Review: Deceased and Desist (Book #3: A Tallie Graver Mystery) by Misty Simon

39312790Most housecleaners don’t do windows, but Tallie Graver loves leaving a pane of glass streak-free and sparkling. After a dirty divorce from a filthy-rich jerk, she’s started her own cleaning business to make ends meet. On her latest job, prepping a renovated bed and breakfast for a grand re-opening, she’s standing outside on a ladder, wiping off a grimy pane, when she spies a man on a bed through the glass. But the B&B isn’t open for business yet—and the man’s not sleeping. Her family owns the Graver Funeral Home, so Tallie knows a corpse when she sees one.   The victim is a shady building inspector with a reputation for handing out passing grades for a greased palm. With the local police resistant, Tallie launches her own investigation, before she gets a rep as a town crank. But it’s going to take more than a squirt bottle and a squeegee to clean up this mess. With the help of her gal pal Gina, Tallie searches for a killer’s motive. But she’d better be careful, or it’ll be curtains for this window cleaner . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Purchase          My Rating: 3½/5 stars

General Thoughts:

  • I like Tallie, Max, Gina, and the fur babies, but I’ve about had it with all the other regular characters
  • With regards to the above, all the other regular characters are still beating the same “You have to stop doing this/getting involved, Tallie” drum. Three books in and that same drum beat is getting very old and keeping me from really liking some of the regular characters. 
  • With regards to the above, if anyone would take the time to listen to Tallie, they would realize she has yet to go looking for trouble! Outside of solving crimes and cleaning houses, Tallie has a serious talent for stumbling into trouble and over dead bodies.  It’s one of her finest talents 😊
  • I’m still liking the general flow of each book and how Tallie goes about solving each crime. She isn’t a trained detective, but she is highly intelligent, organized, logical, personable enough that people open up to her, and highly determined.  Tallie is one of my favorite character types which is part of the reason I keep coming back for more.
  • I am liking the evolution being shown between Max and Tallie and Tallie and Sheriff Burton. Max is such a sweet and endearing man and I sincerely hope he will be around for a good long time.  As to Sheriff Burton and Tallie, I’m very much liking what went down between them in this particular installment of the series.  Burton may just be coming around to Tallie’s way of thinking and doing things 😊

The Bottom Line: While I am still liking this series in general, there is the quite annoying issue of some of the regular characters still harping on Tallie about her involvement in the various crimes she has stumbled upon.  For myself, this is really becoming an issue and I sincerely feel it needs to change or I’m going to have to part ways with the series.  Yeah, it bothers me that much.  With that being said, there are still other aspects of this book and series I quite enjoy.  I do like Tallie, Max, Gina, and the furries so much and the plot of all three books have kept me guessing and totally interested.  I want to keep enjoying and reading this series, but I need to see some serious evolution in some of the other regular characters.  I suspect, the fourth book will be the one that decides my fate on this issue once and for all. 

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Spotlight: Third Chances by Ivy Smoak

Title: Third Chances
Author: Ivy Smoak
Genre: Contemporary/NA Romance
Publication Date: July 21, 2016
From Amazon bestselling author Ivy Smoak comes a heart-pounding second chance romance.
Daphne – I’ve always regretted not being confident enough to talk to my college crush. When he shows up during my friend’s bachelorette party, I refuse to let my second chance slip through my fingers.
Rob – It was impossible to forget the beautiful brunette from campus. But I’ve always known she wasn’t one night stand material. So I kept my distance. When she shows up years later during my brother’s bachelor party, I don’t know how I can possibly resist her again. There’s just one problem: I don’t do relationships.

★★★★★ “A must read that will melt your heart.”

★★★★★ “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever read.”

★★★★★ “Looking for a sexy, hot and funny stand alone?? This is your story!”

Ivy Smoak is the Amazon bestselling author of The Hunted series. When she’s not writing, you can find her binge watching too many TV shows, taking long walks, playing outside, and generally refusing to act like an adult. She lives with her husband in Delaware.
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Mini-Review: The Body in the Attic (Book #1: A Jazzi Zanders Mystery) by Judi Lynn

39168404House-flipper Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod have found their latest project. The property, formerly owned by the late Cal Juniper, is filled with debris that must be cleared before the real renovation begins. But a trip to the attic reveals something more disturbing than forgotten garbage—a skeleton wearing a locket and rings that Jazzi recognizes . . .   Tests confirm that the bones belong to Jazzi’s aunt Lynda, who everyone assumed moved to New York years ago after breaking up with Cal. Soon enough, the whole family is involved, sifting through memories and rumors as they try to piece together what really happened to Lynda—and the baby she gave up for adoption. In between investigating and remodeling, Jazzi is falling for the old house’s charms—and for her gorgeous contractor, Ansel. But with surprises lurking in every nook and cranny, a killer might be waiting to demolish her dreams for good . . .

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Source: NetGalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I tried three times to write my normal long-winded review and kept feeling as if I were giving too much away and I certainly don’t want to deny you the awesome of this book, dear reader.  I found this book to be an excellent example of a cozy mystery with fine and engaging characters, just enough mystery to keep me guessing, terribly interesting background/backstory, and a heat level absolutely appropriate for the genre.  This is one of those books where I really resented having responsibilities because I wanted to keep reading until I finished, each and every time I picked this one up.  What’s more, this first-in-a-series book didn’t have the failings many such books have.  In fact, I found The Body in the Attic to be incredibly well-written with the feel of a seasoned author who knows all the writing pitfalls and how to avoid them.  I’m all in with Jazzi Zanders and simply can’t wait for her next adventure.

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Coaching Carly by Larissa Gail

Carly: Recently divorced.  Hoping to start over.  Wishes her ex would forget about her.
Gage: Former pro quarterback.  Ready to be out of the spotlight.  Wants to raise his son in peace.
 
But life has other plans for this algebra teacher and new head coach of Oaktown High School.
 
Sparks fly when Carly Owens and Gage Wilson meet on their first day of work. While in awe that the recently retired football star is interested in her, Carly can’t help but be reminded of all the beautiful women seen on his arm throughout his former career. She doesn’t want to get tangled up in another relationship full of lies and cheating. Plus, Carly needs to find a way to deal with her ex-husband and all his threats before she falls in love, again.
 
Gage wants nothing more than to sweep the lovely new algebra teacher off her feet and settle into a comfortable life raising his teenage son. However, Carly’s concern that Gage’s celebrity status will expose her to her ex quickly puts a damper on their budding romance. With Carly’s doubts and the threat of Carly’s ex-husband looming over them, will Gage be able to coach her past her fears? 
 
 
Coaching Carly is Larissa Gail’s debut novel and the first in her Love in Oaktown series. Her books are filled with hot alpha men and the headstrong women who capture their hearts and are intended for readers 18 and older.

Larissa Gail writes contemporary romance with a hint of suspense. Recently retired teacher, mother of two grown children and their spouses, and soon to be grandmother, she lives in West Texas with her husband and one very spoiled Gordan Setter. When not writing about hot alpha men and the women who capture their hearts — or even when she is — you can find Larissa and her husband traveling in their camper exploring the great outdoors.

 

Double Review: Summer at the Little Cottage on the Hill and Return to the Little Cottage on the Hill (Books #2 and #3: Little Cottage Series) by Emma Davies

38910424Thirty-two-year-old ‘ice queen’ Isobel slams the cottage door and pulls the curtains shut. She has just six weeks to practise for a secret project that could save her career and no one must know she is here.

When Tom, the local thatcher with eyes as blue and deep as the ocean, hears the sound of her violin on the breeze he feels a tug at his heart-strings that reminds him of happier times. Who is this mysterious new lodger, and why does she look so familiar?

Desperate to find out more, Tom is devastated when Isobel refuses to enjoy everything the farm has to offer. He won’t give in, but just when it looks like Isobel is coming out of her shell, someone recognises her and the troubles from her past threaten to take away everything she has been working towards.

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Source: NetGalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

In just thirty-two years, Isobel has known both the heights and highs of greatness and the deep depths of despair of depression.  As a child and teenager, Isobel achieved the pinnacle of success, she was known far and wide as a prodigy.  Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, and Isobel’s fall from grace was both devastating and never-ending.  In a last-ditch effort to turn it all around, Isobel slipped the chains of her keepers and reserved a cottage for the summer at Joy’s Acre.

Isobel’s first weeks at Joy’s Acre are not at all what she had hoped they would be.  With nothing familiar and nothing to distract her, Isobel planned to pound out a new composition for violin that will astound all and resurrect her reputation.  As it happens, there is much to distract at Joy’s Acre; among the distractions are the kindness of the employees, the breathtaking scenery, the hot thatcher, and the demons of her past.  Isobel is nothing if not a professional and as she attempts to work despite the distractions, she finds herself falling further and further and beyond and becoming evermore frustrated with her attempts. 

Tom long ago came to terms with his reputation as the love ‘em and leave ‘em type.  However, of late, Tom has begun to rethink his life, its direction, and how he can finally put down the demons of his own past.  When Isobel arrives at Joy’s Acre, she is certainly a sight, but it is her brilliant talent that truly peaks Tom’s interest.  Though she has no idea he can hear her playing, he often indulges in her music rather than working.  Though Tom isn’t certain he’s ready for a proper relationship, he is intrigued by Isobel and would relish the opportunity to know her just a bit better.

While Tom is a generally affable character, Isobel is a bit prickly which makes their early encounters awkward and uncomfortable.  It isn’t until Isobel begins to acknowledge her own issues, see them for what they are, and settle on dealing with those issues that she is able to come out her shell and properly interact with Tom.  Each interaction not only allows Tom to talk about some of his own issues, but to help Isobel get a handle on her own.  What’s more, Tom, also a musician introduces Isobel to a far more relaxed world of music, a place where people play for the pure pleasure of the music, to entertain, and to connect with others through their gift.  For the first time in her life, Isobel begins to understand the healing power of music, how her talents can impact others, and how she can a life with music that isn’t also filled with hurt, anger, and the fear of ruin. 

The Bottom Line: I am loving the progression of this series and there is absolutely no sophomore slump to found in this addition to the series!  For myself, this book really revolved around Isobel and the experiences she has had over the course of her life.  She is well and truly broken when she arrives at Joy’s Acre, but after her summer she is well on the road to recovery and true happiness.  While Tom is certainly responsible for some of Isobel’s breakthroughs and happiness, he isn’t solely responsible, and I particularly loved this aspect of the book.  Once Isobel comes to terms with her past, she able to take control of her present and her future.  Of the two, Isobel shows the most growth and it was a pleasure to watch her heal and become who she was surely meant to be from a very early age.  As you know, dear reader, I also very much adore the reappearance of characters from books past, and I got so much of that in this read.  In fact, I don’t feel there will be a book in this series that won’t have the full cast as the cast is an absolutely inseparable part of the location.  As it stands, I should continue to quite like this series for the foreseeable future.

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40496649It has been a difficult few years for thirty-year-old Megan Forrester, completing her apprenticeship and trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with her gorgeous boyfriend, Liam.

She’s returned home to compete in a local craft competition. The prize is the chance to design beautiful new gates for the estate at the bottom of the hill, a job which could secure her future in the village forever.

As the contest gets underway, Megan is devastated when a rival design turns out to be almost identical to hers. Someone in the close-knit community must have leaked her sketches, but who? Is it the same person spreading heartbreaking rumours about Liam?

Down to the last few left in the competition, Megan throws her heart and soul into a show-stopping final piece… but will winning even matter when the truth about Liam is finally revealed?

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Source: NetGalley          My Rating: 5/5 stars

Joy’s Acre is practically booming with two cottages open and ready for guests and the employees are more than excited to share their little slice of Heaven with anyone willing to make a reservation.  While the group certainly hope their guests will come from far and wide, it isn’t everyday they get a local girl booked in for a visit. 

Megan Forrester is thrilled to be almost completely back home.  Though she grew up in the area and has a long-term boyfriend, she doesn’t really have a place to live while she participates in the upcoming blacksmith competition.  Joy’s Acre is really the perfect choice for Megan as it is within spitting distance of the competition site, has full service at every level, and gives her easy access to her boyfriend during her downtime.   Megan is hoping the generally cheerful atmosphere of Joy’s Acre will calm her nerves as she embarks on the most important event of her life.  If Megan can win the blacksmith competition, the prize money would allow her to move home permanently and open her own workshop.  What’s more, the win would firmly establish her as legitimate blacksmith.

In other news . . . .

As the blacksmith competition heats up, things at Joy’s Acre aren’t exactly as smooth and happy as they normally are.  As their reputation grows, Joy’s Acre is presented with opportunities they never thought possible.  One of those opportunities involves a film crew, a ton of planning, one very excited Trixie, and one very reluctant Clara.  The opportunity is an amazing one for Joy’s Acre, but as plans progress the new project begins to tear apart the once solid team of employees.  What’s more, the team from Joy’s Acre has been pulled into the organizing, serving, and generally lending a helping hand at the blacksmith competition.  With the new opportunity, the extra work brought on by the competition, general stress, and a significant issue with Megan, Joy’s Acre is anything but joyful!

The Bottom Line:  As much as I liked the first two books in this series, that like pales in comparison to how much I absolutely loved this book!  I dove into this one and didn’t come up for air until the end.  As with the second book, I found myself most interested in the women in this read, Megan and Clara.  I like how unusual Megan is in her profession and how genuinely kind and caring Clara is.  Though the storylines certainly overlap, Megan and Clara are very different people and I really felt like I was getting two stories for the price of one.  Mind you, those very different women interact wonderfully, and their stories combine seamlessly to create a rather fine read.  I found I was quite happy with the overall tone of this book; there is a great deal of tension, loads of bickering, and moments when you just aren’t sure it will all work out in the end.  I LOVED THIS!!  Life isn’t all cupcakes and unicorns, and though Joy’s Acre is very much meant to be a retreat, a haven for many, it is populated with real people living in the real world and that is certainly on display here.  I found myself quite satisfied with every aspect of this book and can’t wait to dive into book four, Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Return of the Lycan King: (Book #3: Darren and Cassandra) by Candace Blackburn

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Darren chases Cass to Ireland, determined to make up for his mistakes. When they return to North Carolina to build their lives together, nothing is the same. Darren has already fought to convince Cass to give him a chance, but a new Monarchy is just the beginning of the changes to the Lycan Kingdom. Secrets and challenges to Darren’s crown emerge, and his inner circle closes ranks, to protect their Kingdom, and to make sure the newly-returned Lycan King keeps his crown.

Excerpt from Return of the Lycan King: (Book #3: Darren and Cassandra):

Liam’s completion of flight training had rather fortuitous timing. Liam was one of the members of Lex’s security team before Darren moved in. Darren snagged the other Lycan on the way to the airport with the subtle threat to “move your ass and don’t breathe a word to anyone.” Darren looked out the window of the Konstantine jet and didn’t see ocean, but he didn’t know how close they were to Dublin Airport.

Reading Liam’s thoughts would have been easy enough, if Darren hadn’t happily discovered that he could block that ability. So, he hadn’t been subjected to the “have you lost your fucking mind” lecture that Liam likely received from Lex. Or the “you let anything happen to him, I’ll kill you, myself” that undoubtedly followed said lecture.

Darren spent the entirety of the flight thinking of his mate. The pain in her voice, on her face, and the tears in her eyes, all as a result of Darren not claiming her. Pain, he had his own. Not claiming her was a physical, mental hell–it was pain from head to toe. But, he had reasoned that he’d rather live with that pain, than put Cass through one second of his impressive–or not–collection of screw-ups. Not to mention, all the bullshit that came with being King.

I’d rather cut off my own head than cause her pain like I saw that day.

Which is why they were over European airspace, because Cass was in Ireland. She left to escape him.

Because seeing me hurt her.

“Darren, we’re ten minutes out from Dublin.”

Liam’s voice cleared his guilt-filled thoughts. He ran his hands through his hair and realized he needed to go splash some water on his face. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

A minute later, he stood in front of the mirror and frowned. One of his buddies in college looked like he was in a perpetual hangover. Darren’s roommate used to tease the guy, telling him that he looked like he’d been ridden hard and put away wet. That saying pretty much summed up the reflection in the mirror.

Maybe I should stop off and get a haircut, buy a new shirt and jeans.

He probably would do that, if it didn’t take much time. His primary objective was to find Cass and get them back to the plane as soon as possible. Hell, he might as well tell Liam to file a return flight plan for, what, five hours from now? Yeah, that should do it. He hated the thought of claiming his mate in the bedroom on the plane, but damned if he was going to wait to get back to Raleigh. And, they wouldn’t be in Ireland for very long. Oh no. In and out, that was his plan. They’d be back in no time.

***

Liam kept up with Darren’s footsteps, barely.

“Still don’t understand why you wouldn’t want another beer. That may have been the best I’ve ever had. We should take a European beer tasting trip, just for comparison, though. German ales are pretty damned good.” They’d only gone in the last bar because Darren caught Cass’s scent.

“Not interested.” Glancing around the crowded Temple Bar section of Dublin, Darren wondered why Cass would be there. She was private, definitely not the type to hang out in tourist spots.

“Or we could just stay here and sample whiskey. All the whiskey.”

Technically, that didn’t sound like too bad of a plan, if he weren’t searching for his missing mate. “You should get on your knees and thank God that you can’t get cirrhosis.”

Liam snorted just as Darren thought he’d, again, picked up on Cass’s scent. He froze mid stride and almost took out a group of people. Peering inside the closest bar, he inhaled deeply and looked for her glossy black hair. Nada.

Shit.

Darren turned, making a complete circle so he could visualize everything around him. His frustration was growing. Cass was so close, and he needed to see her. Feel her. Wrap her in his arms. Drop to his knees and apologize for being a colossal ass. Spend the next century begging her forgiveness. Then spend the rest of his life making her happy.

The sounds of barf splattering the pavement shook him out of his thoughts.

“This”–he pointed down at the moaning human in front of him–“is what all the whiskey gets you.”

Liam glanced down with disdain as they stepped around the human. “Not me.” He waved a negligent hand. “Higher tolerance and all that.”

“Mmm hmm.” Looking around, again, Darren barely restrained a growl. Cass’s scent grew fainter, and he was no damned closer to finding her.

Going to lose my motherfucking mind.

Material brushed his arm, and Darren snarled as his head snapped around. “Hey, do you mind holding my jacket while I tie my shoe?”

What the fuck? Darren snatched the jacket and Liam bent, after casting a pointed glare toward Darren’s hands. Claws had already punched through the tips, and if he were a betting person, he’d put money on his eyes glowing. Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, he slipped on his polarized Ray Bans, covered both fists with the jacket and willed himself to calm.

“No problem.”

Biggest white lie ever. If Darren spent two more seconds out there without Liam’s assistance, he’d likely have shifted and torn a bloody path through the Temple Bar district.

They needed to get out of public, check into a room and Darren needed to sleep off any jet lag. Then come sunrise, he’d try again.

Liam stood and cast a worried glance at Darren. “Okay?”

Not in the slightest. “Fine. Let’s get something to eat, go find a room, and search again tomorrow.”

Liam almost seemed to slouch in relief. “Sounds good. We’ll hit the roads in the morning.”

He confirmed that with a small nod. And I’ll spend another sleepless night without her.

Copyright © 2018 Candace Blackburn

About the author and where to find her:

image1Candace makes her home in North Carolina with her high school sweetheart husband and their two sons.  She’s an indie author who has published two previous romances (with a bit of fantasy in each), Tristan’s Redemption and Nate’s Forgiveness.  Her current works are all paranormal romance (her favorite genre to read!) and are set in her home state.  She loves coffee, cold weather, the Boston Red Sox, the Carolina Panthers, and hearing from fans.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Christmas in Prague by Rick Pyrll

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Christmas in Prague is the story of Joseph, a divorced American twenty-something living as an expat in Prague. He’s obsessed with Karina, a Czech waitress-turned-supermodel. She’s freshly back from a trip to Italy with her English teacher, and she’s ready to give Joseph the attention for which he’s been longing. Will his Christmas wish come true?

Excerpt from Christmas in Prague:

After soup, we have Buck’s vánočka, sweet bread with apricots and raisins that have been soaked in hot brandy for days. I am not a huge fan, but I have a taste to prove that I am game. Next comes the fried carp with bramborovy salat. As the dishes are being served, Avi tells a story, an earlier expat Christmas at Beth’s apartment, the one that Kamil took after she left.
“I walk in and there she is, Beth, on her knees. Dressed in a white plastic apron, dishwashing gloves and lab goggles. The dish washing gloves were purple. On the floor were a rubber mallet, various rusting knives with wooden handles, and a pair of yellow gardening shears laid out on newspaper. There was blood all over. She was digging out guts, clipping off fins and the tail. Bits of guts and fish and blood were everywhere. Splattered all over the white tile. It looks like a massacre. She stuffed the offal in a plastic bag. It said Kotva on it. She stood up – bag in one hand, carp head in the other. She slipped in the blood on the floor and caught herself. The head kept mouthing, looking down. Beth looked at me, my mouth hanging open. She said, ‘What?’ I told her I would help her clean up. It was hilarious.” The potato salad is very tasty, but the carp is pungent. It is cooked to perfection, there’s nothing that could have been done better, but it is just a dark and smelly fish. No getting around it. I eat a couple of bites, wash it down with beer and move on. Whew.
Brad speaks up. “Barbora, can you ask your babička why carp for Christmas? I know it is a tradition, but why?” Barbora smiles and leans toward her grandmother, translating.
Barbora answers, “She says it is for good luck. You know in Slovakia and Poland they have the same tradition. Buy a carp at the Christmas Market, and it becomes a family pet for a few days, living in the bathtub. Some people ask the fish monger to cut the filets right there on Old Town Square, but the real way to do it is to bring it home and butcher it yourself.”

About the author and where to find him:

Rick Pryll is an award-winning author and poet. His book, “The Chimera of Prague” was selected as the winner of the 2018 New York Book Festival for Romance. A graduate of MIT, Rick wrote a novella as the thesis for his Mechanical Engineering degree. Having grown up in Western New York State, Rick and his wife, ArtPop Charlotte 2018 artist Holly Spruck, live in Charlotte.  They have two children, two cats and a dog. First published to the web in 1994, his hyperfiction short story “LIES” has garnered praise from the Wall Street Journal, SHIFT magazine, and several other publications in print and online.  It is cited in more than seven books, has been translated into Spanish and Chinese.  From 1996 to 2002 Rick lived in Prague, in the Czech Republic.  While there he published two books including Displaced (Foolishness Press, 1998) and Wallow (Foolishness Press, 1999).  His stories and poems have been featured on the pages of THINK and OPTIMISM.

 

Spotlight: Pillow Talk by Brittany Holland

 

Title: Pillow Talk

Author: Brittany Holland
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 7, 2018
Falling for him was never part of the arrangement, neither was sharing his bed… but I’m doing both. And now the sheets aren’t the only thing tangled between us.

Brittany Holland is a Starbucks drinking, Spotify addicted, self-proclaimed binge reader. Her love of reading and an active imagination inspired her to pursue her dream of writing. While creating drama for her characters and burning up the pages with chemistry, she survives on Haribo gummy bears and dark chocolate.  A lover of fairy tales and a believer in true love, Holland always gives her characters a HEA… but not before subjecting them to a little heartbreak and a whole lot of angst; unraveling a few secrets along the way.  When she’s not penning happily ever afters with a modern twist, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two children, dabbling in photography and binge watching Netflix.
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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: The Witch of the Prophecy by Victoria Jayne

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The Witch of ProphesyDivina’s had it with the prophecy. 

The vampire whose heart beats for a witch that belongs to a wolf shall save us all. He shall take his throne and rule over all kinds. If not, the vampire who belongs to the witch will end all kinds.

Divina’s not convinced the prophecy is about her. Her manipulative vampire ex-boyfriend, Rori, is reluctant to give up his love for her to pursue the throne. Meanwhile, the wolf shifter meant to claim Divina doesn’t believe in the prophecy. However, he does believe Divina is his mate.

With the pressures of the prophecy and the most powerful coven in the present-day United States, Divina is left to choose between complying with the prophecy and mating with Aric—or leaving it all behind to allow the catastrophic possibility of supernatural beings getting exposed to humans.

Excerpt from The Witch of the Prophecy:

“Pay attention,” she snapped. “You don’t need power, just Divina,” she spoke simply. “You don’t need the council seat, just your witch.”

Tightening his mouth into a firm line, Rori considered her words. The witches could be testing him. Through this manipulation, this appearance of Ines, they could be testing his resolve to sacrifice love for the throne, for the good of all kinds.

“If I do that then I will be the one to end us all,” he said, wary of Ines’ intentions.

Ines shook her head. “You have no desire to do such a thing,” she pointed out. “How could you end us if you don’t want to?”

She coughed again harder and longer this time. She looked at her hand and cursed before wiping it on the woolen blanket she held close around her.

“They are forcing you into a place you’re not meant to be, Roricus. You have to follow your heart, now that it beats. Don’t let the witches make you a puppet,” she said urgently.

He regarded her with a sideways glance. Her sickly form shivered under the blanket.

“What did they do to you?” he asked again.

With words in direct conflict with not only Esmine’s but Ines’ own words, Rori questioned her motive. Add her withering appearance, and it felt wrong.

With a tight-lipped frown Rori pondered his previous idea of her presence being a test by the Ember Witches; a test to his commitment to the throne. The more she talked, the more Rori felt the witches were pushing him toward the sacrifice.

She turned away from him. She tried to get up, but the witch lacked the strength and fell back down.

“Love, Roricus. Love is what you need to fight the prophecy,” she rasped.

Rori clenched his teeth. The manipulations needed to stop. His nostrils flared as his frustrations grew. The incessant games of the Ember Witches, of this witch, was enough to drive a lesser man crazy.

“They cast you out,” he surmised. “Did they strip you as well?” he asked.

She said nothing.

However, her trembling increased and the blanket slipped from her shoulder revealing her state of emaciation. She bowed her head and displayed just how thin her once lush red hair had become. She refused to lift it to him or, perhaps, she lacked the strength.

“Divina is to take your seat isn’t she?” Rori further concluded.

Silence.

“You went against the witches knowing that it was your seat up for grabs,” Rori said.

He breathed in sharply with the belief he knew Ines’ true intentions. He closed his eyes, trying to push down the bloom of rage growing and spreading in his chest. When he opened them again, the world was tinged red.

“You are here to sabotage—”

Ines sprang up interrupting his words. The blanket fell to her feet and exposed her skeletal body with clothing dangling from her. Sores covered her gray skin. Her eyes lacked the shine and youth they had the first time she promised him power.

Cold radiated off her and crept over Rori’s skin.

“I went against my coven for what is right!” she hissed. “I went against my coven for love,” she declared. “For your love, for Percival’s love! For Divina and Selene!”

Her bony fingers gripped his forearms. The sharp digits dug into the muscular flesh of Rori’s arms, threatening to pierce through with a strength he didn’t realize she possessed. She shook as all her energy appeared concentrated on her hold on him.  

 “You are not fit for the council, Roricus,” she seethed. “You lack the age and the commitment. It is meant for Percival. The coven fears Selene’s devotion to her vampire.”

“You were the one who said I could have power,” Rori said through gritted teeth.

The chill forced its way through his body stemming from her hands wrapped around his arms.

“I lied,” she said. Releasing Rori’s arms she hung her head and shrunk back into her blanket. “I’m not proud of it. I did it for my coven. But, my coven is wrong.” She peered up at him with wide eyes. The fury gone from them, sadness took its place. “They can’t tamper with what is meant to be. And what is meant to be is you and Divina, your love,” she said as her voice cracked.

She took a deep breath, obviously tired from the energy it took to speak of such things in her weakened state.

“You can have love. You will, if you chose Divina. The throne is meant for Percival. The seat is meant for Selene. The coven wants to change that but they shouldn’t.” As she spoke, she collapsed into a heap between the two planters.

Crouching, Rori reached out for the arms of the witch. When he gripped her, she howled in pain. Rori held her frail limbs and shook her. The tortured woman wailed as the skin on her arms ripped in his hands.

He pulled back, letting her go. His eyes widened and his mouth fell open in horror seeing the bits of flesh stuck to his fingers and palms.

Rori flicked his attention to the pained witch. She crumbled flat to the floor.

“Go to your witch, Roricus. Chase your love. Don’t let them strip you too,” she sobbed.

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About the author and where to find her:

Victoria JayneGrowing up on the Jersey Shore, Victoria was an insatiable reader. She adored getting lost in the worlds others created for her. During her early teen years she enjoyed the works of R.L. Stein and S.E. Hinton. As she got older, she drifted into the worlds provided for her by Anne Rice, Suzanne Wright, J.D. Tyler, Joanna Wylde, Cherise Sinclair, Dianne Duvall, and Elisabeth Naughton, to name a few. These writers spawned her love affair with both the romance genre and the world of the supernatural.

Victoria started writing as a hobby while still in high school. Now her days are spent writing, enjoying time with her husband, and her two children. She still lives in New Jersey. Victoria is a New Jersey Devils Hockey fan, an avid SecondLife Roleplayer, and a Netflix binge watcher.

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Excerpt: Conduits by J. Ryan Sommers

 photo Conduits_FinalCover_zpshc6nrwde.jpgIt exists in a long-forgotten corner of the American dream.

Green Valley County is home to murders and heroes, ghosts and jinxes, gods, devils, and even a pygmy Big Foot.

But the biggest menace is Jinx Jenkins and the string of bad luck he bestows upon the townsfolk.

Can the good people of Green Valley overcome this one man’s curse?

If you love the classic comic and magical realism, you’ll lose yourself in this piece of Americana.

Become a citizen of the City by the Shore and see how seemingly random occurrences come to shape an entire civilization.

Magical Realism

Date Published: December 3, 2018

Publisher: Transmudane Press, LLC

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Excerpt from Conduits:

MILLENNIAL
Once, a poor, old woman lived in the foothills of Green Valley. Made old by the circumstances of her life. Mary Foster was known the county over as The Human Incubator, as she had been pregnant for the last 257 months.
Her pregnancy went as any pregnancy might. She received regular ultrasounds, took vitamins, and kept away from cigarettes and alcohol—save the occasional glass of wine.
Everything appeared to be right on schedule until her due date. Yet the baby never came. The doctors told her to be patient because these things sometimes happen.
So, she waited.
But the baby never came. When seven days passed without any change, the doctors decided to induce. To their surprise, the child held tight. The only course of action was to retrieve the child through C-section. The doctors put Mary under and sliced her open. The lead surgeon put his hands inside and was shocked to feel a bite.
A tiny hand came out and extended a middle finger.
The doctors had a single option: sew Mary back up. The child did not wish to be born. And so, the baby never came.
Holidays passed, children grew tall and strong, and Mary remained pregnant. Her life was thrown out of whack. And as the months and years ticked by and the child inside her grew, she found herself incapacitated. Soon, the burden grew too large for her to walk, and she needed to be wheeled around. Her diet changed, as did her bathroom schedule. She sold all of her normal clothes and spent a fortune on muumuus—the only thing that fit her belly. But worst of all, consumed with pain, she hardly attained a few hours of broken sleep each night. Mary was forced to move in to a nursing home where they tended to her needs.
The father was a one-night stand, a passing traveler on his way out west. She’d never got his name, let alone a number to reach him, but he might as well have not existed at all. Nonetheless, Mary habitually pictured and cursed his face. After a while, though, even his face faded, and she was left with a melting pot of emotions. Hatred and fear and anxiety and discomfort and frustration and happiness and love and lots and lots of pain.
At first, she referred to the baby as It. But after a while, Mary saw fit to give the child a name, so she called him Junior.
Junior aged within Mary, siphoning away her youth. Middle age brought her liver spots and wrinkles. Her skin grew thin and her eyes weary.
Hope had left her.
When the last drop of life was suckled and nothing was left for Junior to reap, the baby finally came. Fully grown with teeth and hair and a beard, Mary awoke one morning to find Junior at the foot of her bed. Despite his appearance, he had the mental capacity of an infant.
Mary spoon-fed him, scooping up the spittle and shoveling it back into his man-sized mouth. She changed his diapers and clothes and even gave him baths. And in spite of all her newfound hardship, Mary had never been so happy.
At last, she was able to stand and walk on her own—a thing she’d dreamt of whenever she did sleep. She could drink alcohol again. And although she never smoked cigarettes before, she started up, just because she could.
She had her body back.
Junior relied on his mother for everything. She cooked and cleaned and earned the money despite his fully capable body. For he was naïve to the ways of the world and, like any child, assumed all the world to be his juvenile right.
One day, old and withered and drained, Mary grew ill. She needed Junior to take care of her.
The man pouted and kicked and cried and cursed.
Dishes piled high, and clothes grew in heaps, soiled and stained. An odor fell about the place so foul, not even Junior could deny it.
At last, he realized the weight he must bear, so Junior picked up a spoon and fed his mother the way she once did for him.
He ventured out into the world and discovered, ever so harshly, that the world was not immediately his. Rather, it was up to him to earn his way and stake his claim. He found work, and in time, an appreciation for his mother took hold. Resentment gone, he realized Mary, with all her hardship, always did the best she could. And wasn’t that all anyone could ever ask?
The day came when Mary finally died, old and gray with a smile on her face and Junior at her side.

About the author and where to find him:

 photo 10446570-10100736183120327-4616790942525536776-n_orig_zpssnpmys7k.jpgJ. Ryan Sommers has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. He and his wife recently left the windy city and relocated to Houston where Sommers teaches and continues to write. Sommers has been writing stories since he was a kid. He found it to be an escape at one of the most difficult times of his life, his childhood.

 
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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: T.A. by Jamie Begley

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TA Version 1 eBookCuffing season was supposed to be about finding a hook-up to keep her warm during the cold Kentucky winter nights. T.A. wasn’t looking for Mr. Right; she just wanted Mr. Available. 
That was before she met Dalton Andrews. The widower was nursing a broken heart, and the only thing he wanted was a woman to take his grown kids’ minds off worrying about him. 

It was supposed to be a trade-off—he would keep her warm and toasty during the nights, and she would put up a smokescreen in front of his kids during the days. It was a win-win situation.
That was until the famous actor decided he wanted out of the deal and Mr. Available was a no-show during the biggest snowstorm of the year.

Poor schmuck didn’t realize that all the drama he had experienced in Tinseltown was nothing compared to dealing with this bitch.

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Excerpt from T.A.:

“Are you politely asking if I’ve ever gone to big cities before?” she teased. “It might surprise you the places I’ve been.”

“Try me.”

“Baby, don’t tempt me.” Joking, she smiled at him, only to see him shooting an uncomfortable look back at her.

“T.A., I don’t want you to get the impression that we’re going to be more than friends.”

Her enthusiasm took a nose dive as if she had jumped off a cliff, and instead of the cool water rushing up to meet her, she hit the rocky bottom, and the only thing left was her splattered remains.

“Tell me what you really think, Dalton,” she murmured derisively. She wasn’t going to take his shit when she was the one who had gotten up in the middle of the night to help his conceited ass out. “First, you act like I’m a hillbilly hick who’s never been out of Kentucky before, then you act like I’m going to feel you up in the front seat when I’m joking around. If this is how the next two days are going to be, you can pull a u-ey and take me back to the airport. I can still make it back to Kentucky and spend Christmas with people who know how to have a good fucking time.”

She tensed when he expertly turned the steering wheel to enter a shopping center. Stopping the car, he unbuckled his seat belt to turn sideways in his seat.

“I don’t think you’re a hillbilly. I actually think you’re a lot smarter than you pretend to be. Secondly,” he snapped out, “the only reason I said anything is because I’m trying like hell not to hurt you, T.A.” His hand reached out, cupping her check. “I really like you. Probably more than I should.”

Her lips trembled at his admission. “Then what’s the problem? I like you too.”

“The problem is, I feel like I’m cheating on Oceane every time I fucking look at you.”

She rubbed her cheek against the palm of his hand like a kitten wanting to be stroked. “That must be a bummer for you.”

His eyes fell to her lips. “You have no idea.”

T.A. licked her bottom lip. “Try me.”

Dalton gave a ragged groan as his lips lowered to hers. “Jesus, stop me…”

Jesus must not have stopped him because his mouth covered hers. Being kissed by Dalton was as hot as she dreamed it would be, but it was so much, much more than she expected it to be.

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About the author and where to find her:

Jamie Begley PhotoI was born in a small town in Kentucky. My family began poor, but worked their way to owning a restaurant. My mother was one of the best cooks I have ever known, and she instilled in all her children the value of hard work, and education.

​Taking after my mother, I’ve always loved to cook, and became pretty good if I do say so myself. I love to experiment and my unfortunate family has suffered through many. They now have learned to steer clear of those dishes. I absolutely love the holidays and my family puts up with my zany decorations.

For now, my days are spent writing, writing, and writing. I have two children, my daughter is also an author, and my son just tries not to blush when someone asks him about my books.

All my books are written for one purpose- the enjoyment others find in them, and the expectations of my fans that inspire me to give it my best.

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Spotlight: The Tiger’s Tale (The Undercover Cats Series) by Kelle Z. Riley

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Is she hitting her stride? Or going nowhere fast?

Fresh from a successful undercover operation, scientist/spy-in-training Bree Watson should feel on top of the world. Instead, the ground is shifting under her feet. When her handler abandons her to follow a lead with his sexy ex-partner, Bree must choose between a normal life, or proving her worth as a spy. Not an easy choice, when she factors in:

  • A police detective’s amorous intentions
  • Her handler’s mixed signals
  • A teaching post at a university filled with intrigue
  • A dead administrator with a sordid past
  • A timid tiger and her tenacious trainer—both being framed for murder

Combined with fanatic football fans, beatnik poets, an orphaned monkey, a demanding boss, quirky colleagues, and her angry cat, the result may be a recipe for disaster.

Can she take the heat? Or will she get burned?

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Out January 15, 2019 – The Tiger’s Tale by Kelle Z. Riley

Pre-Order now to get an exclusive short story, Busted at Bingo!

Enter your pre-order information here to receive your short story: https://goo.gl/forms/5GJlzRFfkGwDXafL2

Visit Kelle Z. Riley on Facebook and find out how you can win The Tiger’s Tale swag.

About the author and where to find her:

RJR_2662 - CopyKelle Z. Riley, writer, speaker, global traveler, Ph.D. chemist and martial artist weaves bits of her real life into the Undercover Cat Series books. The series features a scientist-turned-sleuth who juggles mystery, romance and the search for a perfect cupcake recipe.

By day Kelle is a full time chemist working in water treatment with multiple U.S. patents. At night she turns into an author whose accolades include finals in the RWA Golden Heart and numerous chapter contests. More information on her workshops can be found on her website.

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