Review: Don’t Give Me Butterflies (Book #3: The Holloway Girls Series) by Tara Sheets

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As the Queen of Impulsive Decisions, Kat Davenport has found herself without a job or a place to live. So settling on Pine Cove Island isn’t the sanest choice–meaning it’s perfect. Like the mysterious Holloway cousins, Kat has her own unique gift. In her case, it’s a knack for communicating with animals. Which makes getting hired at the local animal shelter feel like kismet. Especially when she finds a room to rent at a nearby lavender farm–complete with a sweet landlord and her brawny grandson–a guy who happens to give Kat an all-too-familiar flutter in her stomach…

Jordan Prescott isn’t back in Pine Cove to find romance. He’s here to sell the family farm, a fact that bewilders Kat. A former foster kid, she can’t understand why he’d give up his childhood home. So when the big-hearted beauty starts bringing home strays from the shelter, Jordan is suddenly her adversary. Until their fiery disagreements turn into fiery kisses…

Now Kat is falling for a man who will likely make her homeless yet again. Unless she learns how to lend her considerable powers to taming the beast lurking inside this prince…

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Source: NetGalley, Zebra, and Purchase          Rating: 5/5 stars

 

“I’ve never done this,” she mused.

“Had s’mores and beer with a donkey in the middle of the night?  Me neither.”

Jordan Prescott couldn’t imagine a place a he wants to be less than Pine Cove.  If it weren’t for his beloved grandmother, Jordan would have never returned to his hometown and the memories that have haunted him for the bulk of his life.  Jordan’s time in Pine Cove is going to be as short as is humanly possible and once he leaves, there will never be a reason to return. 

Jordan’s goal is to get his family’s failing lavender farm into shape, cleaned up, and on the market in as little time as possible.  Though he more than has the money to have the work done from afar, Jordan knows coming home and dealing with the issues in person will also help him deal with his own demons.  In addition, seeing his grandmother and getting her settled is an added bonus.  Finding the woman he’s always wanted and falling in love, not on the agenda.  Finding a woman with an unusual connection to animals and magic who has no interest in ever leaving Pine Cove, absolutely not on the agenda. 

Kat Davenport has never had a true home.  As a foster child with an unusual gift for communicating with animals, finding a forever home was never in the cards for Kat.  On impulse, Kat recently decided to stay in Pine Cove in the hopes of turning over a new leaf and finally finding a place for herself in the world.  Her first order of business is finding a new job and a place to live: the job is covered by the local pet rescue facility and the place to live is covered by Jordan Prescott and his garage apartment.  Though her relationship with Jordan isn’t stellar, Kat needs a place to live and the farm is quite ideal.  Add to the perfection of the site the space for rescue animals and Kat feels she’s found her version of heaven.  With the help of Jordan’s enthusiastic grandmother, Kat is able to give a home to a three-legged dog, a pregnant kitty, a hyperactive goat, and set of cocooned butterflies.  While Kat, her animals, and Jordan’s grandmother are thrilled with the arrangement, Jordan is less so and takes every opportunity to remind Kat of the temporary nature of their arrangement. 

As so often happens in Pine Cove and especially with the Holloway’s, there is magic afoot and acting on all the players.  Kat finds a most unexpected connection to the Holloways, her job and living arrangement provides her with a very real way to help the animals she so easily communicates with, and Jordan, under the crusty, sexy exterior proves to be quite a wonderful surprise.  For Jordan, the magic isn’t quite as real as it is for Kat, but it is certainly working on him.  The time spent on the farm causes Jordan to not only deal with his issues related to his parents, but to reevaluate his own life, wants, and desires.  Jordan is stubborn and it isn’t until he has lost everything that he pulls his head out and admits the truth of his heart. 

The Bottom Line: There is so much to love about this book and I just going to call it right here and now, this is the best book in the series.  Kat isn’t just delightful, she’s a load of wonderful and her affinity with animals makes her so very special.  I devoured every interaction between Kat and her animals and reread several passages just to take it all in again.  Jordan is one of my favorite character types, the tall, broody, sexy man who thinks he knows it all until he encounters what it is he truly needs to have and know it all.  My favorite example of this in this book is undoubtedly Jordan’s responses throughout the book to Clementine and her babies.  I also quite enjoyed the interaction with the Holloway house!  The house is in fine form in this book and it becomes a very real part of the story and bringing Kat into the fold.  In all, this is a wonderfully imaginative feel-good read that had me hooked from page one; seriously, I read this thing in a single sitting 😊  If this is, as I suspect, the end of this series, then Don’t Give Me Butterflies is the perfect end to a fantastic series that has really brought me a great deal of pleasure.

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Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Café (Book #1: At the Cupcake Café Series) by Jenny Colgan

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe (A Novel with Recipes Book 0) by [Colgan, Jenny]

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Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that – Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. So when she’s made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment and open up her own cafe.

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Source: NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group     Rating: 4/5 stars

Issy Randall has a crappy job and an even crappier “boyfriend.”  When both are lost on the same day, Issy can see no way forward that doesn’t involve yet another crappy, unfulfilling job and loneliness.  The only thing that brings her any joy is the time she spends in the kitchen backing cupcakes from recipes she learned at her beloved grandfather’s side.  What it amounts to for Issy is two choices: 1) continue as she has and be, at best, unhappy, or 2) make a huge change that will be challenging but will make her happy. 

Armed with her grandfather’s recipes and a can-do attitude, Issy decides to make a huge change in her life and rents a small space in her neighborhood with the intention of opening a cupcake café.  The only aspect of this crazy plan Issy is sure about is her cupcakes which take delectable to a whole new level.  Issy is calm, cool, and collected in the kitchen and doesn’t doubt the neighborhood will love her sweet treats. All she has to do is learn how to open and run a business and bring customers into a site that has historically been an utter failure.  No pressure!

In short order, Issy finds herself a banking/business advisor, Austin and hires a down on her luck single mom, Pearl who is a force of nature.  Between Issy, Pearl, Austin, and the construction crew, the Cupcake Café gets a face lift, a swift and thorough cleaning, and is ready for business.  With high hopes and glass cases full of delights, Issy is ready for the crowds to descend upon her.  Unfortunately, as most new business owners quickly discover, unless you’ve done a ton of advertising (Issy has not), there will be no crowds in the early day ☹  It takes word of mouth, a quality product, and, as it turns out, a bus accident for Issy’s labor of love to get off the ground and see success. 

Issy is thrilled with her success but finds that with success comes sacrifices.  Her love life is a mess thanks to the crappier “boyfriend,” her best friend is slipping away thanks to lack of time spent together, and Issy’s beloved grandfather is quickly fading leaving her precious little time to be with him.  As events begin to spiral out of control, Issy begins to understand that she must find a balance between her work and personal life or one day she is going to look up and find she is right back where she started and not at all happy.

The Bottom Line: In real life, I greatly admire people who are able to recognize both their strengths and their weaknesses; what’s more I like it when those same people play to their strengths and know who to ask to help them with their weaknesses.  I got a whole lot of that kind of like out of Issy in this book!  Despite some setbacks and some really poor decisions, Issy is determined to make her dream happen and she surrounds herself (mostly!) with people who can help her realize her dream.  Pearl helps Issy find her strength and her voice, Austin and his scary accountant help Issy keep her business on track, financially speaking, and Caroline, in her own acerbic way helps Issy break into a segment of the population she wouldn’t normally have access to.  In return, Issy helps both women with the various issues in their own lives; ultimately, everyone involved learns valuable lessons about love, friendship, kindness, and loyalty.  Take all of this and combine it with some truly scrumptious descriptions of cupcakes and Meet Me at the Cupcake Café is a pretty perfect read.

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Review: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris (A Novel with Recipes) by [Colgan, Jenny]

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As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris. 

It’s a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime — to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier. 

With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate — and herself — than she ever dreamed.

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Source: NetGalley and Sphere          Rating: 2½/5 stars

On the surface, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is exactly the kind of book I was going to dive into and not come out of until the very least page.  On the surface, what’s not to love?  A chocolate shop, wonderful descriptions of delightful sweets, a woman trying to get her life back on track following a strange but true accident, and the sites and scenery of Paris. 

As I dove into the book, I found a very different book than I expected, and I can’t say I was at all thrilled with what I found.  I am the type of reader who loves good, strong, interesting, and full-bodied characters and when they work, they can carry a weaker plot, but when they don’t work, they take a good book and just sink it.  Unfortunately, the latter and not the former is what I found with The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris.

 Character breakdown:

Alice: Likely the most horrible character in the book!  From start to finish, Alice is a tremendous terror with nothing in her blood but spite and anger.  Alice is only ever concerned with her own life, her own well-being, and her own wants and desires.  She is selfish beyond belief and has not one single redeeming quality.  I found every scene and every encounter with her to be absolutely painful. 

Anna: This is the one character I genuinely liked in this book.  Anna has had a rough go of life of late and Paris and the chocolate shop is her chance to alter the course of her life.  From the moment she arrives in Paris, Anna is faced with uncertainty and difficulties in every aspect of her life.  The chocolate shop isn’t at all what she expected, her work hours make a social life difficult, and the people she is surrounded with are unpredictable and often difficult.  What sets Anna apart from the rest of the characters is her resilience, her kindness, and determination to live her life in a way that makes her truly happy and not just content.

Claire: I feel bad disliking a character who is dying, but Claire made it difficult to like and sympathize with her.  Though I know and understand Claire’s intentions toward Anna came from a good place, they also came from a selfish place.  Claire has spent her life always wanting something she once had but lost.  In all the years since she left Paris (as a teenager!), Claire has never been able to move forward, to appreciate the love and people she had in her life.  In essence, Claire has lived a sad life of her own making thanks to her inability to let go of the past and focus on the good in the present.

Laurent:  Meet the man-child of the bunch!  Laurent and his father have creative difference where their chocolate making is concerned and unfortunately, those creative differences (and ALICE!) have driven a wedge between them.  Like Claire, Laurent can’t seem to let go of the past nor can he let go of petty grievances.  His general attitude toward his father, Alice (she deserves it!), and people in general is one of indifference and if their presence in his life doesn’t help him, they likely aren’t worth his time or energy and when things don’t go his way, he tends towards a fit.  Man. Child.

Thierry: Because of his generally affable nature, Thierry is a man I desperately wanted to like, but just could not, in the end.  Thierry has spent his life, his entire life, pursuing his own interests and appetites with little interest in how his actions and pursuits have consequences for not only himself but others.  While Thierry’s attitude towards life has always been happy-go-lucky, his attitude towards his work has been single-minded, focused, and uncompromising.  Thierry wants only to produce the best chocolate and his reputation certainly reflects his passion.  What most don’t know is how his uncompromising nature has caused tension between he and his son and ruined nearly every relationship he has ever had.

The Bottom Line: I liked the premise of this book, I really liked the descriptions of the food and sweets, but all that cancelled out by truly disagreeable characters.  What’s more, I found the shifts between the past and the present to be abrupt rather than smooth transitions.  Though I never gave up on this book, I found it difficult to get through and I think I stayed with it simply because of the author and other books of hers I have quite liked.  As with every accomplished and long-running author, not every book is a winner for every reader, and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is that book for me.

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Guest Post and Spotlight: Mahoney by Andrew Joyce

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In this compelling, richly researched novel, author Andrew Joyce tells a riveting story of adventure, endurance, and hope as the Mahoney clan fights to gain a foothold in America.

In the second year of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine—nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney lies on the dirt floor of his small, dark cabin. He has not eaten in five days. His only hope of survival is to get to America, the land of milk and honey. After surviving disease and storms at sea that decimate crew and passengers alike, Devin’s ship limps into New York Harbor three days before Christmas, 1849. Thus starts an epic journey that will take him and his descendants through one hundred and fourteen years of American history, including the Civil War, the Wild West, and the Great Depression.

Guest Post by Andrew Joyce:

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Leisha has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new book, Mahoney. So I thought I might entertain you with a story about the publishing business.

My first book, Yellow Hair, was a 164,000-word historical novel. And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing, to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.

So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!

I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer and banged out Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months. I had them as adults in the Old West. Then I sent out query letters to literary agents.

A few weeks later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in the country emailed me. He loved the story and suggested a few changes. They were good suggestions, and I incorporated about 80% of them into the book. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults. And just for the record, the final word count was 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon (twice) and won the Editor’s Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.

But not quite.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. My readers really enjoyed the book. Reviewer after reviewer said they would love a sequel, but given how I ended the story, I could not envision that being possible. Then I started getting emails and phone calls from my agent, badgering me to continue the adventure. At first I ignored him. Finally, to stop the badgering, I started MOLLY LEE, a “sort of” sequel. It’s a stand-alone book, a parallel story, if you will. (Molly was a minor character in Redemption.)

Then, of course, I had to do a sequel to the sequel, hence RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure.

After I got done with Huck, Tom, and Molly, I turned my attention to my first novel, the one I couldn’t sell to an agent. I whittled it down from 164,000 words to 132,000 and published it myself. And guess what? It won Book of the Year from one outfit and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from another.

So, I reckon the moral of the story is: Stay true to your vision, but along the way, it’s all right to conform to the norms people try to place on you.

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About the author and where to find him:

AndrewAndrew Joyce left home 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 seven 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.

Andrew’s Website

 

Excerpt: Bang Bang by Belle Brooks

Bang, bang!
They shot us down.
Bang, bang!
We ran through town.
Bang, bang!
Now here I am …
Bang, bang
… in an undercover police sting. 
 
Miranda Sikes is a twenty-year-old university student who hates venturing into the city, but her grandmother’s watchband isn’t going to repair itself.
The watchband doesn’t get fixed. 
She misses the bus home.
She’s stuck in the one place she loathes.
But there’s a silver lining: free wedding cake by Alessandro. It’s only the best cake in the world. Now all Miranda needs is a fiancé to dine with so she can meet the store’s terms. 
Miranda’s next decision will change the course of her day, her year, and her life. 
And it all happens when she grabs the arm of a man named Haggerty, finds herself shoeless while running down a busy street, and is forced to dive to the ground when she hears …
 
BANG! BANG!
Excerpt
We stand across the room from each other. Lane with a huge smirk plastered across his handsome face. I rub my chin, wondering how I can bring down this brick shithouse. I used the only trick I had in my bag of moves. What to do, what to do?

“Are you ready to charge at me again, or are you going to let me show you how to do this properly?”

I match his smirk. “Oh, you’re going down, doll face.”

“Doll face? Really?” His eyebrows hitch.

“It’s what I said, isn’t it?” I flip him the bird, which causes him to laugh once more.

“Okay, then it’s your funeral,” he teases.

“Or yours.”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so.”

“Well, come on then. I’m getting bored waiting.” He fake yawns, patting his hand in front of his lips.

Him and his smart mouth.
I bend my knees then sway from side to side. Go for his throat. That’s what I need to do.

“Are you coming or what?” He winks.

I need to show him I’m in control. I push my shoulders back and bounce on the balls of my feet until I take off at full pace towards him, bending my right arm and leaning in with my elbow.

Lane’s hands take my legs, and he flips me upside down. Mothertrucker. I scramble against his strength, and flick my legs around his neck, crossing my feet over each other behind his head, my head bouncing by his knees.

“Wrong move again,” he says. I feel his breath between my legs.

No shit!
I dangle, like a dead weight, until I cackle and squeeze my thighs as hard as I can around his neck.

Death by thigh strangulation. It could happen.

“Stop!” he shouts.

It’s working. I’m winning … until I’m not.

Born in Australia, Belle Brooks has always had a passion for books and creative writing. She loves exploring the different ways stories can be told through the use of text and in-depth characters. Since she was a child her strong talent and interest in creative writing was evident, explaining that her favourite class in school was English. Despite her love for all things books, she decided the world of advertising and marketing was where she could put her talents to use in the business realm, well that is until now. Belle enjoys creative writing and creating fictional stories that leave a valued message inside the pages.
 
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Excerpt: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Escape Room coverWelcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

Excerpt

PROLOGUE:  It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning. The young security guard spoke in an unsteady voice, fear disguised by cocky nonchalance.

Miguel had been an aspiring bodybuilder until he injured his back lifting boxes in a warehouse job and had to take night- shift work guarding a luxury office tower in the final stages of construction. He had a muscular physique, dark hair, and a cleft in his chin.

He was conducting a cursory inspection when a scream rang out. At first, he didn’t hear a thing. Hip- hop music blasted through the oversize headphones he wore as he swept his flashlight across the dark recesses of the lobby.

The beam flicked across the classical faces of reproduction Greek busts cast in metal and inset into niches in the walls. They evoked an eerie otherworldliness, which gave the place the aura of a mausoleum.

Miguel paused his music to search for a fresh play list of songs. It was then that he heard the tail end of a muffled scream.

The sound was so unexpected that he instinctively froze. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard strange noises at night, whether it was the screech of tomcats brawling or the whine of construction cranes buffeted by wind. Silence followed. Miguel chided himself for his childish reaction.

He pressed PLAY to listen to a new song and was immediately assaulted by the explosive beat of a tune doing the rounds at the dance clubs where he hung out with friends.

Still, something in the screech he’d heard a moment before rattled him enough for him to be extra diligent.

He bent down to check the lock of the revolving lobby door. It was bolted shut. He swept the flashlight across a pair of still escalators and then, above his head, across the glass- walled mezzanine floor that overlooked the lobby.

He checked behind the long reception desk of blond oak slats and noticed that a black chair was at an odd angle, as if someone had left in a hurry.

A stepladder was propped against a wall where the lobby café was being set up alongside a water fountain that was not yet functional. Plastic- wrapped café tables and chairs were piled up alongside it.

In the far corner, he shone his flashlight in the direction of an elaborate model of the building complex shown to prospective tenants by Realtors rushing to achieve occupancy targets in time for the building’s opening the following month.

The model detailed an ambitious master plan to turn an abandoned ware house district that had been a magnet for homeless people and addicts into a high- end financial and shopping precinct. The first tower was almost finished. A second was halfway through construction.

When Miguel turned around to face the elevator lobby, he was struck by something so incongruent that he pushed his headphones off his head and onto his shoulders.

The backlit green fluorescent light of an elevator switch flickered in the dark. It suggested that an elevator was in use. That was impossible, because he was the only person there.

In the sobriety of the silent echo that followed, he convinced himself once again that his vague sense of unease was the hallucination of a fatigued mind. There was nobody in the elevator for the simple reason that the only people on- site on weekends were the security
guards. Two per shift. Except to night, Miguel was the only one on duty.

When Stu had been a no- show for his shift, Miguel figured he’d manage alone. The construction site was fenced off with towering barbed- wire fences and a heavy- duty electric gate. Nobody came in or out until the shift ended.

In the four months he’d worked there, the only intruders he’d encountered were feral cats and rats scampering across construction equipment in the middle of the night. Nothing ever happened during the night shift.

That was what he liked about the job. He was able to study and sleep and still get paid. Sometimes he’d sleep for a couple of hours on the soft leather lobby sofa, which he found preferable to the lumpy stretcher in the portable office where the guards took turns resting
between patrols. The CCTV cameras hadn’t been hooked up yet, so he could still get away with it.

From the main access road, the complex looked completed. It had a driveway entry lined with young maples in planter boxes. The lobby had been fitted out and furnished to impress prospective tenants who came to view office space.

The second tower, facing the East River, looked unmistakably like a construction site. It was wrapped with scaffolding. Shipping containers storing building materials were arranged like colorful Lego blocks in a muddy field alongside idle bulldozers and a crane.

Miguel removed keys from his belt to open the side entrance to let himself out, when he heard a loud crack. It whipped through the lobby with an intensity that made his ears ring.

Two more cracks followed. They were unmistakably the sound of gunshots. He hit the ground and called 911. He was terrified the shooter was making his way to the lobby but cocky enough to cover his fear with bravado when he spoke.

“Something bad’s going down here.” He gave the 911 dispatcher the address. “You should get cops over here.”

Miguel figured from the skepticism in the dispatcher’s cool voice that his call was being given priority right below the doughnut run.

His heart thumped like a drum as he waited for the cops to arrive. You chicken shit, he berated himself as he took cover behind a sofa. He exhaled into his shirt to muffle the sound of his rapid breathing. He was afraid he would give away his position to the shooter.

A wave of relief washed over him when the lobby finally lit up with a hazy blue strobe as a police car pulled in at the taxi stand. Miguel went outside to meet the cops.

“What’s going on?” An older cop with a thick gut hanging over his belted pants emerged from the front passenger seat.

“Beats me,” said Miguel. “I heard a scream. Inside the building. Then I heard what I’m pretty sure were gunshots.”

“How many shots?” A younger cop came around the car to meet him, snapping a wad of gum in his mouth.

“Two, maybe three shots. Then nothing.”

“Is anyone else around?” The older cop’s expression was hidden under a thick gray mustache.

“They clear out the site on Friday night. No construction workers. No nobody. Except me. I’m the night guard.”

“Then what makes you think there’s a shooter?”

“I heard a loud crack. Sure sounded like a gunshot. Then two more. Came from somewhere up in the tower.”

“Maybe construction equipment fell? That possible?”

A faint thread of red suffused Miguel’s face as he contemplated the possibility that he’d panicked over nothing. They moved into the lobby to check things out, but he was feeling less confident than when he’d called 911. “I’m pretty sure they—” He stopped speaking as they
all heard the unmistakable sound of a descending elevator.

“I thought you said there was nobody here,” said the older cop.

“There isn’t.”

“Could have fooled me,” said the second cop. They moved through to the elevator lobby. A light above the elevator doors was flashing to indicate an elevator’s imminent arrival. “Someone’s here.”

“The building opens for business in a few weeks,” said Miguel. “Nobody’s supposed to be here.”

The cops drew their guns from their holsters and stood in front of the elevator doors in a shooting stance— slightly crouched, legs apart. One of the cops gestured furiously for Miguel to move out of the way. Miguel stepped back. He hovered near an abstract metal sculpture
set into the wall at the dead end of the elevator lobby.

A bell chimed. The elevator heaved as it arrived.

The doors parted with a slow hiss. Miguel swallowed hard as the gap widened. He strained to see what was going on. The cops were blocking his line of sight and he was at too sharp an angle to see much.

“Police,” shouted both cops in unison. “Put your weapon down.”

Miguel instinctively pressed himself against the wall. He flinched as the first round of bullets was fired. There were too many shots to count. His ears rang so badly, it took him a moment to realize the police had stopped firing. They’d lowered their weapons and were shouting something. He didn’t know what. He couldn’t hear a thing over the ringing in his ears.

Miguel saw the younger cop talk into his radio. The cop’s mouth opened and closed. Miguel couldn’t make out the words. Gradually, his hearing returned and he heard the tail end of a stream of NYPD jargon.

He couldn’t understand most of what was said. Something about “nonresponsive” and needing “a bus,” which he assumed meant an ambulance. Miguel watched a trickle of blood run along the marble floor until it formed a puddle. He edged closer. He glimpsed blood splatter on the wall of the elevator. He took one more step. Finally, he could see inside the elevator. He immediately regretted it. He’d never seen so much blood in all his life.

From The Escape Room. Copyright © 2019 by Megan Goldin and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

Buy The Escape Room HERE

About the author:

Megan Goldin Hi Res

MEGAN GOLDIN worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. THE ESCAPE ROOM is her debut novel.

 

 

Review and Excerpt: A Highlander Walks into a Bar (Book #1: Highland, Georgia Series) by Laura Trentham

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Isabel Buchanan is fiery, funny, and never at a loss for words. But she is struck speechless when her mother returns from a trip to Scotland with a six-foot-tall, very handsome souvenir. Izzy’s mother is so infatuated by the fellow that Izzy has to plan their annual Highland Games all by herself. Well, not completely by herself. The Highlander’s strapping young nephew has come looking for his uncle…  Alasdair Blackmoor has never seen a place as friendly as this small Georgia town—or a girl as brilliant and beguiling as Izzy. Instead of saving his uncle, who seems to be having a lovely time, Alasdair decides he’d rather help Izzy with the Highland Games. Show her how to dance like a Highlander. Drink like a Highlander. And maybe, just maybe, fall in love with a Highlander. But when the games are over, where do they go from here?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and St. Martin’s Paperbacks     Rating: 4/5 stars

Isabel Buchanan accepted her mother’s eccentricity many years ago.  In fact, these days, Isabel is rarely surprised by her mother, her wild ideas, antics and shenanigans.  However, bringing home a real, live Scotsman from her latest trip abroad has Isabel questioning her mother’s sanity.  Though the two seem all cuddly and cozy (EW!) Isabel is mistrustful and worried about the Scot’s motives.  To make matters even worse (REALLY?) the Scot seems to have a delectable friend, Alasdair Blackmoor, who’s also in town, looking and acting rather suspicious. 

Since her father’s death, Isabel and her mother have done their level best to maintain their large state in Highland, Georgia.  A part of the estate’s legacy is the annual Highland Games and though it is a monumental undertaking, Isabel is determined to preserve the tradition.  According to her mother, with two real, authentic Scots in town and willing to help, this year’s games should be the best ever offered.  Though Isabel is a fan of authenticity and always strives to put on a good show, she isn’t quite ready to take the help being offered by two complete strangers with questionable motives. 

Alasdair Blackmoor is somewhat befuddled by Highland, Georgia, Isabel Buchanan, a his “friend.”  In order of befuddlement: 1) Alasdair cannot fathom why his “friend” is hiding his true identity from the Buchanans, 2) Highland, Georgia really is what it advertises, a little piece of Scotland in the American South, 3) Why is Isabel so mistrustful and suspicious?  As if things weren’t complicated enough, Alasdair has agreed to go along with his “friend’s” misrepresentation of himself and to do a little digging of his own. Surely, Isabel and her mother are out for something and cannot possibly have any good intentions.  Trouble is, once Alasdair starts digging, he inadvertently digs a big hole that threatens to take away everything the Buchanan’s know and love. 

As the days leading up to the Highland (Georgia) Games draws nearer, Isabel’s mother and her beau are in their own little happy bubble and rarely come out for air.  Isabel is consumed with Games details and with her mother out of commission, so to speak, Isabel has no choice but to accept Alasdair’s help.  As is happens, Alasdair is not only a willing volunteer, but a generally nice guy.  Though she certainly didn’t intend to like (or trust!) Alasdair, his actions and his words indicate his good intentions and he’s fun to be with.  Additionally, he’s dead sexy and has Isabel thinking seriously about the possibility of little fling with a hot Scot.  Unfortunately, great sex isn’t enough to make up for all the deception and when the truth about everyone finally crawls out of the darkness, Isabel is certain she should have hung on to the feeling is mistrust.

The Bottom Line:  What a fun little rom-com!  Nearly every relationship in this book is based on a misrepresentation and that certainly makes for some interesting encounters, conversations, and situations.  Perhaps the best part of all the misrepresenting is the fact that everyone started out with good intentions or as a way to help someone else.  When it all blows up, it is a rather spectacular explosion that eventually gets worked out and leads to not one, but two HEAs.  Both Isabel and Alasdair are immensely likeable characters whose dance of distrust is highly entertaining and often funny.  Bound up with their trust issues are some serious feels and a boat load of lust; of course, all this mixed together makes for an excellent relationship and wonderfully funny read.  Finally, Trentham has clearly set this up as the first book in a series and I will be glad to revisit Highland, Georgia in the next installment.

Excerpt

Chapter One:

“I brought home a surprise!” Rose Buchanan threw her arms out wide as if embracing the world. From the sto- ries she told to the way she entered the room, Rose was exuberant and entertaining and enjoyed being the center of attention.

Isabel Buchanan, who was perfectly content on the fringes, pushed her wavy hair off her sticky forehead with hands that trembled from the nightmare drive through At- lanta to the airport to pick up her mom. Her mom’s trip to Scotland had doubled as both research and vacation. The jammed stop-and-go traffic had left Izzy flustered and al- ready dreading their exit from the airport.

Rolling her stiff shoulders, Izzy stepped around the bumper of the car, popping the trunk open on the way. Her mom had a beautiful plaid scarf of greens and browns and blues tossed over her shoulder and what appeared to be new earrings. Either purchase might inspire her mother to gush, and she would expect reciprocal gushing from Izzy. Making an educated guess, Izzy asked, “Are those ear-rings your surprise?”

Without waiting for an answer, she hauled one of her mom’s giant wheeled suitcases closer and prepared to heave it into the back. The sooner they got out of Atlanta, the sooner she could get back to work planning the High- land festival. Or she might pour an extra-large glass of wine and escape into a book. A guilty pleasure, consider- ing how much she still had to get in order in three scant weeks.

“Allow me, please.” A bearded man who had been roll- ing cases to the curb stepped forward with a grin and an accent Izzy couldn’t place.

She checked her pockets and winced. No cash to tip the man, and no hope her mom had thought of something so inconsequential.

“Do you like them? They’re hammered silver.” Her mom flipped her bobbed matching silver hair to the side and displayed one earring with her fingers. “And as a matter of fact, I did buy them from a lovely shop in Edin- burgh, but I brought something bigger home. Something more exciting.”

“Your scarf? It’s lovely.” Izzy gave her mom limited attention while she watched the man load suitcase after suitcase into her trunk, fitting them together like a puzzle. More luggage than her mom had left with. She waved to catch the man’s attention. “Hang on. That’s not all my mom’s stuff.”

For the first time, Izzy really looked at the man. He was close to her mom in age, and good-looking in a bear- like way with a gleaming white smile highlighted by a salt-and-pepper beard. His full head of hair was a shade darker, but graying heavily at the temples. The expres- sion on the man’s face when he looked in her mom’s direction—a mix of adoration and amusement—cleared the fog of confusion.

Lord have mercy, her mother had brought back a six- foot, two-hundred-pound-plus souvenir from Scotland.

From A Highlander Walks into a Bar. Copyright © 2019 by Laura Trentham and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

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About the author:

Laura Trentahm II

Laura Trentham is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, including Then He Kissed Me and The Military Wife. She is a member of RWA, and has been a finalist multiple times in the Golden Heart competition. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina.