Charli takes great pride in running one of the few independent, family-owned bookstores in
small-town Texas. She vets everything carefully, with an eye to the eclectic tastes of the locals. That includes the Book Barn’s weekly book club selection. This time out it’s a mystery whose characters bear a striking resemblance to local citizens, including Charli’s friend Sugar . . . who’s the prime suspect when her real-life nemesis is found dead in a hotel’s water tank.
With help from her pet armadillo Princess, Charli campaigns to clear Sugar’s sweet name—literally—when the up-for-election mayor becomes a killer’s next target. Murder and politics make scandalous bedfellows as Charli discovers that fiction may be fatal, but reality could be just as deadly . . .
“They all knew I was responsible; who else could cause that much uproar in town?”
Truer words have never been spoken by Charli Rae Warren and in this installment of the Book Bark Mystery series, Charli Rae is up to her butt in trouble only she can cause.
One would think, based on her track record that Charli Rae is a professional trouble seeker. While that is not the case, trouble always seems to find Charli Rae and once again, the trouble involves murder. What’s more, the suspected killers are two of the kindest people in all of Hazel Rock, and with few exceptions, no one can believe they really committed the crime. With only the right thing left to do, Charli Rae dives into the fray determined to clear her friends’ names.
Meanwhile . . . .
When not solving crimes and generally causing trouble, Charli Rae is determined to see her relationship with the super sexy sheriff move forward. Mateo is the only man Charli Rae has eyes for, but the stubborn man doesn’t quite understand her feelings. Adding to the confusion is the near-constant presence of Charli Rae’s ex, Mayor Cade Calloway. While Cade may be interested in Charli Rae, he has bigger fish to fry, larger life concerns, and he isn’t the type to make a move on another man’s woman. Trouble is, Cade needs Charli Rae’s help and he isn’t quite ready to reveal the why of it to the general public. As you might expect, this sort of subterfuge causes issue for Charlie Rae and Mateo. Because, she needs one more problem in her life 😊
Meanwhile . . . .
Simply because a grisly murder and man problems aren’t enough to deal with, Charli Rae also has a frisky armadillo on her hands. Princess has always been a good girl, behaving herself, keeping herself clean, and providing loads of love and laughs for Charli Rae and her customers. It seems, Princess has found herself a new boyfriend and most certainly isn’t an armadillo. Though Charli Rae tries to convince Princess of the error of her ways, her feisty girl isn’t having any of it! As far as Princess is concerned, everyone can either get good with her new man or get gone. Ironically, because of her boyfriend’s identity most really do want to get gone 😊
The Bottom Line: Killer Classics is chock a block full of all the things I have to come love in this series! Charli Rae is once again up to her butt in trouble, Mateo is frequently found dismayed by Charli Rae and her antics, Princess is up to her brand of mischief making, there’s a murder to be solved, and the citizens of Hazel Rock whom I have come to know, and love make plenty of appearances. I sincerely feel as if this series is getting stronger with each new book, as each character evolves, and the community becomes stronger after every trial and tribulation. This series is such a great mix of mystery, light romance, humor, and friendship and it has kept me entertained from the very beginning.
A snowstorm. Her much older business partner. One very hot night. Laura Holiday doesn’t believe in romance. Her life revolves around her work and her six-year-old son. The last thing she wants is a fling with her friend and business partner, Russ Matheson, who is emotionally unavailable and thirteen years older than her. But one night in a snowstorm changes their relationship forever.
“The snow is getting bad,” Russ said, turning back to look out the window.
“Is it?” Laura looked pretty and flustered and breathless. Her shoulder-length brown hair was slipping out of her ponytail, and she must have gotten hot because she’d taken off her sweater. She was wearing a fitted white shirt that gave him a clear view of her slim body, including the luscious curve of her breasts.
Russ dragged his eyes back up to her face, but that didn’t really help because she looked flushed and tousled, like she might have just gotten out of bed.
He gulped, remembering how she’d looked that morning in her pajamas.
He really needed to stop thinking such things.
Laura would be mad as hell if she found out.
He blinked, trying to refocus on their conversation. “What?”
“I asked if it was really bad out there.”
“Oh yeah. Take a look. It looks like the parking lot is mostly empty, so the customers have obviously cleared out. The roads must be pretty bad. You probably should have picked Tommy up early.”
“Shit.” Laura came over to stand beside him so she could look out the window too. “Well, I better go get him now before it gets any worse.”
“You want me to drive you?”
She turned her gaze up at him, her brown eyes big and deep. “I’m capable of driving in the snow, you know.”
“I know you are. It was just an offer.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll take the SUV.” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Olivia and Penny have to go out in this too. And I’ve got to stop by Candy Cane Cottage to assess the damage to the bathroom.”
“Surely that can wait.”
“We’ve got someone else renting it this weekend. I need to assess it so Ed has time to fix it tomorrow morning.”
Russ shook his head. “That driveway to Candy Cane Cottage is steep. You’re never going to get up it in this snow. And if you get up, you won’t be able to get down.”
“I’ll be fine. I told you I’m taking the SUV.”
“You’re putting a lot of faith in the powers of an SUV.”
“Oh shut up.” Her words weren’t sharp. Her expression was almost fond. “I can’t believe this snow. Why couldn’t it wait a few more hours?”
“The weather isn’t prone to following your timeline.” His voice was dry because she was still standing very close. He could smell the fresh scent of her hair. He wanted to tangle his fingers in it. He wanted to trace the freckles on her face and neck with his tongue.
“I don’t know why it shouldn’t follow my timeline. My timeline is a good one.” Her voice lilted slightly, and she leaned against the wall as she gazed up at him.
Russ took a step closer to her so he could smell her again. “I’ll let the weather know it needs to improve its performance to fall in line with your schedule.”
She took a shaky little breath, and her eyes dropped, causing her thick lashes to spread out against her freckled skin in a way that enchanted him. He edged a little closer, bracing one hand on the wall beside her.
He had her trapped against the wall now, and he’d completely forgotten the track of their conversation. His breathing had quickened, and his body had tightened, and his mind was buzzing with attraction. Need.
Something a lot deeper.
She wasn’t pushing him away. She wasn’t trying to cut the tension. She looked breathless. Excited.
Like maybe she wanted him to kiss her.
He wanted to kiss her more than he’d ever wanted to kiss anyone in his forty-five years. He’d assumed that was something she’d never want, but maybe…
He leaned forward a little more. He could hear her quick intake of breath. Her eyes darted up to his face and then down again.
“Russ,” she said, raising a hand to put on his chest the way she had that morning in the kitchen.
“Yes?” His voice was way too husky, but there was nothing he could do about that. She was so close. Almost within reach at last.
Her fingers fisted in the fabric of his shirt. “Russ.”
“Yes.” This time it wasn’t a question. It was the pure articulation of his heart.
She licked her lips, and the small gesture made his groin harden. “Russ, please don’t.”
He’d been leaning forward even more, but at that he grew very still. “Don’t what?”
“You know what.” She took another breath—different this time—and looked up to meet his eyes again. “Please don’t.”
“Laura, I’m not going to do anything you don’t want, but I think maybe you do want—”
“I don’t—” She broke in, dropping her hand from his shirt. “Please don’t.”
Russ sighed and took a purposeful step back, feeling like he’d been hit by a truck.
Laura gave him another quick look and then grabbed her purse and started for the door.
“Be careful,” Russ said as she left. “The roads are bad out there.”
“I’m always careful.”
Noelle handwrote her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Virginia, where she reads any book she can get her hands on and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel.
She loves travel, art, history, and ice cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary romances.
Sometimes happily ever after isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…
Theo Fitzcharles thought he’d put the worst behind him when he became King of Thalania and named his two lovers, Meg Sanders and Galen Mikos, as his Consorts. Unfortunately, the realities of running a country have worn on all of them, individually and as a triad. Theo has every intention of making things right, but first he has to deal with an old enemy who’s closer than anyone could have dreamed.
Meg Sanders never wanted to be a princess. Now that she’s one of two Consorts to the King of Thalania, she knows why—it’s work. Every time she turns around, she’s misstepping and struggling not to screw up the careful political maneuvering required for her new position. But her struggles with the new position are the least of her worries she’s attacked in the palace.
Theo, Galen, and Meg must race to identify her attacker and neutralize them before they can make another attempt to hurt her. There’s plenty of people who want Meg out of the palace—and at least one isn’t picky about whether she’s breathing or not when she goes.
Meg knew what she should do. She should tell Theo that the best way to take care of her and Galen was to talk to them. But with the candlelight playing across Theo’s skin and his skillful hands working at the knots in her shoulders, she couldn’t work up the energy to fight with him. “I’m not happy with you.”
“I know.” He dug into a particularly tight knot, working it with his thumb. “What do you need from me tonight, princess?”
She let her eyes close, let him keep working his magic on her body. Six months into their relationship, and Meg knew that Theo would give her anything she asked for. If she wanted him and Galen to dress up like Vikings and roleplay one of her favorite scenes in a romance novel she was reading, he’d do it without question. He had done it without question last month. Theo might be fucking up on communication and overworked to the point where she barely saw him, but she never doubted for a second that he loved her and wanted her happy.
She slipped beneath the surface of the water. Free of his touch, clarity didn’t suddenly strike her like lightning. If there was an answer, she didn’t have it. Meg slowly stood and let herself drink in the way Theo watched her. As if she was some kind of Aphrodite rising out of the ocean instead of standing here in their tub. “I just want you tonight, Theo. None of the bullshit. Just you.”
He nodded and grabbed one of the ridiculously large towels they kept stocked in here. “Let me take care of you tonight,” he repeated.
Easy enough to read in between the lines of what he wanted. A reprieve in a long line of reprieves. Theo was trying to hold off the inevitable conversation all three of them had to have until he could iron out the mess Thalania had become in his absence. Or maybe the backbiting politics and squabbling seven Families had always been like this. Either way, Theo wanted time to get it handled.
She just wished he’d lean on her and Galen a little bit in the meantime.
Meg stepped out of the tub and let him wrap her in the towel. “Like I’m going to say no.”
Theo dried her gently, thoroughly, making quick work of it. He had a face built for candlelight, all sharp angles and a beauty that was damn near painful to witness. The passing time should have inoculated her to the sight of him, but then he would turn just so or look at her with those big blue eyes, and she’d forget to breathe.
She blinked. “What?”
“You could say no.”
Meg laughed. She couldn’t help it. “Theo, have you looked in the mirror lately?”
He glanced over, and she followed his gaze to the large mirror situated on the other side of the bath. They painted quite the picture, him large and towering over her, his shock of near-black hair several shades darker than hers, his big hands holding the towel against her skin. For once, he wasn’t wearing his usual clothing of suits that cost enough to give Meg hives. In the workout shorts, he looked… Not normal. Theo would never be anything as mundane as normal.
He looked touchable.
So that was exactly what she did. Meg ran her hands up his stomach to his chest and stepped to him. “I know I could say no. I’ve said no to you more times than I can count since we’ve met.” She cupped his strong jaw with her palm. “Theo, are you okay?”
“No.” He pulled her slowly, inexorably closer, until her breasts pressed against his bare chest. “Just… Let me take care of you tonight, princess.”
The rare vulnerability he let her see in that moment seduced her as thoroughly as his body ever had. She nodded. “Yes.”
Theo swept her off her feet and carried her out of the bathroom. Normally, she’d give him shit for such a caveman move, but Meg didn’t want to poke at him tonight. She was tired and heartsore, and both her men were obviously feeling the same. They couldn’t fix the mess waiting for them outside those doors, but they could strengthen their foundations tonight.
She just hoped it would be enough.
Galen waited for them on the bed, clothed in only his skin. Her heart skipped a beat. As much as Theo’s beauty seduced her, Galen’s raw sex appeal knocked her right in the stomach. His dusky skin was crisscrossed with lighter scars, a testament to the abuse his father had leveled at him as a child. His dark hair had grown longer, losing the military-like cut. She liked it. There was a lot to like about Galen.
He watched Theo carry her toward him with a predatory look that sent a bolt of desire through her. Only good things came from Galen getting that expression on his face.
Theo set her on the bed just out of reach and pressed a hand to her shoulder. “Don’t move.” He was only gone a moment, disappearing back into the bathroom and reappearing with a hairbrush. He took up a position against the headboard and urged her to sit between his legs with her back to him.
Theo began carefully combing her wet hair.
Meg closed her eyes and let the gentle tug of the brush soothe her. The fluffy towel and Theo’s proximity kept her cozy, but Galen’s attention pricked along her skin, a promise of things to come. On and on it went. Theo was never one to do things halfway, but he seemed to enjoy the slow slide of the brush through her drying hair as much as she did.
Finally, he set the brush aside and eased her back against his chest. Her hair was almost dry at this point, but Theo moved its soft weight off her neck and pressed a kiss to her throat. He pulled the towel away from her body and tossed it off the bed, leaving them skin to skin. It felt good to be wrapped up in him like this. Even better than his combing her hair.
The mattress dipped and Meg opened her eyes to find Galen had moved to a point just past their feet for a better view. He arched a dark eyebrow at her, but something soft and intimate marred the arrogance of the expression. He needed this reaffirming as much as she did.
For once, no one colored the air around them with filthy words and dirty talk. Theo stroked his hands over her body, the rough slide of his palms across her skin sending her nerves sparking in response. She writhed a little, but he wouldn’t be guided. He paid equal attention to her arms, her shoulders, her stomach and her hips, avoiding her breasts and pussy.
The damn tease.
Finally, a small eternity later, he cupped her breasts, giving them the same slow exploration delivered to the rest of her body. Meg couldn’t stop herself from arching up to press herself more firmly into his hands.
“Impatient,” he murmured against her skin.
“Can you blame her?” Galen’s rough tone made Meg shiver. He reached down and palmed his own cock. “She’s shaking with need.”
Meg grabbed Theo’s hand. She spread her legs wide, hooking them on either side of Theo’s, making sure to give Galen a good show. “Take care of me, baby.” She pressed his hand to her pussy. “You promised.”
“I did, didn’t I?” Theo cupped her there roughly, possessively, the touch lighting a spark beneath Meg’s skin. He pushed a single finger into her, still teasing, not offering nearly enough of what she craved. His voice curled around her, just as intimate as their current position. “I’m feeling generous tonight, princess, so I’ll let you choose how we give it to you.
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it ‘a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension.” When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
Piper Williams is used to being the only woman in a room full of men, but she isn’t used to being instantly drawn to someone she’s in business with.
After working long hours brewing in her garage, Piper is determined to prove herself—and to ignore the chemistry she has with Blake Reed, owner of Minnesota’s newest gastropub who is going to stock four of her brews. She wants her craft beer to stand on its own merits and knows that the tight-knit male-dominated brewer community will assume the worst if she starts anything with one of her vendors. No way she’ll risk everything she’s invested in her budding business on a guy who might not stick—no matter how charmingly handsome and funny he is, right?
And Blake has a conflict of his own—his haughty family wants him to ditch the gastropub and support his father’s political campaign. Well, that, and the fact that he knows Piper’s snark and sass is the perfect blend of crisp and refreshing for him. So Blake and Piper make a pact: she’ll go out with him if, and only if, two additional pubs start carrying her beer. Sticking to the pact proves harder than either of them expected—especially since the attraction is off the charts between quirky, independent Piper and smart, charming Blake.
Then Piper gets a once-in-a-lifetime offer that could launch her company to the next level—and take her away from Blake. Are she and Blake just drunk in love, or do they have something real that’s worth risking her dreams for?
One of my very favorite settings in all of bookdom is the pub/brewery/bar setting. I have always found the setting to one that is ripe for mischief, merriment, and so much romance. I got all of that and more in Suzanne Baltsar’s Trouble Brewing.
Piper Williams is living and working in a man’s world and she is reminded of that fact on a regular basis. As a brewer, a female brewer, Piper’s road isn’t easy, but she is good at her job and determined to have her beer in every bar and pub in the area. As luck would have it, Piper meets Blake Reed, the owner of the Public, Minnesota’s newest gastropub and he wants to stock his bar with Piper’s beer. While Piper is thrilled her beer is finally going public, she’s afraid the other brewers in the close-knit community will see her success as a result of her looks and not her skills. As if to confirm her suspicions, Piper’s old boss pulls aside after seeing her with Blake to warn her of the impression she’s leaving on the brewing community.
Blake Reed is the black sheep in his family. He left his father’s law firm, he has no designs on running for political office, and he certainly isn’t a bigot. What he is, is the proud owner of the Public, a shrewd businessman, and a big fan of Piper Williams and her craft beer. In short order, Blake falls under the spell that is Piper Williams and all he wants, beyond their shared success is to be with Piper. Unfortunately, there are hurdles and obstacles to overcome in order to make that happen.
Like Blake, Piper is smitten, but she lives in fear of being outed as Blake’s girlfriend. Even a hint of scandal, in Piper’s mind, is enough to ruin her career, but Blake seems to be worth the risk. To be fair, many of their dates occur at the Public, and as the name implies, they’re surrounded by a crowd and often able to hide their romance. It isn’t until Blake takes Piper home to meet his parents that everything goes to hell in a hand basket, some nasty truths come to light, and Piper is forced to make the biggest decision of her life.
The Bottom Line: Quite frankly, I don’t completely understand the below four stars rating this book has on Goodreads. I found Trouble Brewing to be a fun read with just the right level of drama, just the right level of romance/heat, and just the right level shenanigans. Blake and Piper are both easily likeable characters, the setting is one of my favorites, and the plot is sufficiently interesting and engaging. I quite enjoyed this read and found myself hoping there will be at least two more books to come. Piper and Blake have friends with their own stories to tell, and I, for one, would be most excited to read those stories.
For twenty-four-year-old Skye Winters, criminal profiling is the perfect career: helping solve cases without all the emotional baggage. When her cousin, Kortney, becomes the latest in a string of young women to vanish, Skye’s professional and personal lives collide. Cue the nuclear mushroom cloud.
Amid the fallout, Skye meets Wes Carson, the mysterious and smart-mouthed new biker in her father’s motorcycle club. She tries to ignore their chemistry, even after accepting Wes’ aid in the search for Kort. Then one spontaneous afternoon takes them over the edge, forcing Skye to consider she might be in love. Too bad it’s with a liar.
Unraveling Wes’ lies leaves Skye ensnared in an FBI investigation, making her question her profiling skills and her heart. With Wes in danger, her affection overrules her caution with disastrous results. Will Skye survive to solve the case, save Kort, and still salvage a relationship with Wes?
I dart through the clubhouse, breaths quickening with each step. Back in the house, I take the stairs two at a time. Racing into my bedroom, I dig out a pair of well-worn jeans, slip into them, and transfer my cell phone into a pocket. I pull on socks, then root around in the bottom of my closet for my hiking boots and lace them up. They are the closest thing I own to motorcycle boots. With one foot out the door, I pause, considering one additional accessory.
You think he’s hiding something. Better to be safe than sorry. Especially given Kort and the other missing women.
Reaching between my bed and nightstand, my fingers sweep across the four access keys of my gun vault as if I’m playing a piano piece. As the last button in the combination depresses, the side of the safe pops open. Grabbing my compact Walther PPS handgun, I drop the single stack mag, checking it for bullets before jamming it back in and racking the slide. I locate my inside-the-waist holster in my sock drawer and slide it just behind my right hip, securing it with a belt. The gun slips in and once my loose tank top gets pulled down, the weapon barely prints.
Digging my wallet out of my purse, I slide my driver’s license and concealed carry permit into my back pocket. Leaving my bedroom, I clomp back to the clubhouse, grabbing my mother’s leather jacket and helmet off two pegs on the wall next to the French doors.
Celeste Straub is a hopeless romantic who enjoys plotting the slightly sadistic journeys her characters go on before they finally reach their happily-ever-after. She enjoys a quiet country life in northeastern Pennsylvania, residing on a piece of the old family farm with her husband, son, and two cats. Writing as a hobby since childhood, Celeste spends her days as the grant writer and operations director for a local non-pro3t agency focusing on public health issues. When she’s not penning steamy romance scenes in her spare time, her interests include traveling, visiting amusement parks, collecting baseballs, hiking, and reading.
Becca would like nothing better than to put the past behind her and focus on making Redemption her home. But what do you do when the past refuses to stay buried?
Becca still can’t remember the night sixteen-year-old Jessica disappeared from a party, never to be seen again. Which is bad enough (especially since she was supposedly the last person to see Jessica alive), but it’s not the worst …
Strange events are making Becca think there’s a link between what happened to Jessica fifteen years ago and the darkness happening now.
With help from her friends and her teenage crush, Daniel, Becca races against time to uncover the truth about Jessica before another sixteen-year-old girl is doomed to the same fate as Jessica.
Celia was looking around the table with a bewildered expression on her face. “I don’t understand. Why does it matter if Jessica is related to Brittany?”
“Because Brittany looks like Jessica,” Mia said.
Everyone fell silent. A woman next to us burst into hysterical, high-pitched laughter. Another table over, a group of college-aged guys started chanting as one of their friends, wearing a Wisconsin Badger cap, guzzled a pitcher of beer. Glasses clanked as they were plunked onto tables.
“Not this again,” Celia breathed out, picking up her Cosmo and draining it.
“What do you mean, ‘not this again?’” Mia asked, her voice quiet, but with a dangerous edge.
Barry put a hand on Celia’s arm. “Nothing. She means nothing.” He glared at his wife. Celia kept her mouth shut, but her sour expression spoke volumes.
“Barry, let her talk,” Mia said. “What do you mean, ‘not this again?'”
“You know what I mean,” Celia said. “It’s been fifteen years. It’s time to let it go.”
“Let it go?” Mia said, her voice sounding even more quiet and dangerous. “Let it go? Our friend disappeared! And we don’t know what happened to her!”
“First off, I’m sure Jessica left on her own. Her stuff was gone …”
“But, it wasn’t the right …” Mia tried to interrupt, but Celia kept going. “And even if something did happen, she’s gone. Gone!” Celia leaned forward. “I know this is difficult for you to hear, but you’re not going to heal unless you, all of you …” here she looked around the table, “… accept it. She’s gone. She’s been gone for fifteen years. She’s not coming back. And no amount of rehashing or talking about it is going to change that.”
“She was our friend,” Mia said. “Don’t you get that? How heartless can you be?”
“I know she was your friend and I know this is painful to hear. No, Barry, stop it. Let me talk. This isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy to live in the past and that’s precisely what everyone here is doing. Someone has to speak the truth and I guess that has to be me. I didn’t know Jessica, but I very much doubt she would want all of you still obsessing over what happened to her fifteen years later. Besides, this has all gotten worse since she,” she nodded toward me, “came back. We don’t need to keep living in the past. Jessica is gone.”
“I agree,” Rich said, his deep voice cutting across the table. His voice was quiet, but there was something about it that caused everyone to pay attention. Maybe it was because he so seldom talked that when he finally did, it was really noticed. “If we’re not going to be honest about what happened that night, then it makes no sense to keep talking about it.”
“What aren’t we being honest about?” Mia asked.
Rich stared at me, his dark eyes glittering. “If we’re honest, we know exactly who to blame for that night.”
Did he mean me? I stared at Rich, dumbfounded. “What do you mean?”
His gaze didn’t flinch. “You know exactly what I mean.”
You were the last person to see Jessica alive. Daniel had told me that. And Daphne. But, he couldn’t possibly mean I had anything to do with Jessica’s disappearance. Could he?
Michele Pariza Wacek (also known as Michele PW) taught herself to read at three years old because she so badly wanted to write fiction. As an adult, she became a professional copywriter (copywriters write promotional materials for businesses, nothing to do with protecting intellectual property or putting a copyright on something) and eventually founded a copywriting and marketing company. She grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and currently lives with her husband and dogs in the mountains of Arizona. You can reach her at MicheleParizaWacek.com. She’s published two novels, “The Stolen Twin” and “Mirror Image,” both psychological thrillers/mystery/suspense books.
Now that she’s completed her engineering degree, Rachel Ford Morgan is trying to find her footing around her birth father and her four brothers. She gets a chance to prove herself when she discovers worrisome fault lines around an abandoned silver mine. But they’re nothing compared to the cowboy who seems determined to shake up her world . . .
Cauy Lymond doesn’t take kindly to the woman nosing around his property—especially since she’s a Morgan. He came home just to keep his father’s failing ranch out of their super-wealthy hands. But he soon realizes that Rachel’s skill—and admirable courage—may be the only things that can shore up the old mine that threatens both their futures. Still, it will take pouring all of their blood, sweat, and secrets into saving the land—and ultimately, themselves—to bring their true feelings for each other to the surface . . .
Rachel Morgan is a Morgan and with that comes a hefty family with a huge history and a bright future. Trouble is, Rachel didn’t grow up with the hefty family and the huge history. Rachel spent her first two decades with a cold and rather distant mother who made it perfectly clear she wasn’t much interested in being a mother. Coming home to the Morgan Ranch is a bit like being a duck out of water, but with her stepdad remarrying and selling the home she grew up in, Rachel doesn’t have a lot of choices remaining.
Though Rachel enjoys life at Morgan Ranch, she doesn’t always feel like she quite belongs. With an extended break and time to really get to know her family, Rachel is hoping she’ll finally feel like a real Morgan. If her brothers, father, and grandmother have any say in the matter, Rachel is going so much a Morgan she’ll never want to leave. Nothing makes a Morgan feel more at home than having chores to do around the ranch so Rachel dives right in with an examination of the old mine. Just as she’s beginning her examination, Rachel has a run in with the most disagreeable Cauy Lymond.
Cauy Lymond grew up with two certainties, his father didn’t like him, and the Morgan’s were not to be trusted or tolerated. Upon his father’s death, Cauy was shocked to learn his father left him the family ranch. After 15+ years away, Cauy returns to the ranch to find two certainties, the ranch is a mess and his father may have been wrong about the Morgans. Within a day of his arrival, Cauy meets damn-near the entire Morgan clan and all come bearing gifts and/or proposals. The proposals are going to need some consideration, being pleasant to the Morgans is going to take some thinking on, and lusting after Rachel is going to have to come to a quick halt.
As it happens, Rachel and Cauy have more in common than either realize, but that makes for some uncomfortable situations, some incredible miscommunications, and some steamy hot moments. Both are trying to find their place in the world, within their own heads, and with one another. The feeling out process isn’t easy, and the prospect of the future is a terrifying proposition for both. Each has so much baggage and so many issues to work through and they can’t seem to get past all the noise until fate intervenes and puts them into a position that brings everything into sharp, clear focus. Some HEAs are harder to get to than others and when there’s a Morgan involved, there’s also going to be a high level of stubbornness.
The Bottom Line: It’s finally happened, the last of the Morgan siblings has a mate and what a ride is this story! Rachel may be young, but she has a ton of emotional baggage. Cauy is a bit older with more life experience, but some of that experience has physically and emotionally scarred him. What I loved most about this book is Cauy and his bumbles and stumbles. He may be older and have more experience, but his personal demons are big and bad and that made his story so much more interesting and satisfying for me. Finally, there is a great deal of history and backstory dealt with in this book and loads of appearances by all the Morgan family and their significant others. I always worry about the freshness of a series when it continues on, but Pearce has done a wonderful job of blending the old with the new and keeping the Morgan Ranch series fresh and exciting.
A game between friends…
RUBY: Just friends. That’s all we are, All we ever were. But when I finally let myself go, Let myself really feel, The only thing I want is him. Despite how opinionated, frustrating, and charming he is, We’re only friends. He’s my player number two. But lately, we’re powering up, Trying for more, And playing this game just might destroy us for good.
LINK: She deserves better, Better than the game-less douche who gets to have her. She’s strong, feisty, and so damn smart. Too smart–if you ask me. And now, I’m amped up for more, Ready to play this game, With no “game over” in sight.
“You ready to meet my people?” I ask.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” he shrugs.
Yay, he seems really into this. Wonderful.
I grab his hand and lead him to the back room. When we enter, I notice that the table I just vacated is deep in conversation. As we walk to the table, I can’t shake the feeling of being watched. But no one at the table even notices us yet. As we approach, I hear them talking about the publishing house courting Dex about a book deal.
“Hey guys.” I get their attention. Morgan and Gia have big smiles on their faces. Dex and Simon on the other hand are assessing the newcomer.
“This is Mason,” I go around the table and introduce him. Before I’m done with introductions, Bernie pops in between the guys and introduces herself too.
“So, you’re the sports guy,” Dex says, assessing.
Mason laughs it off, “I am. You’re one of the video gamers, I take it?”
“Sure am.” Dex still doesn’t ease his slightly scrutinizing demeanor. They make small talk for a bit. The girls trying to lead the conversation away from the tension the guys are throwing out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered. I suspect this is exactly how my own brother would act right now. But while they are just meeting him, Mason and I aren’t new. I’ve been dating him for a while. It’s not like I don’t know him.
Simon excuses himself to get some refills for the table and as soon as they return, Link appears at the table. He doesn’t sit though, he stands. I could swear he’s puffing out his chest.
“I’m Link. You are?” he shoves his hand out for a shake.
Mason slowly takes a drink before making eye contact with him, making Link wait as he lowers his cup to the table, and grasp his hand.
“Mason. Ruby’s boyfriend.”
Link brings his other hand around and slaps Mason’s back, “Ah. Well it’s great to finally meet ya, Mace. I’ve heard almost nothing about you!” They drop each other’s hand at the same time I hear someone beside me snort.
“It’s Mason,” he corrects.
Link just blows him off, pulls over a stool and starts talking his ear off. I mean, I guess this could have gone worse. Amber, who I didn’t notice before, sits next to Link looking bored out of her mind. Dex and Morgan excused themselves to go chat with their parents. And it seems like the rest of the table are enjoying talking to Mason.
“So, do you plan on working for ESPN or SportsCenter some day? Like, is your gig with WTSL just a stepping stone or are happy where you are?” Bernie asks. She’s adept at keeping the conversation going. She’s also got mad interviewing skills.
Mason snaps out a laugh, he looks a bit annoyed with the line of questioning. Which baffles me since he usually loves talking about himself.
“Well, I have what you call a career. A real job. So yes, I have long-term goals,” he replies.
“Excuse me?” Link and Simon say in unison.
“Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you just play video games all day?” he asks.
“Among other things, yes. But I get paid probably three times more doing what I do than you could even imagine. It’s a real fucking job,” Link bites out and damn, he sounds pissed. I’ve never heard him so angry before.
He laughs. Mason actually has the audacity to laugh right in their faces.
I gulp. I’m afraid to look at anyone but Mason right now. It’s clear that our nice, “getting to know the new boyfriend time” is over.
“Right,” he drags out the word. “Well, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree then.”
Link growls and I risk a glance his way. But, I’m not prepared for what I see. He’s not staring down Mason with fire coming out of his ears, ready to attack. No. My throat catches at the sight before me.
I’m absolutely embarrassed. You know when you’re a kid and you do something bad, and instead of your parents saying they are upset with you, they tell you they are disappointed? It makes it so much worse. That’s how I feel right now.
He’s looking at me with disappointment in his eyes. He holds my attention and I start to say something, to try and fix where this conversation just went. But I stop. He gives a quick jerk of his head. He clears his throat and pushes off of the stool.
“Well, I think that’s our cue to leave. See ya around, Mace.” Link looks to his left to where Amber is collecting her phone and purse. Somehow she still manages to look bored. He motions a quick goodbye to the entire table, avoiding my gaze entirely. Then he walks away.
You could cut the tension with a knife when Simon stands and turns on his heel. He stalks towards the table where Morgan and Dex are sitting. Gia shoots me a pleading look as she follows him. Bernie sits stock-still, worry sketched on her face.
I start to speak, but Mason beats me to it.
“Well, that went well. They all seem alright, but I’m not sure I like the cocky asshole.”
Author Lauren Helms has been an avid reader from a young age. After starting a book review site, that launched her fully into the book world, she decided to take the plunge and write her first novel. Since she was working for a video game strategy guide publisher at the time, she decided to mix what she knew best, video games and romance. Jumping all in, she joined NaNoWrimo and a month later had a 50K word first draft. Lauren lives in Indianapolis, IN with her video game playing husband, two little girl book nerds, and a little boy who will hopefully be a gamer boy too some day!
Sam Hooker writes darkly humorous fantasy. He is an entirely serious person, regardless of what you may have heard. Originally from Texas, he now resides in southern California with his wife, son, and dog.
Only a short time after a strange nightmare about Bluerorcs (what the heck are they?) Will again feels like he is caught in a dream—but this time the best dream he has ever had. For Mr Chevalier visits him at his parents’ house to invite him to join the White Christmas Organisation—the secret organisation that handles the production and delivery of the Christmas presents and that is headed by Father Christmas himself. Will had always been a firm believer in the magic of Christmas and now he is on his way to be part of it all as he begins his job training at Snowfields. And—while traveling with the amazing cloud-based delivery system—he has no idea what other wonders he is going to see or what he is getting himself into…
For just as he is having the time of his life with his new friends at his new school with amazing subjects as well as hard hands-on training, he is caught up in the biggest conspiracy Snowfields has seen in decades.
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree: This tells a reader that this book is well worth their time and money!
Finalist “The Wishing Shelf Book Awards”
Everyone loves Charlotte Ahearn. She’s friendly, funny, smart and kind – and she’s a brilliant baker – so why has she moved to a country town where nobody wants to know her?
Dunbarton doesn’t seem to get that Charlotte is just there doing her job – convincing the town that the local silver mine should be allowed to expand. If only a certain local farmer called Nick MacLeod didn’t have to make that task so much harder – and personal.
But will that same Nick MacLeod eventually remember that the pair met briefly ten years before, and back then there was no resentment or hostility, only a burning possibility of something special … something perfect?
Charlie Ahearn is not lucky in love. Her last boyfriend used her PR skills to advance his own career and left her high and dry after a humiliating cheating scandal went public. With no boyfriend, no job, and no reason to stay, Charlie packs her bags and moves home to Sydney. As if the break up weren’t bad enough, Charlie now has her family worried over her lack of direction, lack of a job, and abundant baking.
As luck would have it, one of Charlie’s old friends has a job offer he’s all but begging her to take. His company is expanding and with Charlie’s PR skills, she can help the company push their project through despite the objections and resistance of locals. Charlie isn’t thrilled with the position nor the fact she must temporarily move, but it is a job and it gives her an income and keeps her family from worrying. Kind of.
Charlie’s new job is a disaster from the very beginning: she’s now living in the middle of nowhere, many of the locals actively dislike her presence, and though she does her best to sell the party line and sway the locals, she’s getting nowhere fast. In fact, on many occasions, Charlie’s office and vehicle are vandalized and her attempts at friendliness are met with cold shoulders and/or nasty words. What’s more, the people who will speak kindly to Charlie seem to be genuinely nice people with real connections to their land and community. The locals are already facing enough difficulties without Charlie’s company flinging around promises and projections that may never come to pass.
Remember I mentioned Charlie’s lack of luck in love? As if the universe is just out to pick on her, one of the loudly-opposed-to-her-company locals is a man Charlie met only briefly more than a decade past. At the time, Charlie and the mystery man shared a moment of intense connection, so intense, Charlie hasn’t forgotten him in ten years. As the weeks pass by, Charlie struggles to do her job, do her job well, ignore the hot man who clearly dislikes her, and not bake so much that the part of town who will talk to her gains weight and quits talking to her. To say Charlie is struggling would be an understatement.
As it happens, hot guy has a name and it’s Nick MacLeod. Nick is devoted to his home, his farm, his community, and doesn’t want to see it destroyed by a big company with bad intentions. Though Nick’s position doesn’t change once he meets Charlie (technically for the second time 😊) he does struggle with his feelings towards her. Nick can clearly see Charlie is a good person, one he wants to get to know, who is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Unfortunately, Nick’s passions tend to run high which often leave him with bad impressions and misunderstandings he is too stubborn to sort out. Even more unfortunately, this situation crops up often where Charlie is concerned causing all sorts of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities.
The Bottom Line: I enjoyed the ever-loving crap out of this book! Charlie is so easy to like and to root for, her sister Georgie is pure sunshine and delight, Nick is sexy and brooding, and the overall plot is just interesting. Though this isn’t a pure past meets present read, there are elements of the trope which has long been one of my favorites. I also very much like the opposite sides of an issue approach to friendship and romance which is a prevalent theme in this book. In truth, the read is just one problem/complication/obstacle after another, but that’s what makes it so good. With every new issue, there is a chance for growth and change in the characters and you know how I love my characters to evolve! Not every situation and/or reaction to the situation works out perfectly, but that’s life and these characters and their struggles are clearly based on real life. The only thing I found lacking in this book, is an epilogue. If ever there was a story that needs a good what happened to them in the future epilogue, Worth Fighting For is it. I am sincerely hoping the lack of an epilogue means this isn’t the end for Charlie and Nick but may be just the beginning of an ongoing series. There are plenty of other characters populating this book that could stand to have their story told in their own book 😊
Alex: I hate doing business in clubs. Especially one like Duality. I’m here to seal a deal, not indulge in whatever hedonistic illusion they’re selling. Until, through all the skin and sex on display, I see her. Helen Blackwood. The girl who once filled my youthful fantasies, whose name is now synonymous with pain. Her father’s lies destroyed my family, leaving me with nothing to lose. And yet I can’t deny my electric response to her touch . . . or my urge to protect her when I see the bruise on her face.
Helen: Growing up, life prepared me for society galas and powerful men, not minimum-wage jobs or drunk exes with anger issues. But I’m a survivor. So here I am, practically naked, serving drinks at a Miami nightclub. I don’t mind the stares. Apparently, Alex Archer does. After twelve years, we aren’t exactly friends, but money is something we both understand. Something he knows I need. I’ll be his personal assistant, even if it means working with the man I hate . . . and the man I still want.
I read an early copy of What About Us and quite cleverly saved my notes from that initial reading. Here’s what I discovered following my second reading: I LOVED this book just as much the second time around as I did the first time through.
What I thought and noted about this book initially holds true even after round two. Here’s the low down from my original notes:
ALEX: Even with his crazy, often thoughtless comments, Alex is so likeable; in fact, he is my favorite character in this book. I really felt Alex’s struggle and frustration with this inability to say what he means with Helen. With that being said, I very much appreciated how Alex felt like he could be himself in all his glorious awkwardness with Helen, even when it meant having to apologize, and apologize often.
I like how shaken up Alex is by Helen! Alex’s whole life was clear, defined, and ordered until Helen showed up again. Helen’s reappearance took Alex’s goals, agendas, and general control of his life and shot it all to hell. Talk about ass over tea kettle! Causing Alex to reorder his life and break out of his rut is exactly what he needed! Though his business goals are always going to be the same, his personal goals changed radically and that’s what he, as a character needed!
P.S. In my head, Alex wears nerdy, sexy glasses!
HELEN: Helen is one of my favorite character types; a lot of bad s*%t has happened to her, but she doesn’t feel sorry for herself. In fact, after a tremendously bad period, Helen took what life handed her, dealt with it, and has made something of her life. Though she doesn’t live to the standards she was once used to, she has a life she can mostly be proud of. Mostly!
PLOT AND CONFLICT: I absolutely love the relationship between Helen and Alex. They have so much anger, misunderstanding, and miscommunication to overcome, but there is a base of love there too. This story absolutely would not have worked if there weren’t a very real history between Helen and Alex. One of my favorite parts of their relationship is how often they fight and make up. So much conflict here!
This book reads exactly as it is meant to, slow and steady (in a GOOD way) with moments of crazy, both good and bad. The entirety of this book revolves around Helen and Alex coming face to face with their past, dealing with some hard truths, and accepting how wrong they have both been. That takes time and watching two people with such a complicated history get their s*%t squared away shouldn’t happen at the speed of light. The characters and the plot demand a slow and steady pace and that is exactly what they have.
The fighting and making up worked so well in this story! The sex is as explosive as the arguments and that always makes for a good time. Helen’s acceptance of Alex and his awkwardness works well too; I like that she accepts him even in the moments when she is raging mad at him. I also very much appreciate Alex’s self-doubt! He is clearly a successful businessman with tons of confidence, but Helen rattles him, and he has to reassess how he deals with humanity. This was helped along by Helen helping him get to know his staff which was a scene that really resonated with me.
In so many ways, the best part of this book involves the reactions Helen and Alex have to one another and the situation they find themselves in. The plot initially asks Helen and Alex to react the way they would while still on their own, and then, to react as they should as a couple. This is where we see a lot of character growth. Alex must learn to think before he speaks, to accept that not every situation in life can be fixed with money, and Helen has to learn to accept help when and where it is offered. Furthermore, we also see Helen and Alex having to get over themselves, really listen to the other person, and let go the awful past they both endured.
DIALOGUE: It’s funny how large a role dialogue plays in this book since Alex has such a terrible time with words. You can see so much growth in Alex through the dialogue . . . . but, his fights with Helen and getting himself into trouble with his words were probably my favorite bits of dialogue.
I always love good dialogue and this book is filled with it! I am particularly fond of the fight scenes as Helen and Alex both say a lot of stupid stuff and then must apologize for it later. Probably my favorite bit of dialogue in the entire book is Helen’s response to the two uppity b%&ches who are talking about her in the bathroom during the gala; she held it together well and put them in their place. I also liked it when Helen put Alex in his place 😊
PACING: This story is something of a slow burn read . . . . and that’s a good thing! There are bursts of action and high drama, but much of the read a steady pace which allows the reader to watch two people figure out their lives together. Outside of those few bursts of crazy, there doesn’t need to be a breakneck speed, rush to get to the end. I appreciate how the pacing of this book matches the characters!
THE BOTTOM LINE: At this point, do you really need the bottom line?? 😊 Clearly, I adored this book, it’s characters, and plot and make no bones about it. Though I liked Helen quite a bit, Alex is hands down my favorite character. His awkwardness, his nerdiness, his intellect, all wrapped in super sexy body is just too good to ignore. At its core, this book is all about a complicated, complex relationship that is peppered with anger, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and mistrust. There is so much, emotionally speaking, that Alex and Helen must overcome to achieve their HEA and they sure work hard to do so. I really did enjoy this story! I didn’t rush through it but read it slowly and really savored this read. In point of fact, my reading speed quite mimicked the overall pacing of the book. I wouldn’t mind seeing Helen and Alex appear in later installments of the series. Now that they are officially together, they feel like they can be a real powerhouse kind of couple, do a lot of good in their community/world. In a lot of ways, I feel like this book is just the beginning of Alex and Helen’s story which is ironic, given their long history.