For the writing gig, I write women’s contemporary fiction, always with sassy humor and a chemistry-driven romance. I like to say that if you like Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movies, you would like my novels.

Marie:  (Chuckles.) Of course I do! 😉

So, tell us…what is your family like?

Kimberly:  My husband, Marc, is my intrepid and patient co-conspirator. We have been married twenty years. We are parents to two teenagers, one ten-year-old, and the caretakers of a mini Schnauzer who thinks he’s a German shepherd. Our home is a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them.

Marie:  Nice!

Let’s try something else, okay?

If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?

Kimberly:  I grew up in a brick house at the end of quiet street. My brother, sister, and I had the run of the neighborhood, and we also spent lots of time exploring in a field behind our house. My favorite spot, though, was a white porch swing out front where I could tuck into my pile of library books on summer days. I am a fierce supporter and defender of libraries to this day because libraries let me inhabit all sorts of worlds far beyond that field and that porch swing.

Marie:  Great!

Do you have any hobbies, Kimberly? What do you enjoy doing?

Kimberly:  I still love to read, even though lazy mornings on the porch don’t happen often around here these days. I also love to cook (and eat!), take long bike rides, and I love to force my family to watch 80’s movies. There is simply nothing better than an evening with The Goonies.

Marie:  Sounds like a plan!

So…what is your greatest dream?

Kimberly:  My greatest dream is that my kids would grow up to love God and love others with a ferocious, adventurous, stubborn love. I also dream of a summer spent in Greece and of waking up one day with a phenomenal set of abdominal muscles, but I’m guessing that’s not the root of your question. 🙂

Marie:  (Laughs.) Well, that would be fun! Why not? 😉

Let’s try another question.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

Kimberly:  I would like to be the person who can throw open her doors at a moment’s notice and throw lovely, warm, welcoming soirees. What’s stopping me is my need to vacuum.

Marie:  Right? It’s a toss-up between cleaning and writing…writing or blogging usually wins for me.

Not to pry too much, but who was your first love?

Kimberly:  Safe answer: My dad. He’s still my first and most stalwart hero.

Unsafe answer: A boy who was beautiful and kind and lovely, and who broke my heart. He shall remain unnamed because I assume he has access to the internet. 😉

Marie:  (Chuckles.)

All right, let’s try something else now.

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Kimberly:  My childhood dream was to become a famous singer. I torched all my sing-alongs to my favorite records in my basement, so I didn’t see why that wouldn’t work out just grand. Turns out, I ended up in a just-as-unlikely career, writing stories for my supper. I do still sing regularly at my church. And in our kitchen.

Marie:  So, who is your role model, Kimberly?

Kimberly:  My grandma. She is strong and gentle, feisty and compassionate. She is 96 years old and who I want to be when I grow up.

Marie:  Lovely!

Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

Kimberly:  I’m a very poor pretender. The signals are usually pretty spot on, for better or for worse.

Marie:  Me too! I would be terrible at acting.

Let’s try another question.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.

Kimberly:  My husband and four really long books. My husband would be a master survivalist, and we’d be eating grilled fish over a fire within an hour. But he does have one failing: He does not write novels. So I’d have to bring a stash.

(Laughs.) There you go!  😀

Readers, let’s shift somewhat and get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.  🙂

We’ve heard rumors about the heroine of your story, Charlie Garrett. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about her?

Kimberly:  Charlie is an ambitious, talented pastry chef in a very male-dominated restaurant world. She works insane hours and is unflinchingly focused on her goal of being head pastry chef in a prestigious restaurant.

Marie:  Wow!

What are your character’s greatest strengths?

Kimberly:  She is smart, hard-working, and she’s a born leader.

Marie:  Nice!

And what are her greatest weaknesses?

Kimberly:  She stinks at work-life balance, and she’s too rigid.

Marie:  Okay…

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are some of her favorite foods?

Kimberly:  That would be a long list. Charlie loves simple food made well and shared with friends. No white tablecloths, no fancy menu. She gets enough of that at work. Slow roasted pork on corn tortillas, guacamole with big chunks of avocado, and a double layer chocolate cake would be heaven any day of the week.

Marie:  Sounds like the perfect menu! 😉

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Kimberly:  Her tender heart. It’s been ignored a bit since the insanity of culinary school and beyond, but it’s in there. It will just take the right guy to mine it.

Marie:  All right.

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Kimberly:  Mostly like. She’ll make them frustrated at times, but in the end, I think they will be her biggest cheerleaders.

Marie:  Great!

Now that we have a real taste of Charlie, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Sugar?

Kimberly:  I am an avid home chef and baker, so I was super curious about Charlie’s life in a high-end commercial kitchen. I spend a lot of months, years even, with my main characters, so it’s important to me that they are interesting enough to hang with them for that long. Turns out, Charlie was a good pick.

Marie:  Nice!

Interesting how the muse works, huh? 😉

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Kimberly:  I started as a pantser, particularly in the years of toddlers, napping, and preschool. There just weren’t a lot of extra moments to plot, and my writing was squeezed out of any time I could find. As I’ve written more, however, I have leaned more heavily into the pre-writing plotting. I like to have a general, skeletal map. I feel like it focuses my writing time and that it enables me to trust the process more fully. Another perk is that I stare less at a blinking cursor, which is always a plus!

Marie:  I know, right?

I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Sugar or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Kimberly:  Oh, boy, yes, there were challenges! Obstacles abounded. It took forever to find a home for Sugar, and that was after I had five published novels under my belt! I thought I’d cleared that hurdle! Not so much. After about eighteen months of my agent shopping it around, I stripped it down to the two main characters and nothing more and started again on page one. It was a great exercise in both humility and tenacity. I learned a lot about why I write and what I want readers to gain from spending time with my stories. I also learned that the hardest-won battles are the sweetest. Sugar found the perfect home, it was picked up by all Target stores nationwide, it has continued to find an audience months after its release, and there is interest from film and TV producers in developing it for one of those media. Its road to publication was messy and circuitous, but I learned so much and I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Marie:  Impressive!

Well, it was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Sugar appears to be… ♥

Here is the blurb:

After realizing her coworkers at L’Ombre, a high-profile restaurant in NYC, will never appreciate or respect her, Charlie Garrett allows her ex-boyfriend, Avery Michaels, to convince her to work for him as executive pastry chef at his new Seattle hotspot, Thrill. She’ll have her own kitchen, her own staff—everything she ever wanted professionally.

When she arrives at Thrill, however, she realizes that Avery wanted more than a pastry chef for his restaurant—he wanted a costar for the reality show they’re filming about the restaurant and its staff. Charlie is uncomfortable with the idea at first, but she soon realizes that this is her chance to show the world what women in the kitchen are capable of. She sets some ground rules with the film crew, signs a non-disclosure agreement, and promptly meets the man of her dreams, Kai, off-camera.

The show, and her demanding work schedule as head of the pastry kitchen, makes it nearly impossible for Charlie and Kai to spend time together. Drama on and off the set soon take a toll on Charlie’s well-being, forcing her to choose if life in front of the camera is worth sacrificing life behind the scenes.

Sugar is a contemporary romance, set in the high-pressure commercial kitchens of New York and Seattle. A funny and clever story of how a female chef learns to thrive in the ruthless world of premier restaurants.

Kimberly is also offering us a teaser from the book!

With another shift almost completed, I wondered for the millionth time if the restaurant business attracted a disproportionate number of insane people. I glanced at the oversized clock on the wall and saw the hands reaching for one in the morning—dawn would be creeping into Manhattan in a matter of hours.

Folding a damp towel into a precise square, I took a look around my pastry station. After the scrub job I’d just done, I needed a post intimacy cigarette. I narrowed my eyes and inspected the corners and crevices of the pastry station, looking for any remaining streaks or stains, and then ran my set of scouring toothbrushes under scalding hot water. Satisfied, I turned off the faucet with my elbow and stacked the toothbrushes in rainbow order on a drying rack. Five more minutes and I would be on my way home. The sweat prickling the back of my neck was just starting to cool, and I could practically feel the hot shower that beckoned me from my apartment three subway stops away.

The waitstaff had finished serving the second seating, tidied up, and clocked out. Hours ago, Executive Chef Alain Janvier had abandoned the kitchen of L’Ombre, one of New York’s most prestigious restaurants. Embracing the perks that came with being the boss, he slid home in the comfort of his vintage Corvette. Even many of the line cooks had finished prepping their stations for the following day and had begged off, figuring any loose ends would keep until the next shift. I remained, tottering on exhausted legs and looking like every “before” picture of every TV makeover show, but remaining behind nonetheless. I wouldn’t leave until the job was done. Done and gleaming.

But in one moment, my fantasies of the new body scrub that smelled like pomegranate and jasmine; the promise of a few hours’ sleep in a clean T-shirt that had never seen the inside of a commercial kitchen; the room-darkening shades of my tenth-floor apartment in Soho—all that disappeared. My boss, the talented but unstable pastry chef Felix Bouchard, began yelling his head off. He was on the hunt for blood, and I was unlucky enough to be the first person he saw as he rounded the corner from the storage room.

“Who took my baby?” He spoke with the intoxicating sensitivity of a French serial killer.

Felix Bouchard had graduated with high honors from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. Before coming to L’Ombre, Felix had worked as pastry chef for a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe. He had served his famous apple butter crêpes with marsala-laced vanilla sauce to the former president of Yugoslavia. He had been honored twice with a James Beard Award and had been nominated for it many times. Felix was unmarried, had no family to speak of, and hadn’t been to a movie theater in seventeen years. But Felix was not a man without love. In fact, Felix’s love for one particular object was unparalleled.

“Who took my baby?” he said again.

I peered through the metal shelving separating the pastry prep area from the rest of the kitchen. The dishwashers were barely visible in the fog of steam rising from the industrial sinks. Humidity was fierce, and the few of us who remained looked as if we’d survived a tropical Armageddon.

“She is gone,” Felix said. His comb-over had dislodged from under his toque. No amount of Aqua Net could defend against the air of the kitchen.

I snapped shut a container of spindly vanilla beans, marked the container with my trademark yellow painter’s tape, and cleared my throat. “What are you missing, Chef?”

Felix narrowed his eyes at me. In my early days at L’Ombre, before I’d earned the right to boss around a few underlings myself, I’d once saved Felix’s ample arse during a Valentine’s Day disaster by running down the block to Sal’s Grocery to buy a box of sea salt. This was the first in a long line of logistical rescues I had performed on his behalf throughout the many years that followed. His present sneer suggested he had no memory of these events, or of the indentured servitude I offered him every single day.

“Charlie, I am missing my knife. My best knife. My favorite knife. The one gifted to me from the great Jacque Pépin, may God bless his soul!” Felix bowed his head on those last words.

“Did Pépin croak?” Only I heard the muffled voice of Carlo, my favorite and most irreverent of the line cooks as he emerged from the fog over by the dishwashers.

“Chef Bouchard,” I said, “we don’t have your knife. Right, guys?” I turned to the guys on the line. Rudy looked like he wanted his mom. He shook his head of red hair with vigor.

“Not a chance, dude,” Rudy said. “I’m way too scared of you.”

Felix was almost distracted by the compliment. “Thank you. But where is the other line cook? The new one. Blond. Pale. Pimples.”

I turned as Danny came whistling down the hall. He stopped by my side when he saw everyone staring at him.

“Chef Bouchard has lost his knife.”

“I do not lose my knives!” Felix erupted, jowls flushed and quivering. “Someone has stolen my baby. She is six inches long. Nothing is her equal for slicing stone fruits and scoring pâte sucrée!” He started to panic, rummaging around people’s stations, provoking complaints and exhausted tempers.

Danny cussed quietly. He looked shaken. Then he spoke, his voice low and struggling to compete with the noise from Felix’s scavenger hunt. “Chef Janvier asked me to run to the walk-in for butter at the end of the second seating. The carton was sealed . . . and I wanted to get right back to Chef. . . I was in a hurry, so I—”

The kitchen had grown quiet. Felix stepped so close to Danny, he could have hugged him, though that would have violated his personal code of avoiding tender human interaction.

“Why are you whispering?” Felix spoke sotto voce, eyes trained on Danny’s.

Danny pulled a knife from the pocket of his apron and handed it over. “I’m so sorry. I was going to—”

Felix moved too fast for anyone to stop him. His cut was clean and shallow, across the inner, fleshy part of Danny’s forearm.

“Do not touch the baby,” he said, already wiping the knife clean.

A tide of protest enveloped Felix as he ambled back to his corner. The staff was so vocal in their disapproval, no one heard Danny drop to the floor.

****

I scooped the butterfly bandage wrappers into a neat pile and dropped them into the rubbish bin under my counter. Standing over the pastry sink, I scrubbed up again, washing off the smell of the Band-Aids, an objectionable odor that reminded me of the murky depths of public swimming pools. I watched as Danny, still looking pale and squeamish, inspected my handiwork. “The wound is shallow,” I said. I snapped a paper towel off the roll above the sink. “It should heal fine. You don’t need stitches, but I’d still keep it covered, especially when you’re working.”

Danny looked up, his lower lip quivering. “I cannot believe him. What kind of a freak slices open someone’s arm because he wants his toy back?”

I sat on a stool opposite Danny. “The man spends fifteen hours a day crimping and whisking and performing odd rituals, all in the name of pastry perfection. I know it’s no excuse, but conflict management isn’t exactly high on Felix’s list.”

Danny shook his head. “No one in culinary school tells you that the restaurant business can be so . . . so violent!” The poor kid had started at L’Ombre just a few months ago, but already he had developed some sort of heat rash on his neck. Stress, I guessed. I had been out of school for almost a decade, but I might as well have been the kid’s elderly grandmother. Grandmothers had seen it all, and so had I. Right then, I was more impressed with the blister forming underneath one heel of my new chef’s clogs than I was with Danny’s rose-colored view of the world.

Danny inhaled shakily, eyes still on the bandages on his arm. “Psycho. I’m telling Chef Janvier tomorrow.” His eyes sparked with defiance. “I know they’re friends, but he has to see reason. People shouldn’t be able to stab other people at work and get away with it.”

I pondered that statement, my gaze scanning the exposed ceiling pipes above us. “Hypothetically, all of what you say is correct. But unless you can make forty-five covers of sixteen different desserts by tomorrow night, I’m guessing the best you’ll get is a pat on the back and a free pack of cigarettes.”

“You coming, Nurse Garrett?” Carlo called from the back door. “I want to get home before I have to be back in this place.”

“Be right there,” I called back.

Danny frowned as I pulled on my coat. His eyes were somber. “Chef, have you ever been stabbed at work?”

I restrained myself. My first instinct was to laugh at Danny’s question. “No, I have not.” I began buttoning my emerald green wool coat, a recent and indulgent purchase made in an effort to survive the last dregs of this interminable New York winter. “But I have a lovely collection of burns up and down my arms. And once I saw a chef have a nervous breakdown during rush and strip down to a pair of nasty, raggedy red underwear while he sang ‘The Macarena’ to a pot of squid.”

Danny’s eyebrows had lodged up north of his fringe of bangs.

I tugged my bag from my locker and pulled on my mittens. “And, one time during a practicum in culinary school, my favorite pastry prof got so frustrated with a slow student’s pace that he took a ball of kitchen twine and started running circles around her. He had her arms totally pinned before he was discovered by the headmaster and fired on the spot.” I shook my head. “Too bad, because that man made the most exquisite phyllo I’d ever tasted.” When I looked down again, Danny was slumped over my counter, his forehead planted on the stainless steel. I lifted his head with careful hands and slipped a tissue underneath before letting it rest again on my clean countertop. “Go home and get some sleep. Things will look much better tomorrow.”

“It already is tomorrow,” he said, his voice muffled by his arms.

I sighed and felt the arches of my feet object as I walked to the back door where Carlo was waiting. Danny was barely of drinking age and he still had neck acne, but he would learn, just as we all had..

****

Carlo and I forged through the cold edge of early morning, and I was grateful for my warm coat. He was headed to the BM5 bus to Brooklyn, and I was catching the 6 train to my apartment in Soho.

“Poor kid,” I said after walking a block in silence. Carlo grunted. “Hazing. Just part of the game, mamí.”

I nodded from within the cocoon of my woolen scarf. “We have weird jobs.”

Carlo’s laugh sounded more like a bark. He punched me on the shoulder before turning into the wind and walking toward his bus stop. “That is an understatement. Hasta lueguito, amiga.”

“Say hi to Lupe for me,” I called, but I was pretty sure my words were lost in the gust of wind that lifted them away.

****

A scant few hours later, my alarm clock sounded, and I awoke under protest. As I extracted one hand from under my down comforter and reached for the snooze button, I remembered again how much I hated that clock and its Chihuahua-like chime. I shivered and then plunged my hand back under the covers. My eyes felt glued shut, and I was certain I had bags under them. “I’m too young to have bags,” I groaned and turned onto my side. The Chihuahua stared at me with its sleek front piece and cool blue numbers.

“You can’t possibly understand.”

It was time to get up. The day needed a jump start. Wasn’t an active lifestyle supposed to keep a girl alert and stave off senility?

And, I thought as I slipped out from under the covers and slid my feet into my waiting slippers, a date wouldn’t hurt. Half my queen-sized bed remained pristine and untouched after my night’s sleep. I pulled my side taut, tucking the sheets exactly six inches from the headboard and covering that with my favorite Supima cotton blanket, then the down comforter, which had cost me dearly but had retained its shape and gave me four seasons of perfect temperatures. I tugged one of the throw pillows toward the center of the bed and felt the familiar thrill of perfect symmetry. I padded over to my dresser for my first costume change of the day.

I opened the top drawer and scanned through the drawer separators left to right before selecting one item from each section: sports bra, tank, running capris, and socks. My mother’s voice intruded my thoughts as I dressed and laced my shoes.

“You need to worry less about perfection and more about your future. Let’s talk about your eggs, honey,” she’d said on the phone recently. “I’m concerned about your eggs.”

“My eggs? I prefer organic, large, free-range, thanks. And I have at least a week until they expire.”

She’d scoffed. “The eggs in your ovaries, sweetheart. You’re thirty-two, and that is a dangerous age in terms of fertility.”

“Mom,” I tried again, “things are different in New York. I know Amber Murphy just had her fourth—”

“Eight pounds, two ounces. Beautiful baby girl. White-blond hair, just like James.”

“Fantastic, but I don’t live in Minnesota. I live in Manhattan.”

“Well, la-di-da and congratulations,” she said, still completely unimpressed a decade after her daughter had defected from the Midwest to an unknowable and sprawling city with high rent and a rat problem. “I’m just trying to warn you, Charlie, that’s all. I heard a report on Dr. Oz, and I think your eggs are getting crusty.”

I straddled my treadmill and pulled my hair into a pony while waiting for the machine to power up. “Crusty eggs,” I said aloud and then louder, to the Chihuahua, “I have crusty eggs!”

I started running at a faster pace than normal, irritated with the world. I should not have started the day with a pity party. After years of toil and self-denial, my career was finally gaining momentum. Executive Chef Alain had started talking me up to the other cooks. When Chef Andersen from Aqua had visited a week ago, Alain had introduced me as “the formidable and brilliant Charlie Garrett.” Over coffee the previous week, he’d assured me again that Felix was on the cusp of retirement, and that his long-ago promise to me that I would take over as head pastry chef at L’Ombre was just around the bend. Of course, after last night’s debacle with the knife, I might have fallen a notch, but, in general, work was good.

Most days, I could reconcile the fact that I was ticking along in my thirties, nary a man or family in sight, but enjoying the passion and thrill of a job I loved. Of course, there had been sacrifices, I acknowledged as I took a grade 8 hill for a two-minute interval. I gripped the heart rate monitor, noted an excellent anaerobic number, and kept running. One had to sacrifice things like romance and dating and marriage proposals if one was going to go anywhere in the restaurant world.

“It’s totally been worth it,” I panted to the heart monitor, which rewarded me with an increase in beats per minute.

With each stride, I glimpsed the top half of my face in the mirror by the front door as I bobbed up and down. I was going to need a serious Estée Lauder intervention before heading back to the restaurant at noon. Circles under the eyes, sallow complexion, eyebrows in need of disciplinary action—and that was only the top half of my face. I ran faster, watching the numbers on the display pad arch upward and feeling a lovely layer of smugness descend over my foul mood.

“Can a woman with elderly girl parts do this?” I puffed, feeling sweat run between my shoulder blades and down my back. My abs contracted and I felt another swell of victory. Women with supple, baby-making eggs had shitty abs. And they had to work twice as hard for legs that looked good in a miniskirt, right? Of course I was right. I had my abs and my legs, and one day soon I would wear something other than chef’s whites in public and then show off those legs and abs. Maybe I’d put my crusty eggs to work after all.

“Gross,” I said aloud.

I slowed to a jog for a three-minute cooldown and walked on jelly legs to the rug in front of my couch and sat down on my yoga mat. I tucked my feet under the linen fabric of the couch and started crunching. There! See! I exclaimed as I exhaled with each crunch. The couch was one tailored and Scotch-guarded example of what a little sacrifice can garner a girl. While my job at L’Ombre was not about to afford me a house in the Hamptons, I did fairly well. Well enough to be able to buy a linen couch and six accent pillows with real down inserts. I noted all this as I completed my forty-fifth crunch. And, I also had a complementary, but not matchy-matchy, set of armchairs in a midnight blue chevron, thank you very much. Not to mention a spot in a neighborhood that was still up-and-coming. I had shed the woes of my closet-sized studio three years prior, and my linen couch and I were doing very well with the adjustment to spacious clean lines and exposed brick.

One hundred. I lay back on the yoga mat, listening to my heavy breathing. My hands rested on my midsection, and I was pleased to feel how flat things remained after taste-testing fourteen variations of our new éclair a few days prior. I rolled onto my stomach and pushed up into plank, then started in on my push-up regimen. I watched the timer on my iPhone count down as I started my first set of twenty in thirty seconds. I couldn’t imagine this was doing me any favors in the bust department as I glimpsed my schoolgirl offerings flattened by my sports bra. I was deliberating over the relative advantages of having Michelle Obama arms over breasts that would need something more than a training bra when my phone rang. I startled, dropping to the floor and fumbling for the phone. I picked up when I saw the ID.

“Hey,” I said, turning on speakerphone and going back to plank position. “I’m doing push-ups.”

“Dang,” Manda said. “I was hoping you were having sex.”

“I don’t do that anymore. Plus, I would never answer the phone under such conditions, not even for you.” Fifteen, set two, sixteen, set two . . .

“You’re panting. Stop panting and talk to your best friend.”

“No,” I said. “Twenty-four push-ups to go.”

“How about stopping early just this once?” She was quiet while I ignored that ridiculous suggestion. “Okay, then. Well, I won’t keep you, but I thought I’d call before the day ran off its tracks, as it most certainly will. . .” I could hear commotion in the background and then heard Manda again. “Wait—hold on—Zara, no! Rubber cement is toxic. No! . . . Dane, honey, keep your diaper on until Mommy can help you. Clean hands are happy hands. Come on, ruffians, let’s have breakfast.”

I made a face when I considered exactly what was on Dane’s little hands. If the past was any indication, they were things that might eventually start to sprout or mold. I stared at the phone, momentarily worried that such virile germs could pass through a telecommunication system like little, super smart terrorists.

“Wait.” I let myself drop to the mat and glanced at the clock. “Why are you calling me so early? Isn’t it like 5:30 a.m. in Seattle?”

Manda sighed. “Oh, to be young and frivolous with time once again.”

“We’re the same age.”

“But you are single and childless. And frivolous with time. Nevertheless, you have to make time for a very special phone call today.” Her voice had taken on the sing-song quality all humans adopted when getting ready to set up their lonely single friends with other lonely single friends.

“Who is it? Bald? Divorced? Yoga instructor?”

“None of the above, thank you very much.” I heard one of Manda’s three progeny scream bloody murder in the background. “Oops. I have to go. Might be blood. I’ll call you later. He said he’d call you after work tonight. Don’t forget one word! Remember every part of the conversation.”

I used the edge of the couch to do some tricep raises. “Who’s going to call?”

I could hear the smile in Manda’s voice. “Avery Malachowski.”

“Whaaat? Why? How? Where did you see him?”

“He’ll tell you all that.”

I was losing her, I could tell. The duration of an average phone conversation prior to Zara’s birth five years before was two hours, twenty-one minutes. Since the onset of lactation, the average call was down to four minutes, thirty-four seconds. “Bye! Everyone say ‘Bye, Auntie Char!’”

She clicked off in the middle of the kids’ warbling, and I held the phone, still breathing hard from my workout.

I hadn’t thought about Avery Malachowski in nine years, though I’d thought plenty about him in the months leading up to those years. He and I had lost touch after finishing culinary school together—he disappearing into the shiny, happy restaurant scene of southern California and me diving into the shark tank of New York City. We’d toyed with the idea of continuing our relationship, one of us piggybacking on the other’s opportunity and looking for a job on the coast we didn’t want. But we’d parted ways, not too sadly, as I recalled, as we were both fiercely ambitious and primed to conquer the culinary world.

I took a ferocious pull on my water bottle. Avery Malachowski, I thought as the water level dipped. The last I’d heard of Avery, he was working as a sous chef on a cruise ship. I wrinkled my nose, remembering all the news reports of cruise passengers being pummeled with stomach viruses. I untied my laces and walked barefoot into the kitchen to grind some fresh coffee beans. I put the fine grind into the waiting glass carafe, and, as I watched the coffee brew, it occurred to me that Avery might be in town. Maybe he was fishing for a date or a drink when his ship docked or whatever it was that cruise ships did. Did cruise ships even dock in Manhattan? That kind of behavior sounded distinctly New Jerseyish.

My phone vibrated to announce a text. Manda had taken a screen shot of her Facebook exchange with Avery and had typed above, “See! He’s dying to see you! Yearning! I think the word is yearning!”

The Facebook conversation merely showed Avery’s request for my number, nothing about a marriage proposal or running away together. Manda was not getting enough sleep if she seriously thought a few words on social media meant promises of undying love.

I did a double take as I looked at the clock. I cursed as I sprinted to the shower, leaving my French press to over-steep and my dirty socks on the kitchen floor, two transgressions that would bother me throughout my hasty shower.

By the time I had my hair swept into a work chignon and my workbag slung across my winter coat, I had only a second to scoop up my phone and tuck it into my pocket, where it would sit, neglected, until after midnight.

Whoa! I’m curious to find out what happens next… 😀

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/bo789R

Target:  https://www.target.com/p/sugar-hardcover-kimberly-stuart/-/A-51497805

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781510714137

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this contemporary romance! ♥♥♥

About Kimberly Stuart

Kimberly Stuart grew up in Iowa, where she learned to be snobbish about corn on the cob and good storytelling. She is the author of eight novels, many of them set in the Midwest, including her most recent, Heart Land (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2018). Her books have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Huff Post, and Chicago Sun-Times. Stuart has a passion to write chemistry-driven, smart romance that requires a reader neither to leave her brain at the door nor to visit a confessional after turning the last page. She is a frequent public speaker, a current Iowan but one-time Nebraskan, and is passionate about helping others live and write great stories. She makes her home in Des Moines, where she lives with her brave husband and three wily children.

Books:

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Kimberly Stuart, here are some author links…

 

Once again, I want to thank Kimberly Stuart, the brilliant author of this contemporary romance, for stopping by!  It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

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