Guest Post: Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups by Andrew Joyce

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Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”

Guest post by Andrew Joyce: 

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce. I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. It came about because my editor hounded me for two years to put all my short stories into one collection. Actually, it was supposed to be a two-volume set because there was so much material. I fended her off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to do the work of editing all the stories. There were a lot of them. But she finally wore me down. Instead of two volumes, I put all the stories into a single book because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. I had other books to write.

Bedtime Stories is made up of fiction and nonfiction stories and some of ’em are about my criminal youth. I must tell you, I never thought any of these stories would see the light of day. I wrote them for myself and then forgot about them. By the way, there are all sorts of genres within its pages, from westerns to detective stories to love stories and just about anything else that you can imagine.

There are a whole lotta stories in the book—700 pages worth. Enough to keep you reading for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, here’s one of the shorter fiction stories from the book.

The Preacher

Standing on the graveyard grass, looking down at the freshly-filled grave, stood The Preacher, dressed in black and wearing a black, circular, wide-brim hat. There was not a headstone as of yet, but The Preacher knew the name of the occupant. It was his brother. Five days previously, he had murdered the man who now lay under the earth at his feet. The Preacher did not want to kill this one. But he felt he had to, and he knew with a certainty that he would have to kill again … and soon.

After saying a prayer over his brother’s buried body, The Preacher walked slowly back to the highway. As he walked, he thought of how unnecessary it had all been. All his brother had to do was not interfere in the Lord’s work. It should have made no difference that the work involved the killing of Junior McGuire.

He thought back to his last conversation with his brother:

“You must not interfere.”

“You’ve been killing since you were a boy. But you was family, so I held my own peace.”

“I am family to man.”

“You always were different, even when we was kids. But now you come to town and tell me you must take Junior McGuire. Well, Junior is a friend of mine. He’s the mayor of this town, for God’s sake.”

“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Are those your last words on the matter?”

“Yup, I just can’t let you kill Junior McGuire.”

The conversation replayed itself repeatedly in The Preacher’s mind.

Now that there were no more obstacles, The Preacher could be about the Lord’s work. And this time, the Lord’s work was the quick dispatch of Junior McGuire.

The Preacher had been at this work a long time. Sometimes he wearied of the mission the Lord had bestowed upon him. However, he believed that no matter how weary, he must persevere until he was allowed a rest or brought to his just reward.

The walk from the graveyard into town was a short one. Before he knew it, The Preacher found himself standing in front of McGuire’s Dry Goods Emporium. He entered without hesitation and sought out The McGuire.

The store was empty, but filled with people or not, it made no difference to The Preacher. He was about God’s work. He proceeded to the back room where he encountered a man of about fifty, stacking cartons in a corner. The Preacher inquired of the man, “Are you McGuire?” When an affirmative response was forthcoming, The Preacher laid his hands upon the sinner.

The Preacher had been at this so long he felt as though he could see the soul of the damned leave the body and pass through the floorboards on its way to perdition.

As he left McGuire’s, The Preacher thought to himself, I pray the time never comes when I enjoy this work.

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About the author and where to find him: 

AndrewAndrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Love in Dublin by Jennifer Gracen

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LOVE IN DUBLIN coverSingle father Colin McKinnon has roots and obligations that have kept him firmly in Dublin his entire life. He once planned to explore the world, but he was bound by duty and gave up on his dreams long ago. When he meets free-spirited American travel writer Maggie in a pub, he’s intrigued. She could help him get a taste of what he lost, rattle the chains of his self-imposed isolation. Instantly drawn to her light, beauty, and sense of adventure, Colin can’t stay away.

 Maggie Spencer doesn’t just crave the open road, she needs it to survive. After a harrowing accident and life-changing loss, she rebuilt her life by exploring new places on her own. When she accepts a temporary job writing about day tours in Ireland, she falls in love with Dublin and the man she teaches to explore it. Through their daily adventures, they learn opposites do more than just attract—they can also help each other heal.

 But can a man with deep roots keep a woman with wings by his side?

Excerpt from Love in Dublin

As she opened her mouth to say goodbye and thank him for joining her, Colin asked her if she’d have dinner with him.

 Her heart skipped a beat. The way he was looking at her… he didn’t want the day to end yet either. Maybe he was ready for more than she thought? “Dinner? But you just spent all weekend with me.” She tossed him a playful grin as she joked, “Aren’t you tired of me by now?”

 “No,” he said. The corners of his mouth turned up, a hint of sheepish and a lot of sexy. He stood there patiently, just gazing down at her.

 Her heart fluttered. God, he was adorable. A knotted up burly bear with a sweet, kind heart. And lips she was dying to taste. And beautiful blue eyes that showed there was so much more on his mind than the short, polite things he said.

 The noises of the city—cars driving, people walking by and talking, horns and shouts on the air—seemed to fade away as she stared back at him.

 “I have to admit,” he said quietly, “I do enjoy your company.”

 Delight and want made her stomach give a wobbly flip. She finally gave in to the impulse she’d been squelching all day. She dropped her duffel bag to the ground by her feet, placed her hands on his shoulders, and stood on her tiptoes to sweetly brush her lips across his.

 “What are you doin’?” he whispered against her mouth, his eyes wide.

 “Kissing you in the middle of Dublin.” She pressed her lips to his softly and his breath

hitched. Loving that, she did that again, lips brushing against his with a feather’s touch.

“Confession: I’ve been wanting to kiss you all day.”

 “Is that so?” Amazement sparked in his eyes. His hands slowly lifted to her face.

 “Mm hmm.” Her heart started racing, adrenaline coursing through her. His fingertips stroked her cheeks as his gaze locked with hers.

 She kissed him again, still soft and gentle, still testing, gaging his reactions. His body was tense, holding back, but his eyes revealed how much he wanted her. As usual, there was so much going on in those bright blues… but right now, desire was the winner there, clear as day. It gave her a rush and she shivered from it.

 “Actually,” she said, “the full truth is, I’ve been wanting to kiss you for weeks.”

 His gaze burned into her. His hands slowly swept along her jaw, then cupped her face.

“Well… if we’re being truthful, I’ve been wantin’ to kiss you for weeks too.”

 “Then you should,” she whispered, smiling up at him. “I mean, I already kissed you first…”

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About the author and where to find her: 

Jennifer GracenJennifer Gracen hails from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her two sons. After spending her youth writing in private and singing in public, she now only sings in her car and is immersed in her passion for writing. She loves to write contemporary romance for readers who look for authentic characters and satisfying endings. When she isn’t with her kids, doing freelance proofreading, or chatting on Twitter and Facebook, Jennifer writes. She’s already hard at work on her next book.

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Review: The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic 0) by Alice Hoffman

Rules of MagicFor the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5 HUGE stars

As children, Franny, Jet, and Vincent Owens lived under very strict guidelines, most of which revolved around the denial of the existence of magic.  Their mother adamantly refused to acknowledge their questions about their “otherness” and warned her children to stay far, far away from anything even remotely related to magic or love.  Of course, the rules and guidelines set forth by their mother only fueled the Owens’s children’s desire to know more.  

For Franny, love isn’t going to be a problem as she has decided to dedicate her life to science and the pursuit of facts.  She is objective and logical, intelligent and reasonable, and clueless.  Though she believes her best-friend understands her passion, her dedication to pure objectivity, his passion is in fact divided between Franny and science.  For decades, Franny dances around and dances with her best friend, only separating herself from him when the very dire needs of her family arise or being near him causes more pain than one heart should ever have to handle.

For Jet Owens, ignoring love isn’t ever going to be a possibility and when she meets her one true love while visiting her aunt, her life and his are forever changed.  In the bloom of youth and love, Jet is prepared to ignore her mother’s dire warnings, defy the odds, and be the first Owens in generations to live with the love of her life.  Fate is fickle and sometimes simply cruel, and a tragic moment Jet is reminded of who she is and what she is destined never to have.  Of the siblings, Jet is by far the most sensitive and it takes, literally decades for her to once again find herself, forgive, and forge a path that includes a measure of happiness.  Where she finds that happiness is perhaps the most surprising for all the Owens children.

Vincent Owens never, not even as a child, had difficulty accepting who and what he is.  In fact, Vincent often delights in flaunting his “otherness” and dabbles in areas of magic best left alone.  For his troubles, Vincent often finds himself in trouble or on the cusp of trouble.  Nearly everything changes for Vincent when he meets his own one true love.  For many, finding love is a blessing, but for Vincent, it is a mixed bag and in the end, Vincent will be forced to sacrifice more than he ever could have predicted or expected.  In so many ways, Vincent is both the luckiest and the most tragic of the Owens children and his ultimate predicament puts everyone he knows and loves in jeopardy.

The Bottom Line:  Alice Hoffman is, without doubt or reservation, one of the contemporary world’s most accomplished authors.  I can’t put her books down once I start reading, and, quite frankly really have no desire to do so.  In my stupidity and out of some misguided sense of responsibility, I tried putting down The Rules of Magic around two a.m., and when I couldn’t sleep for want of knowing how this story would end, I picked it back up and read until I had my answers.  The Rules of Magic is a complicated, complex, artful narrative of a family long believed to be cursed.  The three Owens siblings not only struggle with this knowledge, but also with a decided lack of knowledge about their pasts and why their futures are cursed.  They struggle as children and eventually as adults with the reality of their world, what they are individually and together, and what that means for their own lives and those who come into their lives.  There is very little in the way of happiness in this read, but there are brief moments of pure joy that will have you celebrating.  As always, Hoffman’s skill and ability to weave a tale is evident on page one and carries through to the very last page.  I absolutely adored this book, its masterful craftsmanship, and really can’t recommend it anymore heartily than I already do.  With certainty, The Rules of Magic is a 2017 favorite read!

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Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Bookshop

Emilia has just returned to her idyllic Cotswold hometown to rescue the family business. Nightingale Books is a dream come true for book-lovers, but the best stories aren’t just within the pages of the books she sells – Emilia’s customers have their own tales to tell.

There’s the lady of the manor who is hiding a secret close to her heart; the single dad looking for books to share with his son but who isn’t quite what he seems; and the desperately shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush . . .

And as for Emilia’s story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5/5 stars

Emilia never once suspected her father’s beloved bookstore, Nightingale Books wasn’t and isn’t a smashing success.  Given the number of people who come through on a daily and weekly basis and her father’s lack of communication on the topic, Emilia is as shocked by the state of the bookstore as she is by her beloved father’s death.

For Emilia, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Oh, sure, Nightingale Books is her inheritance and some day she fully intended to return home and run the shop in her father’s stead, but not this early, not this soon.  As we well know, Fate is a fickle b*tch and when Emilia is forced to return home to her dying father’s bedside, she is shocked to find just how much of a mess he has left her.  With nothing to do, but get on with the living and the working, Emilia doggedly decides to right the ship and make Nightingale Books her father’s legacy more than just her inheritance.

The instant she is back in the shop, Emilia is surrounded by love and support from the long-time customers who were also her father’s friends.  The men and women of her small hometown are thoughtful and kind, willing to lend a hand, and encouraging of Emilia’s efforts to get the bookshop back on track.  There’s her best-friend and accountant whose efforts are geared toward the numbers, there’s the wizened old woman who retired quite well-off and is more than willing to donate financially to the cause, and there’s the wasting her talents stay at home mom who’s perfectly situated to help Emilia re-launch Nightingale Books.  In her personal life, there’s the return of the beautiful musician whose interest at first seems totally professional (his group needs a new cellist!) and there’s the married woman/manor owner whose life was, unbeknownst to all, intimately linked to Emilia’s father and the bookstore.

With so much love, support, and enthusiasm, it’s hard for Emilia to turn her back on the old bookstore, but there are so many obstacles to overcome and grief is a powerful thing.  With every gain/victory, Emilia also experiences a setback, whether it be personally or professionally.  Some days the setbacks are manageable and others, well, giving up just seems like the best option.  What’s more, Emilia’s life isn’t the only life tied to Nightingale Books, and as she experiences the roller coaster ride, so do her customers/friends.  Each experience and each event that occurs in every character’s life is somehow tied to Nightingale Books and losing the store would mean losing a piece of their own lives for everyone in town.

The Bottom Line:  This is one of those books where I can’t quite wrap my head around the lower star rating on Goodreads.  I absolutely adored this book, it’s intricate relationships, it’s complicated design, and its ultimately triumphant message about managing grief.  Emilia is young to be carrying such a heavy burden, but because of her location, and her history with the people of the town, she has a built-in support system and that system comes shining through in this read!  As all the help is rolling in for Emilia, there’s also a great deal going on in the background with those same characters who are helping the young woman.  I love how intricately tied together the plot, sub-plot, major and minor characters are.  Though not everyone knows and/or interacts with each other, they are all tied to the book store and Emilia which makes for a much deeper, more involved, and thoroughly enjoyable read.  I’m adding this one to my highly recommend list and hope y’all enjoy this one as much as I did!

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Mini-Review: Scored by Sloane Howell

Scorerd

Kelsey: My mom would tell you I’m quite the catch, but since my last boyfriend, I haven’t been dating much. Maybe it’s my rocker style or my lack of filter that intimidates the boys. So I’m pleasantly surprised when Matt Stallworth waltzes into the indie record store where I work and gives as good he gets. Turns out Matt is a professional baseball player, which should mean he’s out of my league. But if he wants to hook up with me, he’s going to have to follow my rules.

Matt: After winning my MVP award, I learned that a guy can get used to having beautiful women practically throw themselves at you everywhere you turn. But everything changes the first time I see Kelsey Martin, and something just clicks. She’s hot, snarky, and whip-smart. I’ve got to see her again. Only problem is, she sees right through all my best moves. And I’m going to have to step up my game to convince Kelsey that I’m playing for keeps.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I love a witty, sexy, banter-filled romance and once again, Sloane Howell delivers with Scored!  From start to finish, the back and forth between Kelsey and Matt is top-notch and kept me laughing, sighing, and shaking my head at their antics.  Kelsey is terrified of getting close to anyone for fear of having her heart broken yet again, but Matt is so hard to resist.  He’s smooth, kind, funny, likes ALL music (big brownie points there!), and is a baseball god.  In short, the perfect man.  For Matt’s part, he has been interested in Kelsey from the first moment he saw her, and her refusal to give him a chance only fuels the fire.  Kelsey isn’t like the other (loads of other!) girls Matt has dated.  She’s free-spirited yet responsible, she’s quirky, she’s a music aficionado, and she couldn’t care less about Matt’s status.  In short, she’s the perfect woman.  No excellent story can get to excellent without some drama, and Matt and Kelsey certainly have their fair share.  There are secrets revealed and demons to fight, but in the end, a couple who belongs together will find a way to be so, and Matt Kelsey are 100% meant to be together.   

P.S. Though Scored isn’t listed as a part of a series, I would highly recommend reading Bossed first as there is some character overlap between the two books!

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Double Review: Gold Hockey Series by Elise Faber

BlockedThis is her shot.

Brit has the chance to make history by being the first female goalie to play for an NHL team, the San Francisco Gold. So, when she is introduced to Stefan, the Gold’s captain, she is determinedly not interested.

Stefan is sexy, charming, and has a publicly documented list of conquests a mile long. Brit is unwilling to risk mixing business with pleasure, even when that business is wrapped up in a six-foot-plus, gorgeously muscled package.

When management pushes Brit and Stefan together in an effort to gain good press for the beleaguered team, Brit finds that her carefully calculated disinterest doesn’t mask her body’s desires. The more she falls for Stefan, the more she risks her career.

Will she be able to have it all—a starting position and the heart of the captain? Or will she lose everything? 

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Source: Purchase          My Rating: 3/5 stars

Brit’s life is something of a fairytale.  She’s a talented goalie who has bounced around in the minors for most of career, but recently, the San Francisco Gold have decided to take a chance on the rarest of a rare, a female goalie for an NHL team.  She’s very good on the ice, is eager to learn and improve, and most importantly, become a real member of the team.  Some goals are an uphill battle from the very beginning . . . . .

Brit comes to the Gold with a past, just like everyone else, but as the rare female player in a male-dominated sport, her past is a bit scarier than that of her male teammates.  Assault is the best word for it, and that assault at the hands of another team has left Brit both skittish and determined.  On the skittish side, Brit never allows herself to be cornered or caught in the showers alone and has learned to forcefully defend herself.  On the determined side, she’s hell bent on being accepted for her skills and abilities and willing to put in the monumental amount of work it will take to earn her the respect of her teammates. 

Brit is very much aware of her opportunity and how easily it can be taken away from her.  As a rookie, Brit has very little bargaining power and management knows that which makes Brit easy pickings for their dirty little scheme to bring some much-needed good press to the Gold.  All Brit must do is become a cliché, seduce the hottest and nicest guy on the team, and become the media’s hockey darlings.  Everything about this scheme makes Brit’s skin crawl, but isn’t just her career on the line!

Stefan takes his role as team captain seriously and after the disastrous media storm from the previous season, he’s looking to not only keep his team out of the media (in the bad way) and build a solid team who supports one another and plays the kind of hockey he knows they’re capable of playing.  The addition of Brit to the team is a boon as she’s a solid goalie and always working to improve her skills.  Though she can be prickly, Stefan likes Brit and wants to see her be successful with the Gold.  He also wants to experience some serious sexy time with her, but knows it’s against the rules, both personally and professionally.  Additionally, though no one knows it, Stefan is dealing with a personal matter which keeps him from becoming involved with anyone on a serious level.

Brit’s deal with the devil brings she and Stefan closer together with the surprising result of each genuinely liking the other.  There’s chemistry out the wazoo and as the friendship builds, so does the sexual tension.  Trouble is, both Brit and Stefan have some serious secrets they’re harboring and if they don’t come clean, it won’t matter how much they like and want one another, the trust will be broken and the relationship over before it ever really begins.

The Bottom Line:  Like so many first in series books, there is a great deal of ground to cover, loads of backstory, and generally more than a few characters to introduce.  That is certainly the case with Blocked, and unfortunately, the story and primary characters sort of got bogged down in all the extraneous material.  I wanted to like Blocked far more than I did and I think it has everything to do with being a first in a series book.  Brit and Stefan just weren’t strong enough, for me, to rise above all the other material (that must be added in this type of book!) and dominate the story.  Sure, they were players in the game, but there’s a lot of game going on this read and Brit and Stefan sort of got lost in it.  With all that being said, I’ve never found it fair to judge a series by its first book, unless that book was truly awful 😊  The San Francisco Gold are team which means there a whole host of players just waiting to have their story told.

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Backhand

Mike Stewart is a bad boy.

Sleeping around. Boozing. Fighting with teammates.

Name a bad behavior and he’s done it—done it so well, in fact, that he almost tanked his career as a starting defensemen for the NHL’s San Francisco Gold.

But Mike is done with all that. He’s starting with a fresh foot forward and putting his past behind him.

That is, until his past quite literally reappears before his eyes.

Sara Jetty is just as beautiful as she was a decade before, but Mike hasn’t seen her since she left for her first Olympics and scored a gold medal in women’s figure skating. Now something has put shadows in her eyes, a familiar type of hurt he is all too well versed in.

This Sara wants nothing to do with him. Their easy friendship is gone and in its place is a hardened woman who’s nothing like the girl from his past.

Still, Mike hasn’t become a top defensemen in the NHL by being afraid of hard work, and he isn’t about to let Sara push him away. Come hell or high water, he’s going to crack her tough outer shell and find the sweet, innocent woman he’s lusted after and loved, in equal measure, for more than ten years.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

Mike Stewart has been around hockey his whole life.  Of late, he’s developed quite a nasty reputation for his on-ice antics, especially during practice, and his excessive drinking.  His teammates really can’t stand him, but he’s such a good player, management won’t let him go.  If he doesn’t get it together, he won’t have a friend left in the world . . . . or, at least none from his present life.

Sara Jetty has had a super-crappy life over the last decade or so.  What started out as such a promising career as a figure skater, quickly turned to shame, ridicule, and banishment from the sport she dearly loved following a scandal Sara had nothing to do with.  Unfortunately, perception is everything and with a lot of falsified “proof” Sara was convicted in the court of public opinion which led the figure skating powers that be to banish her from the sport.  The conviction and banishment tore Sara’s world apart and she has spent years trying to put the past behind her and move forward.  That is, until Mike Stewart quite unexpectedly walked back into her life.

As a teenager and young adult, Sara was everything to Mike and he adored spending every morning in the car with her on the way to practice.  Sara was kind and compassionate and understood, better than most, Mike’s determination to make something of himself in the sport he loves.  The two bonded over ice time and injuries, and their unwillingness to compromise their dreams.  Both were driven and determined, but that all fall apart for Sara just as Mike’s dream was becoming a reality.  While he tried to reach out to her, Sara refused to engage and simply disappeared from Mike’s life.  With his unexpected discovery of her in San Francisco, Mike is more determined than ever to find out what really happened to Sara all those years ago, right the wrongs of the past, and make Sara a permanent fixture in his life once again.

With Sara back in his life, Mike is more resolved than ever to behave himself and that attitude is coming through loud and clear with his teammates.  With his professional life getting back on track, it’s time to focus on Sara and the slaying of her demons.  Sara is beyond hesitant to become involved with Mike because she knows he’s going to push her past her comfort zone and force her to face her past, deal with it, and truly move forward with her life.  She has talent beyond the ice rink and if Mike can just build her confidence, he firmly believes they can have an amazing life together.  The biggest hurdle is going to be getting all the dirty details out in the open and dealing with whatever fallout, both personally and socially there may be. 

The Bottom Line:  Backhand definitely doesn’t suffer from the old sophomore and it is a much smoother and more enjoyable read than book one, Blocked!  Mike is carry over from book one and he is so much more likeable in round two than he was in round one!  He was really quite detestable in Blocked 😊  His sensitivity toward Sara and his true and pure desire to not only help her, but be a better man is so endearing.  Mike knows Sara hasn’t really been living her life for the past decadeish, and he wants to see her heal and live the life she deserves.  For Sara, having Mike back in her life is a double-edged sword; he wants what’s best for her, but he’s also going to make her relive some truly painful things before it will all get better.  It’s so going to be worth it!  With their shared history, Mike and Sara’s story really is a combination of a past meets present and second chance at love read and I was all up it from start to finish.  Bring on round three, Elisa Faber!!  I’m ready for some more San Francisco Gold!!!

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Review: The Other Girl by Erica Spindler

The Other GirlOfficer Miranda Rader of the Hammond PD in Louisiana is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from Jasper, just south of Hammond, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to leave the girl she used to be behind and earn respect in her position as an officer.

However, when Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the gruesomeness of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about a terrible night from her long-buried past. Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop, and not just any cop—Clint Wheeler, the cop who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda. 14 years ago.

And when her fingerprints turn up at the scene of the first murder, Miranda once again finds herself under the microscope, her honesty and integrity doubted, her motivations questioned. Alone again, the trust of her colleagues shattered, Miranda must try to trust the instincts she’s pushed down for so long, and decide what’s right—before it’s too late.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image  

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

Fifteen years is a very long time to spend outrunning your past, but Miranda Rader has been doing so and that run has been fueled by more than a little anger and sheer determination.  That night, that one single night fifteen years ago scared Miranda straight and since then she has used her iron will power to forge a life beyond what everyone in her small town thought she would be. 

As a kid, Miranda was willful and stubborn and living in an environment that didn’t exactly enforce the rules.  She was used to being in trouble and if it weren’t for the kidnapping, she likely would have ended up in jail or worse.  Instead, she and another poor unfortunate girl were taken and assaulted by a psychopath who enjoyed the mental torture as much as the physical.  Though Miranda escaped before the truly awful could happen to her, she wasn’t able to convince anyone, the police included of her story which meant, the other girl was left in the hands of a sick man.  Turns out, when you’ve been proven a liar in the past and been in loads of trouble, people are less apt to believe you. 

Over the past fifteen years, Miranda has often wondered about and felt tremendously guilty over the girl she left behind all those years ago.  In her own way, Miranda has spent the past fifteen years working to right that wrong.  As a cop, she helps those in need and brings to justice, those who have wronged others.  She is dedicated to her job, an asset to her department, and loyal to a fault.  That is, until she’s called to the scene of a vicious and clearly personal murder that shakes the foundation of Miranda’s carefully constructed world and causes her doubt everything and everyone around her. 

From the moment she’s brought into the murder of the beloved professor, Miranda knows there is more to the story than anyone is letting on.  Each new clue, each new bit of evidence, and each new statement convinces Miranda of a deeper plot that has something (perhaps everything) to do with that fateful night so many years ago.  On the surface, the two events couldn’t possibly be related, but Miranda is very good at her job and she isn’t willing to let justice slide no matter who may be brought down in the pursuit.  All Miranda can hope for it to find the big bads before her own career and life are taken away from her. 

The Bottom Line:  The Other Girl was my first Erica Spindler read and I’m sure glad I started here.  Miranda is a top-notch character with a drive that can only be described as relentless.  As her awful past comes crashing into her present and future, Miranda must fight to preserve what she’s built, even in the face of betrayal.  Just like that night fifteen years ago, Miranda’s life is turned upside down and inside out in an instant and she must use every resource and every ounce of her strength and intelligence to solve not one, but two horrific crimes.  In truth, I liked all the betrayal and mistrust in this read as it made Miranda even more resilient and determined to right a lot of wrongs.  There are so many twists and turns in this reads that I was engaged throughout.  The reveal of the big bad(s) didn’t come as a great shock, but it is a very satisfying thing to see how everyone, good and bad alike, get exactly what they deserve in the end.  In all, a fine mystery for those who enjoy such things 😊

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