Excerpt: Hidden (Book #1: Fire and Iceland Series) by Megan Morgan

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Hidden (Fire and Iceland #1)
Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy
Date Published: October 31, 2018
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
After a breathtaking journey through Iceland, Vanessa Evanston finishes her dream vacation with her two best friends in the capital city of Reykjavik—and wakes up the next morning on the ground, on a tiny island 250 kilometers north, with no memory of how she got there.
Luckily, handsome and kind-hearted local Gunnar Heimirsson stumbles upon her—unluckily, he can’t explain her mysterious journey either. Nor can anyone explain why Vanessa soon discovers “last night” actually happened a year ago, and everyone thinks she’s dead.
Iceland is known for its folklore, but beyond the elves and mountain trolls, there are other creatures: beautiful, powerful, and vengeful, known as the huldufólk. Gunnar has been alive for a century, trapped by their curse after angering them. From the far flung Westfjords to the black sands of Reynisfjara, the answer to Vanessa’s missing year might be connected to Gunnar’s punishment—as well as his long-lost wife, Hera—but the truth lies somewhere in the realm of magic, myth, and love, and Vanessa has only just discovered fairy tales are real.
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Excerpt from Hidden (Book #1: Fire and Iceland Series):

Her paranoia intensified, until she could no longer stay put. She felt like a child, quivering in the dark, wanting to run to her parents’ room. Truth be told, she’d give anything to run to her parents’ room right now. Thinking about that made her want to cry, on top of feeling alone and frightened.
She got up from the couch, grabbed her pillow and a blanket, and padded down the darkened hallway. She knew the door for the bathroom. The others were open, except for one. Hugging the pillow and blanket, still feeling like a little kid, she timidly knocked.
She heard movement inside the room. The door inched open and Gunnar peeked out. “What’s wrong?”
 “I know this sounds dumb,” she said, her voice trembling and tears burning her eyes, “but I’m really, really scared right now. I don’t want to be alone.” A tear streaked down her cheek. “Can I stay with you? I’ll curl up in a corner or something.”
He opened the door fully, and the worry in his eyes faded. “It’s not dumb at all.”
She was momentarily distracted from her distress as Gunnar was shirtless, and his clothes were cruel for covering him up prior to this. His chest was broad, his shoulders wide and the rest of him beautifully toned. Combined with his tight, flat stomach—which she’d seen already—he looked like a damn fitness model. He wore sweat pants as well, which hung low on his hips.
She struggled not to stare. His hair was a mess and he looked soft and huggable. Or rather, climbable.
 “Come in.” He stepped back so she could enter the room. “I won’t make you sleep in a corner.”
She walked in. The room smelled like him, like her t-shirt: a manly, musky scent with a touch of his fruity cologne. It was small and contained a double bed with a tall wooden headboard, a vanity-dresser combo, and a TV, next to a closet with a folding door. Across from the bed were two windows, the curtains open. The view looked out on the hills behind the house. She wondered if he left the curtains open to keep watch.
 “Um.” He brushed against her as he stepped around her. “I’ll sleep on the floor, you can have the bed.” He started dragging pillows off.
She hesitated. It was his bed, and she had no right to run him out of it just because she was a scaredy-cat. “It’s big enough for both of us, I don’t mind.” She wiped her eyes. “If you don’t mind.”
He paused in removing the pillows. His eyes gleamed in the dim light. “Are you sure?”
She nodded and walked around to the other side, still clutching her blanket and pillow. “You’re a gentleman, aren’t you?” She managed a smile. “And I think I’ll be more likely to get some sleep if someone is close by. Especially someone who knows about … them. And how to fend them off.”
He tossed the pillows back on the bed. “I wouldn’t be in this situation if I knew how to fend them off.” There was humor in his voice, but it was dark.
She crawled into bed. “Just let me pretend.”
The mattress was soft, and she wrapped herself up in her blanket—not because she worried he would touch her, but because she felt safer in a cocoon. He crawled in beside her and slipped under the blanket that was on the bed. There was enough room they had a few feet of space between them.
She wondered if he’d chosen a big bed so he had room for female visitors. One couldn’t live a hundred years without some fun.
 “Try to rest,” he murmured. “Don’t worry, they’ve never entered this house before.”
The faint blue light traced the sharp lines of his face, his hair soft against the pillow, eyes glittering. The bed smelled even more like him and it both comforted and distracted her.
 “In any case…” He rolled his head so he was staring at the ceiling. “I think she made it perfectly clear she has no more words for us. They won’t try to make contact again. We won’t see them.”
She glanced at the windows, looking out on the murky twilight. Rain spattered the glass.
 “Is that why you have the curtains open?” She snuggled down in her blanket.
He didn’t respond.

About the Author

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Megan Morgan is an award-winning paranormal and contemporary romance author from Cleveland, Ohio. A mild-mannered airport bar supervisor by day and purveyor of things that go bump in the night, she lives on the often-wintry shores of Lake Erie with her spoiled cat and adult son, both of whom shed too much.
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Review: The Body in the Wetlands (Book #2: A Jazzi Zanders Mystery Series) by Judi Lynn

Friday, March 1st

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When established house flippers Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod donate a week’s worth of remodeling work to Jazzi’s sister Olivia, they’re expecting nothing more than back-breaking roofing work and cold beers at the end of each long, hot day. With Jazzi’s live-in boyfriend and partner Ansel on the team, it promises to be a quick break before starting their next big project—until Leo, an elderly neighbor of Olivia’s, unexpectedly goes missing . . .
 
When the friendly senior’s dog tugs Jazzi and the guys toward the wetlands beyond Olivia’s neighborhood, they stumble across a decomposing corpse—and a lot of questions. With Jazzi’s pal Detective Gaff along to investigate, Jazzi finds her hands full of a whole new mystery instead of the usual hammer and nails. And this time it will take some sophisticated sleuthing to track down the culprit of the deadly crime—before the killer turns on her next . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Lyrical Underground          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Jazzi Zanders is some kind of devoted to her family!  When her sister, Olivia and Olivia’s boyfriend buy a new home that needs some work, Jazzie, the sisters’ cousin, Jerod, and Jazzi’s boyfriend, Ansel get the call to do the work . . . for free 😊 While the trio of house flippers are happy to help out, Jazzi isn’t quite as excited about the neighbors. 

Just across from Olivia’s house is the home of Leo, his wheelchair bound wife, and their walk-loving dog.  All three are perfectly delightful, Leo is full of neighborhood gossip, and the dog is simply adorable, but through no fault of their own, they drag Jazzi into a triple murder investigation.  Yeah, Jazzi isn’t at all happy with the neighbors. 

As work continues in Olivia’s home and at another site, Jazzi gets even deeper into the investigation.  As ever, when Detective Gaff needs a second set of eyes, a new set of questions, or just a friendly face to tag along, he calls Jazzi.  Jazzi’s quick mind and skill with problem solving makes her a good match for Gaff and between the two of them, they begin to unravel what happened to the three unfortunate souls they have discovered.  Though none of the three victims initially appeared to be connected to one another, a web of connections quickly unfolds and tells both Gaff and Jazzi there is a serious killer out there willing to go to great lengths to protect his/her identity.

On top of the murders, Jazzi also has an absent boyfriend thanks to a load of guilt from his beloved sister.  Though he is hesitant to be gone for a variety of reasons, Ansel agrees to go home leaving Jazzi to fend for herself with the murders and the renovation work.  For both, the separation is difficult and brings into sharp focus just where each stand as far as their long-term commitment to one another and their relationship. To be sure, Jazzi has a great deal on her plate and most of it has nothing to do with her amazing cooking.

The Bottom Line:  I have to say, this series evolved quickly, and I am loving the direction it is taking.  Here are the highlights: 1) I liked the craziness of this plot with three seemingly unrelated deaths being intimately connected and tied together beautifully by the author, 2) I liked the inclusion of some many animals, 3) I liked the increased backstory as it related to Ansel and his truly terrible family, and 4) I liked the absolute evolution in nearly every major character.  This is really a very solid book that speaks to the skill of the author and the bright future Jazzi Zanders has.  YAY for us, dear reader, YAY for us 😊

Pre-order for the April 23, 2019 release: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Paperback

Release Week Review: The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

thursday, february 28thA year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.

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Source: NetGalley and Thomas Nelson          My Rating: 3/5 stars

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know how much I adore a good past meets present read!  In fact, this is one of my favorite tropes and I generally always rate these types of reads quite highly . . . . generally, but not always.

The Secrets of Paper and Ink appealed to me most in the chapters dealing with the present, rather than the past.  While I completely understand the need for the chapters related to Emily Fairfax and the past, how her story tremendously impacts Sophia and her own life in the present, I found myself rushing through Emily’s chapters to read more of Sophia’s story. 

From the beginning, I found Sophia’s strength to be her most admirable quality.  Though she certainly doesn’t feel strong, or capable of moving past her pain, she is still willing to take a great big leap of faith to help herself.  In Sophia’s case, the leap takes her across the big pond to Cornwall, England where she finds cheap accommodations and an ideal position working part time in a bookstore.  On some level, Sophia knows she has found her salvation the moment she enters the bookstore.  What’s more, she instantly recognizes another broken woman in the face of her new landlord/employer, Ginny. 

In no time flat, Sophia has not only made herself at home, but made herself a fine new friend in Ginny.  Together, the two women work hard to revitalize the flagging bookstore and make it a place that can serve and support both their needs and wants.  For Sophia, the bookstore isn’t just an escape, but a chance to find her way toward a truly happy and healthy future.  For Ginny, the bookstore represents a struggle to hold on to her failing marriage and make something of the mess she finds herself in.  What neither woman expects is that not only will the bookstore save them both, but it will do so in most unexpected ways.

Within her first few days at the bookstore, Sophia finds an old novel that takes her on a journey into the past in order to solve the mystery of the past and uncover the identity of Emily Fairfax.  With the help of Ginny’s handsome and attentive brother-in-law, William, Sophia searches and searches for the story of a woman who has all but been forgotten.  The novel is the story of this young woman, one who wanted desperately to tell her story but was prevented from doing so because of her time and place in history.  In so many ways, Sophia identifies with Emily Fairfax and with every step closer to identifying Emily, Sophia comes one step closer to her own moment of revelation, the moment when she can finally tell her own story, let go of her terrible past, and step forward into her bright future.

The Bottom Line:  The very bottom line is this, I sincerely believe I would have liked this book even more if Sophia and Ginny’s stories alone had been covered and Emily’s left for another book altogether or not at all.  Sophia and Ginny are by far the strongest of the characters and I found Emily, though somewhat interesting, to be nowhere near as strong as Sophia and Ginny.  This is one of the few instances in which I did not care for the past coming back to impact the present.  In fact, I could have done without that aspect of the read at all.  What kept me at three starts is just how much I did like Sophia and Ginny.  Each woman is at the lowest point in her respective life and with the help and support of one another, each is able to pick herself up, put herself back together, and come out stronger on the other side.  With each page, each event, each new bombshell, Sophia and Ginny must dig deep, and I so enjoyed seeing them blossom and take control of their own lives.  In the end, each finds a life only once dreamt of and now made possible through their own hard work and determination.  As always, I do so love a character, male or female, who takes charge, takes control, and makes a better life for him/herself!

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Release Week Review: Sugar & Spice (Book #2: Sugar Series) by Christine d’Abo

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Kayla Arnold made her first million at the age of twenty, thanks to her Internet business, Fashion Finds. Young and rich, she became an easy mark for men looking to take advantage. Now ten years older and divorced, Kayla isn’t looking for love, she’s looking for no-strings-attached sex. Will signing up on a dating site bring her a man who meets her needs?
 
Devin Ford is smart, highly educated, aimless, and bored. At a party the night after his Ph.D. defense, he takes a bet to sign up on a sugar daddy dating website. With so few sugar mamas, he doesn’t expect anything to come of it. So he’s shocked when beautiful Kayla contacts him. And they’re both surprised when their first meeting leads to a night of mind-blowing sex. But the closer Devin wants to get to Kayla, the more she pushes him away. When he learns of the hell her ex-husband put her through, Devin decides to show her that not every man is out to use her—and that real love is priceless . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Lyrical Caress          My Rating: 4/5 stars

Kayla Arnold is a very wealthy woman thanks to her own creativity, determination, and hard work.  Kayla Arnold is also a very lonely woman thanks to her own creativity, determination, and hard work.  After a disastrous relationship in which her “partner” was far more interested in her wealth and the status she could provide him, Kayla is content to remain alone.  Like in business, mistakes made on the personal level can be quite costly.

For so long, too long really, Kayla has been alone and while it hasn’t particularly bothered her in the past, the present is a different matter altogether.  Her business is tremendously successful, her reputation within the industry is rock solid, yet she feels unsettled.  Kayla attributes the feeling to two causes, she rarely has time anymore to create original designs and, she’s simply lonely.  With little time for dating and/or meeting new people, Kayla has only one choice, the dreaded world of online dating.

While Kayla doesn’t have time to find her own online dating site, she does have a best friend with a wild idea.  Her best friend proposes the Sugar Daddy site which won’t necessarily find Kayla the love of her life, but it will provide her with companionship. Though Kayla is reluctant, she does have an event or two coming up that would be far more manageable with a companion.  That companion turns out to be the uber intelligent, if a little lost, but still ridiculously sexy, Devin Ford. 

Devin may be super smart, but he has no idea what he wants to do with his life.  What’s more, his shiny new PhD came with a huge price tag and he currently has no means of paying that bill.  Though his friend punked him when she signed him up for the Sugar Daddy site, it seems to be paying off in the form of Kayla Arnold.  According to their contract, Devin will earn a cool $10,000 for spending one week posing as Kayla’s boyfriend.  Given Kayla’s appearance and general demeanor, the job won’t be a sacrifice at all and if they can build on their initial meeting, perhaps there will be more fun to be had beyond the fake boyfriend contract. 

As expected, the week of events between Kayla and Devin reveal more about one another on both a personal and professional level.  There is a genuine kindness in both Kayla and Devin that forms a basis for a real friendship and relationship.  As Kayla grows to trust Devin, she reveals more of her past and begins to understand why she holds herself apart from others.  The emotional vulnerability is hard on Kayla, but Devin finds ways to ease her pain and anxiety.  Just as the two are moving toward something quite lovely, Kayla’s despicable ex makes an appearance and mucks up absolutely everything.  With just the beginnings of relationship in place, Kayla and Devin both overreact, and all too quickly give up something that had the potential to be truly great.

The Bottom Line: Exactly what I was hoping for in this series happened in this book!!  D’Abo didn’t limit the series to sugar daddies but went with a sugar momma and I loved it 😊 Both Kayla and Devin are sympathetic characters I liked instantly.  I knew they were going to have to go through all kinds of crap to get to their HEA but every bit of awful is totally worth their ending.  Aside from the romantic relationship, I particularly enjoyed the encounters between Kayla and the people of her past.  Kayla is so broken and so jaded and her week back home both confirms and shatters those emotions and attitudes.  Through most of it and where it really matters, Kayla maintains her kindness and professionalism, but when she needs too, she digs deep and unleashes some well-deserved anger.  I like it, A LOT!  I’m ready for more of this series and so glad it is in d’Abo’s skilled and practiced hands.  A plot line such as this series has could easily become seedy and gross and in the hands of a less skilled author, it may well have done so.  What you actually get with the Sugar series are real relationships wrapped in just the right amount of illicit and naughty.

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Finding Mercy (Book #3: Next Generation Series) by Riley Edwards

Title: Finding Mercy (Next Generation, #3)
Author: Riley Edwards
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: February 26th
Cover Designer: Lori Jackson
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Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

DEA Jason Walker became a widower at Twenty-eight. Two years later he’s still torturing himself with guilt. They’d married young, and she’d been his first love, but her illness changed everything. They’d fought a losing battle and he’d held her to the very end. Now he just wants to be left alone with his misery and memories.

Mercy James is no stranger to grief and loneliness. Her brother’s death of a drug overdose, and her police officer father’s death in the line of duty were the driving forces behind her pursuit of a career in the DEA. In spite of—or maybe because of—her past, Mercy doesn’t believe in feeling sorry for others, or for herself.

When a case brings Jason and Mercy together, and their attraction heats up, can her tough, straightforwardness help Jason learn to live in the light again? He’d lost his first love, but is he ready for a forever love?

Riley Edwards is a bestselling multi-genre author, wife, and military mom. Riley was born and raised in Los Angeles but now resides on the east coast with her fantastic husband and children.  Riley writes heart-stopping romance with sexy alpha heroes and even stronger heroines. Riley’s favorite genres to write are romantic suspense and military romance.

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Spotlight: The Reinvention of Jinx Howell (Book #5: Pine Bluff Series) by Nancee Cain

 

Hiding behind her wigs and heavy makeup, Jinx Howell masks her insecurities—which even she doesn’t understand—with bravado, slashing through life with reckless abandon. Lonely, but unwilling to get close to anyone, she finds the ideal solution: a hook-up with the campus’s most notorious heartbreaker.
In similar fashion, Mark “Two-Time” MacGregor protects his heart and keeps himself unencumbered through a string of one-night stands. A chance meeting with the edgy Jinx in a dark alley seems like destiny. She claims to want sex with no ties, making her perfect. Like attracts like. But this girl with a switchblade has more hang-ups than he does, which is a hell of a lot.

When tragedy strikes, Mark’s hit-and-run lifestyle takes a backseat to his need to protect the broken girl whose secrets are unraveling. Along the way, both of them will find their truths unmasked. Can they forge a real relationship, or will they give up on their romance as jinxed?

 

During the day, Nancee works as a counselor/nurse in the field of addiction to support her coffee and reading habit. Nights are spent writing paranormal and contemporary romances with a serrated edge. Authors are her rock stars, and she’s been known to stalk a few for an autograph, but not in a scary, Stephen King way. Her husband swears her To-Be-Read list on her e-reader qualifies her as a certifiable book hoarder. Always looking to try something new, she dreams of being an extra in a Bollywood film, or a tattoo artist. (Her lack of rhythm and artistic ability may put a damper on both of these dreams.)

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Release Week Review: Pie Hard (Book #3: Pie Town Mystery) by Kirsten Weiss

monday, february 25th

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Business at the bakery may have slowed down, but Val Harris isn’t about to eat humble pie–not until a reality cooking show decides to whip the struggling Pie Town into shape. If Val can tolerate criticism from an abrasive pastry chef during filming, the free publicity might turn the unusual opportunity into the sweetest deal she didn’t know she needed.

Except no one in San Nicholas has an appetite for dessert once murder steals the spotlight. When the show’s bossy producer gets pushed to her death, Val and her flaky, septuagenarian pie crust expert, Charlene, follow crumbs in hopes of finding the killer. But with cameras still rolling and the shocking identity of the victim’s replacement a guaranteed recipe for disaster, Val needs to stay cool long enough to solve the crime and keep Pie Town from falling apart–or else she just might go up in smoke before she ever graces the small screen.

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Source: NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Company          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Val Harris loves owning her own business even if it eats up most of her time, life, and energy.  Baking pies, filling bellies, seeing happy faces, and working with her staff brings Val such joy.  What would bring her even more joy, the bakery bringing in a larger profit and sustaining itself financially.  As ever, Val keeps her worries to herself and her crust maker, Charlene interferes.

As far as interfering goes, Charlene has really outdone herself this time!  With no input or even consent from Val, Charlene has signed Pie Town up to participate in a reality show.  To that end, the producers, cameras, and stars will come into the shop, assess Val, her staff, and her products, and (hopefully) not make her out to be a fool on national television.  Oh, and if Val is really lucky, the entire production will help her find new and inventive ways to improve her products and her shop.  Unfortunately, Val has yet to be really lucky 😊

Before Val knows it, she’s committed to the show, her kitchen is filled to capacity, one of the “experts” is kind of mean, and another one ends up dead.  Just as fast as everything else happens, Val is drawn into yet another murder (or two) investigation and her limited free time is spent not sleeping, worrying about her shop and her safety, and what shenanigans Charlene is going to get up to next.  There’s also the matter of her kind of boyfriend, the sexy police officer who may not be her kind of boyfriend much longer since Val’s involvement in the current case got him kicked off the case.  Yeah, there a lot of crazy in every one of Val’s days and nights.

The Bottom Line:  I’m just going to put this out there right now, the Pie Town Mystery series is getting stronger with each additional book.  This time through, Val is more confident in her investigative skills, Charlene is even crazier, they have an investigative intern (YAY!), and the plot is the strongest yet.  In point of fact, this particular plot seems to be intended to set up the continuation of the series for the foreseeable future.  Without giving anything away, the use of and the results of the Pie Town participation in the reality show sets Val and Charlene up for a very nice and successful indeed.  In addition to professional evolution, there is also evolution on the personal side and I so love that for these characters.  In completely cheesy fashion, I am ready for another slice of pie 😊

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