Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

TMKD

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When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

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Source: Netgalley     My Rating: 4/5 stars

A little backstory . . . . . If you are a Netgalley frequent flyer, you know some books just aren’t available to US readers. When I found this title, I read the synopsis and knew I absolutely wanted to read it. As I went to click “request” I noticed this book was reserved for UK readers alone. Well, damn! But there was hope and let this be a lesson to you, if you keep looking through all the pages and if you get really, really lucky, you’ll find a second version of the book that’s available to US readers!

And so it begins . . . . my review of The Marsh King’s Daughter 😊

From the beginning, this book reads like a memoir more than a work of fiction and that memoir unfolds just as Helena discovers her father, the Marsh King has violently escaped from his maximum-security prison. No one, literally no one in Helena’s life knows she is the daughter of the infamous Marsh King and had he simply died in his cell as he was meant to, Helena would have never had to reveal her secret nor hunt down her father.

As a child, Helena knew only the world her father allowed her to know. She lived with her parents in a small cabin so far off the grid humanity has all but forgotten about them. With no electricity, no plumbing, and certainly no amenities or creature comforts of any kind, Helena learned to live off the land, to survive in places and situations most would never understand. To Helena, her little world was as large and expansive as the known universe and it wasn’t until she was 12 years old that she understood just how evil her father really was. He was cruel on a level rarely seen, and when Helena was finally old enough to understand the extent of her situation, she was also old enough to know she had to change her identity of she had any hope of living a somewhat normal life.

With the authorities out in force looking for her father and her husband now privy to her darkest secret, Helena knows with absolute certainty she is the only one who can track down her father and bring him to the justice he deserves. As Helena begins the slow process of tracking her father, she has time to reminisce about her life with her father and the atrocities he perpetrated upon she and her mother over more than a decade of captivity. The moments Helena relives in her memory are some of the best and the worst of her entire life. As an adult, she now understands the lessons her father taught her, both good and bad are the very lessons that will allow her and no other to find him. When the moment comes, even Helena isn’t sure how she will react, but she’s certain her choices and her decisions won’t be based on the fears of child she once was, but on the wisdom of an adult grown from that fearful child.

The Bottom Line: I’m not entirely sure this book would have been nearly as good if it read as something other than a fictional memoir. Helena’s present is very much shaped by her childhood experiences and she recounts those experiences in a stony coldness as she tracks her father. To be sure, this read isn’t sunny or happy, but a cold recounting and child/woman’s horrifying experiences and her determination to see her nightmares ended and not revisited on her own children. Because of the subject matter, I can’t say I enjoyed the book, but I certainly appreciated the message. Ultimately, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a story of survival, determination, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Pre-order here for the June 13, 2017 release: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

On Point (Book #3: Out of Uniform Series) by Annabeth Albert

On Point

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Pushing thirty, with his reenlistment looming, decorated navy sniper Maddox Horvat is taking a long look at what he really wants in life. And what he wants is Ben Tovey. It isn’t smart, falling for his best friend and fellow SEAL, but ten years with Ben has forged a bond so intimate Maddox can’t ignore it. He needs Ben by his side forever—heart and soul.

Ben admits he likes what he’s seen—his friend’s full lower lip and the perfect muscles of his ass have proved distracting more than once. But Ben’s still reeling from a relationship gone to hell, and he’s not about to screw up his friendship with Maddox, too.

Until their next mission throws Ben and Maddox closer together than ever before, with only each other to depend on.

Now, in the lonely, desperate hours awaiting rescue, the real challenge—confronting themselves, their future and their desires—begins. Man to man, friend to friend, lover to lover.

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Source: Netgalley     My Rating: 5/5 stars

Maddox Horvat has proudly and willingly served his country for a lot of years. As a SEAL sniper, Maddox has earned a reputation as one of the best in the business and if you asked his teammate and best friend, Ben Tovey, re-upping for another tour is a foregone conclusion. There’s a whole host of things Ben thinks he knows about Maddox . . . . .

As far as Maddox is concerned, another tour just isn’t in the cards. He’s nearly thirty years old and there is so much beyond the military Maddox would like to do with his life. He wants to open a small bakery, he wants to get married and have a family, and he desperately wants all this with his best friend. All it took was one night of seeing Ben with another man for Maddox to know, in his bones, that Ben is the man for him. Unfortunately, admitting his feelings for Ben on top of ending his service would likely send Ben over the edge and Maddox isn’t willing to lose his best friend. Some sort of relationship is better than none, right?

Ben Tovey is a career SEAL and that’s a foregone conclusion! Since the beginning, he and Maddox have served together and as far as Ben is concerned they will continue to serve until it’s time to retire. As a bonus, Maddox will be by his side and he can continue to nurse his intense lust(?)/love(?) for Maddox. Ben isn’t interested in examining his feelings for Maddox too closely until they both barely survive a mission that went ugly sideways. Ben is not only forced to acknowledge his feelings for Maddox, but to examine why it is he’s so resistant to the idea of settling down and beginning a proper life with Maddox. For a time, Ben is certain everything is right and good between he and Maddox and then, it all blows up leaving both men heartbroken and certain they have each lost absolutely everything!

The Bottom Line: This series just keeps getting better. Maddox and Ben are so fundamentally different that they shouldn’t work, but in the end, they most certainly work. The tension in this read is prevalent and fluctuates throughout depending on the situation. The tension doesn’t let up until the very end and it really makes the read so much better. Some reads, some characters just beg for tension and this is absolutely one of those reads! As always, I appreciate the fact the author populates her novels with characters from past reads. There truly is a sense of community in this series and it’s one of the things I like the best about the Out of Uniform world.

Pre-order for the June 5, 2017 release: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Audible

About the author and where to find her:

annabeth-albertFrequent tweeter, professional grammar nerd, and obsessive reader, Annabeth Albert is also a Pacific Northwest romance writer in a variety of subgenres. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.

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Review: The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

The Night Mark

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Faye Barlow is drowning. After the death of her beloved husband, Will, she cannot escape her grief and most days can barely get out of bed. But when she’s offered a job photographing South Carolina’s storied coast, she accepts. Photography, after all, is the only passion she has left.

In the quaint beach town, Faye falls in love again when she sees the crumbling yet beautiful Bride Island lighthouse and becomes obsessed with the legend surrounding The Lady of the Light—the keeper’s daughter who died in a mysterious drowning in 1921. Like a moth to a flame, Faye is drawn to the lighthouse for reasons she can’t explain. While visiting it one night, she is struck by a rogue wave and a force impossible to resist drags Faye into the past—and into a love story that is not her own.

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Source: Netgalley     My Rating: 3/5 stars

I will admit from the very beginning, I am not a fan of the time travel trope. BUT, I am a huge fan of Tiffany Reisz and I went into this read hoping my intense love of the author would heavily outweigh my dislike of time travel.

What I didn’t like:

You guessed it, the time travel! You would find this super-ironic if you knew me in the “real” world and understood my intense and deeply abiding love for Doctor Who ☹

What I liked:

Literally everything else about this read! Here’s the skinny:

The Lighthouse: The Bride Island lighthouse is a brilliant setting for a story. It has a wonderful if tragic history that provides an excellent backdrop for Faye’s own tragic story. In fact, the lighthouse becomes as much a character in this read as Faye and her boys.

Faye: From the beginning and with good reason, Faye is a miserable creature! She had one blissful year with her soulmate before he was brutally killed while trying to help. Since, her second marriage has failed miserably and she has sunk into a deep depression. It isn’t until she finds the Bride Island lighthouse that absolutely everything in her life changes including the time she’s living in.

Carrick Morgan: What. A. Man. Carrick is strong, sweet, caring, sexy, and bound and determined to do right by Faye (or her 1921 counterpart!). He’s the lighthouse keeper, retired military, and saver of lost souls. He also looks strikingly like Faye’s deceased husband which causes all kinds of mixed feelings and loads of confusion.

The problems: There is just one problem after the next including the fact Faye isn’t from 1921, Carrick thinks Faye is someone completely different, Carrick is not an earlier version of Faye’s husband, the love square (because a triangle would be too easy!), Faye has issues in her own time she hasn’t dealt with and needs to deal with, and there is real danger and threats toward Faye and Carrick in 1921 which must be dealt with.

The writing: Tiffany Reisz is one of the most polished contemporary writers and I never find any flaws with her writing. Not one, not ever! Slipping into one of her books is always so easy to do simply because of the quality of the writing.

The Bottom Line: Quite literally the only thing that kept me from loving this read is the time travel element. Even my intense love of Tiffany Reisz and her stellar writing couldn’t get me past the time travel. I firmly believe everything and everyone in this read could have been set into any other non-time travel setting and this would have been another 5-star read for me.

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Review: Royal Affair (Book #2: Royals in Exile Series) by Marquita Valentine

Royal Affair

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Online muckraker Brooks Walker has a reputation for exposing the political elite. Now he’s set his sights on the Sinclair siblings, who’ve been embroiled in their fair share of drama ever since their exile to North Carolina. But Brooks has never been afraid to get his hands dirty—until he meets a royal wallflower at a charity ball who makes him reconsider everything. Is Brooks feeling guilty because he knows all the sordid details of her family’s history? Or because he’s putting their relationship first, before his journalistic integrity?

As the “spare” twin, Princess Charlotte has always been the responsible one. So when her sister finally agrees to fulfill her duty as queen, Charlotte gives herself permission to break a few rules by flirting with the very off-limits CEO of Walker Media. Brooks is the worst sort of man to start an affair with, but Charlotte just can’t help it. The trouble is, since she’s no good at playing games, soon she’s tiara over heels in love. And when Brooks comes clean, Charlotte must decide whether his confession is worth a royal pardon.

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Source: Netgalley and Purchase     My Rating: 5/5 stars

If ever there was a mismatched pair . . . . .

Brooks Walker has built a social media empire and he has built it on the truth. No faking the news, no stretching the truth, no outright lies, just the simple unvarnished truth. No matter how ugly the truth, Brooks believes in his work and makes no apologies for what he puts out there. Brooks is always on the lookout for the next big story and when the royal princess, Charlotte makes him offer that will further his empire, he sees no reason to turn her down.

Princess Charlotte has never wanted attention, she’s never sought attention, and she’s certainly never wanted the throne currently occupied by her twin sister. For a blissful number of years, Charlotte and her family were hidden away on the east coast of the United States until the deplorable, the despicable, the supremely sexy, utterly irresistible Brooks Walker out them to the world. Since then, Charlotte and her family have been the center of attention and nearly every skeleton they have in their collective closet has been outed too. With nearly all the skeletons already out there, Charlotte sees no reason not to indulge in a naughty little fling with the man who caused all her family’s trouble, Brooks Walker.

Charlotte lays down the terms of their affair and dives in with both feet. The sex is spectacular and Charlotte would be content to leave it at the sex if it weren’t for the real Brooks Walker, the man behind the public persona. Brooks is confident, smart, strong, sexy, and seems to genuinely care about Charlotte. He isn’t at all what Charlotte expected and that certainly complicates matters. What’s more, when she’s with Brooks, Charlotte seems to come alive in a way she never has before. She’s stronger, more confident, and better able to stand on her own than she’s been able to in years. Inexplicably, Charlotte trusts Brooks, right up to the moment everything blows up, another skeleton comes creeping out of the royal closet, Brooks betrays Charlotte, and she runs back into the protective and scary fold that is her family.

The Bottom Line: Wow do these royals have a ton of skeletons in their collective closet and it seems like a new skeleton is going to come out in every successive read. On the surface, Charlotte and Brooks are the furthest thing from a realistic couple as they are so very different. Under the surface, Brooks and Charlotte are absolutely perfect for one another and that plays out over the course of the read. Charlotte’s inherent goodness helps Brooks remember what he was like before becoming a soul-sucking journalist and Brooks strength and support help Charlotte become a stronger more confident version of herself. With every page turn, Charlotte evolves and Brooks, for lack of a better word regresses to a better version of himself. Even Charlotte’s family eventually comes around and when they do, it is a sight to behold! Book two was a one-sitting read and a one-click pre-order and given the strength of this read, the next book will be just the same!

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About the author and where to find her:

author - Marquita ValentineNew York Times Bestselling Author, Marquita Valentine, writes sexy heroes that make you swoon and sassy heroines that make you laugh. She’s the author of the bestselling contemporary romance series, Holland Springs, and the new adult romance series, Boys of the South.  Marquita met her husband aka Hot Builder at Sonic when they were in high school. She suggests this location to all of her single friends in search of a good man—and if that doesn’t work, they can console themselves with cheesy tatertots. She lives in North Carolina in a very, very small town with Hot Builder and their two children.

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Review: House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

House of Shadows

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London, 1662:
There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day: Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.

Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

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Source: Netgalley     My Rating: 4½/5 stars

For 350+ years, the ruins of Ashdown House has been a source of speculation, mystery, and perhaps the greatest and saddest love story in the whole of the country.

In centuries past, there lived a woman known as the Winter Queen, a woman born and bred to rule, but not allowed to so because of circumstances beyond her control. She was a Queen without a kingdom, wed to a man incapable of restoring her to her destiny. Through it all was one man, a man unequal to her in social standing, but certainly worthy of her strength and love. As an act of his love and devotion, he built his Winter Queen Ashdown House, a site she never visited as she could never publicly acknowledge her ties to and love for this man.

One short century later, another destined-for-tragedy woman, Lavinia Flyte moves into Ashdown House, a place she hopes will change her fortunes forever. Her fortunes are indeed changed, but not at all in the way she imaged. Lavinia, like her predecessor the Winter Queen was a strong and intelligent woman who was a victim of the circumstances she was born into. Looking to improve her circumstances and her station in life, Lavinia ties herself to a man who is both selfish and cruel. Like the Winter Queen, Lavinia finds a measure of happiness with another, but her happiness is short-lived.

By the twenty-first century, Ashdown House is nothing but a memory, a legend, a place steeped in mystery and tragedy, a place that has claimed yet another victim and that is why Holly Ansell has come to town. In the wake of her brother’s disappearance, Holly has taken up the investigation into his circumstances which leads her to the history of Ashdown House and one of the greatest unsolved mysteries associated with the site. As Holly’s search progresses, she learns of the tragic lives of the Winter Queen and Lavinia Flyte and how Ashdown House is responsible for the fate of both women and her brother. Unlike the two women who came before her, Holly is determined to find the light at the end of the tunnel and by the time she’s done, she’ll have laid to rest a great mystery.

The Bottom Line: I am, historically speaking, a big fan of past meets present reads and House of Shadows is no exception to that rule.   All three women, all tied to Ashdown House are linked through tragedy, but Holly Ansell is not so much a victim of her circumstances, but a woman of action interested in changing her fate. Though this story does, ultimately, have a happy ending, it is largely a sad read. Overall, I found this book to be intricately woven together, smartly plotted, and interesting. There is just enough at the end of each chapter, that little tidbit, that made me want to keep going and not put the book down until I got to the last page.

Pre-order for the October 17, 2017 release:  Amazon

About the author and where to find her:

N. CornickInternational bestselling author Nicola Cornick writes romantic historical mysteries and witty and passionate Regency romance. She studied History at London and Oxford and was awarded a distinction for her dissertation on historical heroes. It was a tough study but someone had to do it. Nicola has a “double life” as a writer and guide at the stunning 17th century hunting lodge, Ashdown House.

Nicola lives near Oxford and loves reading, writing, history, music, wildlife, travel and walking her dog. She also loves hearing from her readers and chatting to them on her blog at www.nicolacornick.co.uk She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @NicolaCornick

Review: Buns (Book #3: Hudson Valley Series) by Alice Clayton

Bunns

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Clara Morgan is living the dream, if you can call rebranding hotels that are desperate for a new life and running any kind of marathon a dream. Which she does. But the career she loves and the endurance races that keep her adrenaline pumping have kept her too busy to put down any roots. Growing up in foster care, she’s never been able to establish traditions of her own, which may be why she’s fascinated by the rituals that generations-old family resorts are known for. She’s especially interested in the Bryant Mountain House, and not just for their secret recipe for the yummy, gooey, can’t-get-enough-of Hot Cross Buns….

Archie Bryant, the man with the Buns, is fifth generation and one-day-owner of the charming yet run-down Bryant Mountain House in Bailey Falls, New York. He’s determined to save his family’s legacy from the wrecking ball the old-fashioned way—by gritting his teeth and doing what needs to be done. There’s no way Archie will be influenced by the new hotel branding expert his father brought in to turn one hundred and fifty years of tradition on its head just to attract a faster, younger, slicker crowd. But when some of Clara’s ideas start bringing in new, paying customers, Archie can’t deny that she may have just given him a shot at keeping his resort open.

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Source: Netgalley    My Rating: 4/5 stars

Alice Clayton is back haunting the Hudson Valley and this time she brought Clara and Archie and whole pile of shenanigans.

Clara Morgan is many things including accomplished, self-reliant, confident, intelligent, competent, loyal, and terrified of loving anyone and putting down roots. In an effort to avoid those last two, Clara has assiduously avoided romantic entanglements and devoted her life to travelling all over the country helping hotels and resorts rebrand themselves and become more successful. Clara excels at her job and loves her life. Or so she thought.

The moment Clara steps foot on the property of Bryant Mountain House resort she knows she has her work cut out for her and relishes the challenge. The elder Archie Bryant invited Clara to rebrand the resort, but it’s his son, also Archie whom Clara is to work most closely with. If she thought the resort rebranding was going to be a challenge, well, she hasn’t met the younger Archie Bryant yet. At every turn and with every pronouncement, the resort owner with the smashing butt defies challenges, and contradicts Clara. For as much anger and frustration as Archie causes Clara, he also interests her and forces her to confront the fact she isn’t as happy with her life as she thought.

Sweet, sexy, nerdy Archie Bryant loves his home and has no desire to see its history and traditions trampled on by the likes of Clara Morgan. With her bold, brash, confidence she outlines plan after plan for rebranding Archie’s beloved resort. Clara is suggesting changes, renovations, alterations, and upheaval that makes Archie’s head spin. Inconceivably, Archie seems to be the only one among the staff who is opposed to such calamity. In an effort to save his home, Archie defies Clara at every turn, he contradicts her, and stubbornly refuses to accept her ideas. He also has to deal with the fact that he is tremendously attracted to the little firebrand and that’s not helping the situation . . . at all.

As days turn into weeks, Archie slowly begins to accept the inevitable, his resort is going to undergo changes. However, the more he gets to know Clara, the more he understands she doesn’t want to destroy his home, his resort, and the traditions of the site, but preserve them and bring them into the 21st century. Clara wants Bryant Mountain House to be restored to its former glory and that is something Archie can get behind. Being behind Clara isn’t half bad either and it isn’t long before Archie realizes the extent of his feelings for Clara. Unfortunately, as his feelings grow, Clara becomes more resistant.

Clara is very aware of Archie and his feelings and that scares the ever-loving crap out of her! So much so, that when her professional life takes a most unexpected turn, Clara uses it as an excuse to escape the uncomfortable feelings caused by Archie and his feelings. Clara has too much personal baggage to ever settle down and being with Archie for the long-term would simply be disastrous. Besides, her career has always come first and satisfied her, so why upset the apple cart now? Says Clara to herself as she sits miserably in her lonely apartment far, far away from the man and place she accidentally fell in love with . . . . . Fixing the situation isn’t going to be easy, but Clara is determined and most fall in the face of Clara Morgan’s logic, reasoning, and loud arguments 😊

The Bottom Line: I like the first two-thirds of this book and simply adored the final one-third!! The first two-thirds of this read have some great moments, some excellent fights, some great conversations with old friends (Bombshell is on a roll in this one!) and a few naughty bits, but it is in the final one-third of the book that everything shines. It isn’t until Clara screws everything up with her ridiculous notions about love, commitment, and putting down roots that the read really takes off. Fixing her mess isn’t easy and Archie is so very heartbroken that it takes a monumental move to set things right. The. Move. Is. Monumental. The highlights of this read include Archie and the characters from the first two Hudson Valley books. These richly written and developed characters populate a world that is believable, funny, emotional, and engaging. I don’t know that this is the end of the Hudson Valley series, but if it is, Buns is a fitting ending to what has been another excellent series from Alice Clayton!

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About the author and where to find her:

Alice ClaytonALICE CLAYTON worked in the cosmetics industry for over a decade before picking up a pen (read laptop).  She enjoys gardening but not weeding, baking but not cleaning up, and finally convinced her long-time boyfriend to marry her.  Now, about that Bernese Mountain dog.

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Cover Reveal: With a Prince (Book #2: Missed Connections Series) by Jeffe Kennedy

1 With a Prince 3D Image of Book Cover

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The guy on the train is just Marcia’s type. A face like an angel, a scent like raw honey, treats her like he has a white horse and suit of armor stowed in his messenger bag. Perfect.

Too perfect. No guy like that would be interested in prim, awkward Marcia, notorious goody-goody and a twentysomething still clutching her v-card. She’s been following rules her whole life—but somewhere, the game changed. And left her behind.

So when she meets Damien, with his rumbling motorbike, gleaming piercings, and wicked imagination, she doesn’t care that he’s the exact opposite of “her type.” Her type would never dare her into such shocking, fiendishly inventive adventures—and she can’t wait to say yes.

Yes to whiskey in the middle of a workday. Yes to letting her hands roam over his body from the back of his bike. Yes to a fling full of wild abandon and absolutely no long-term potential. Except Damien’s not just the straightforward bad boy she imagined. And as they burn through Chicago’s nights, Marcia can’t shake the fear that this happiness is just another fairy tale…

Pre-order for the May 30th release: Amazon

About the author and where to find her:

jeffeJeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.  Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.   She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

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