(cue the music)
Dana Drew felt like her world was closing in.
She could feel a cry rise in her throat as she tried to compose herself. Loud rock music blasted from the speakers. She loved rock, but hated this song.
Of course it would be playing now, she thought.
Everything she knew and believed was turning out to be a lie. The man she loved was pulling away from her. Sam hadn’t said it, but she could feel it—the relationship she’d invested her heart in was coming to an end.
The chaste kisses, the dismissive way he spoke to her, the late nights at the office. She confronted him before she left for work today (not her best timing), but he denied anything was going on. In many ways, the torture of uncertainty was worse than knowing it was over. A small sliver of hope gnawed at her logic.
Could she be reading it wrong? Maybe it was all in her mind.
The pit in her stomach argued otherwise.
The digital clock on the board in front of her continued to countdown.
01:00, 00:59, 00:58…
Time didn’t care about her pain, it just plowed forward into what now was the unknown. Plans, dreams, hopes were disappearing.
Could she ever trust her judgement again? Would she ever love again?
Tears stung her eyes, but she held them back, taking a deep breath. The song was quickly ending and she needed to regain her composure.
Disc jockeys didn’t have time for feelings when they were on the air.
The final notes played. Dana potted up the fader, put on her headphones and coaxed a smile into her voice.
“Good afternoon…what a fabulous day! Great weather and awesome music. Who could ask for anything more? Love that song! Hope you do too ‘cause I’ve got more just like it coming up on Miami’s rock station, WORR!”
Her life was falling apart, but to her listening audience, all was right with the world.
It wasn’t normal.
It was rock and roll.
(turn it up)
Jonny Rock just got laid.
Tall and tan, with bright, spiky, bleached-blond hair, Jonny was a rock star—in his own mind.
Jonathan Roeker had been a poor student from Philadelphia. Bad grades and an even worse complexion were not a recipe for success. But he had drive, raw ambition and an intense love of music.
Besides, radio deejays didn’t need a pretty face, just a good set of pipes and a lot of attitude.
Jonathan was blessed with both.
An overnight shift, a skillful dermatologist, and Jonathan was on his way. Jonny Rock was born and Jonathan Roeker was left far behind in a middle-class suburb. Now Jonny was the man, the assistant program director of WORR—Only Rock and Roll, Miami’s alternative rock station. It wasn’t an easy road, but he had made it.
And he was loving every minute of it.
Jonny stretched his arms over his head and flipped on the radio. It was two in the afternoon and he was on the air. The miracle of voice-tracking, he thought to himself. He could record his breaks the night before into an automated computer, giving himself free time in the afternoon for some extra-curricular activities. All while his wife listened to him “live” on the air.
He couldn’t ask for a better set-up…
Gryffen considered the many ways he could punish Crystine as he skimmed the treetops in the early morning light. His thoughts circled the ones she’d enjoy—if he could prevent her from killing him in the interim. The greatest risk arose from her five centuries’ worth of experience with spell casting. She’d proven herself skilled as well as clever, much to his dismay. He’d met his match.
Gray bled to orange, violet, and blue as the sun’s rays crept over the earth while he considered her motive for fleeing the sanctuary of his home.
It wasn’t the man which caused Crystine to sneak out like a thief in the night; it was her own reaction to him that challenged her re-examination of everything she thought she knew about vampires.
She’d spent centuries training and killing his kind and couldn’t switch gears long enough to sort her feelings. It didn’t matter they’d fought demons side by side in order to destroy an artifact destined to end humanity. The enemy of her enemy was not her friend.
Like prejudices burdened his thoughts. Vampires and witches just didn’t mingle, much less mate.
Another fiery pain sliced through his arm, the result of his witch’s newest wound. Whatever sensation she experienced was replicated in his body, a wretched reminder of them sharing blood.
Their connection’s sudden emergence indicated her lack of strength in shielding her aura. His fist clenched around the hilt of his sword in preparation to protect his mate.
Through their link, he sensed her desperation, along with overwhelming regret. She’d wanted a fresh start, away from vampires, demons, and the evil encroaching on mankind. Instead, she’d stumbled into more of the same darkness that had comprised her life.
Flying low over the desolate forest concentrated his vampire senses until the dull thud of steel striking demonic hide altered his southern course.
Doubt overshadowed his confidence in her ability to survive with each mile passed despite her wielding Cliffin blades the way an expert chef handled knives, an extension of the hands.
A flash of insight accompanied by an inhuman growl altered his path over the lush canopy. Veering slightly west, he witnessed glimpses of her struggle through budding leaves and swaying pine needles, her steel catching the sun’s first beams.
She faced three creatures, one beginning to slip her witchy hold. If not for the strength derived from their blood exchange the prior night, she’d be dead.
The intensity of last night’s encounter had left them both exhausted to the extent he hadn’t believed she’d run.
He’d recoiled at her self-disgust when the last shudder of her orgasm had subsided. Neither believed fate would pull natural enemies together. If not for his personal warding spell, she might have ended their problematic relationship with her sword.
He felt a kinship with the male praying mantis.
Waking from an unnatural sleep, he knew she’d fled to preserve her tattered self-respect. If not for the terror of what she now faced, he would’ve taken his time in stalking her, teasing her with his presence.
Another burst of speed shot him over the small clearing as the sun’s rays crept along the horizon. Crystine faced off against greater odds yet with equal determination.
She’d feel the specter of his aura before seeing him approach. Whether or not the demons she fought detected him depended on their level of power.
He circled behind them and descended while drawing his sword then hacking through the first creature’s neck using gravity and momentum. The speed of descent coupled with his strength detached its head, its look of shock in falling to the ground forming while black acid sprayed from its severed skull.
“Hi, hon. You miss me?”
An ache filled his chest.
In a couple of long strides, he ate up the distance between them, grabbing her by the shoulders and bending his knees until they were eye to eye. What stared back at him fucking killed him.
But he didn’t know what to say. An apology would be hollow and lackluster. Or at least that’s what he thought. An apology wasn’t enough. What he had to give her, what he had in his heart just wasn’t enough.
She blinked damp, spiked lashes at him, looking through him, seeing all of him.
As she went to speak, he crushed his mouth to hers, smothering her words. He released her shoulders, wrapping his arms around her waist and tugged her into his body. She groaned and gripped his T-shirt tight, his dog tags too. It was like she was holding on for dear life. But it was actually him who was holding on to her. Grappling for the last remaining threads of his sanity, of his humanity … of his soul. Sweeping through her mouth, his tongue swirled around hers, massaging and sucking, tasting a delicacy he knew he didn’t deserve.
He knew it was wrong. The whole thing between them was wrong. It’d been wrong the first time he’d kissed her, then the second and every time after that. But he couldn’t stop.
He wanted her to demand they stop, to see the man that he really was and realize she was better off walking away. That he couldn’t give her what she needed, what she deserved.
He also wanted her to beg him for more, to take what she could from him, what he could offer her, even if it wasn’t much.
She pushed him away, her chest heaving with heavy pants, her eyes bright and lips puffy. “What are we doing, Aaron?” She stepped away from him and turned around. “What do you want from me?”
Fuck if he knew.
Could everything and nothing be the right answer?
He wanted everything she had to give him, but he also knew that it was better to ask her for nothing, because how could you ask someone to give you all they had when you had so little to give in return?
She spun to face him. “I like you. I’m attracted to you. I want you. I also love my job. I’m in love with your baby, and I don’t want to lose Sophie.” She swallowed. “Or you. But if this is going to be too much for you, I can step back. I can just be the nanny.”
Lawless Kingdom by Natalie Bennett:You can never truly know someone. Not even the ones you love. What started as the best summer of Rhiannon Clemonte’s life ended with her world being flipped completely upside down. All because she got entangled with Judas Baron, the wicked blue blood who will do whatever it takes to keep her by his side.
Vicious Knight by Nicole Cypher:I had one mission: get through senior year. As one of the invisibles, it was supposed to be nothing more than a waiting game. That was, until football quarterback and king of the school, Camden Knight, decided to destroy my credibility, reputation, and ultimately… me.
Merciless Knave by Esme Devlin:Traded like the Queen of Diamonds in a game of cards. ‘Til death us do part; that’s what the Knave of Spades promised. If that’s the way it’s got to be, I’m dragging him to hell with me.
Brutal Prince by Logan Fox: Everyone bows to the prince. Well, everyone except me. Arrogant, brutal, sexy Prince Briar has made it clear that I’m not welcome at Lavish High, but I’ve got nowhere else to go and I’m not backing down. Guess we’ll see who’s left standing when the dust settles.
Cruel King by Rina Kent: Here, little princess. I’m your king. You have three rules. Bow. Break. Bend the knee. Fight me all you want, but soon enough, you’ll be chanting long live the king.
He surveyed the room. “I was thinking right here on this table.” He winked at her.
Her mouth fell open, then she shook her head. Then she laughed. “On the table? Really? Why does that sound like a line too? Does it work for you?” Her hand went up. “Wait, don’t answer that.”
Ryan smiled. “Lines don’t work with you. That’s another thing I really like about you.”
“Oh.” She licked her lips.
Focus, Thiel. What had she been talking about before he’d brought up having sex on a table? “You meant working together, didn’t you? You think that will be a problem?”
“Yes, don’t you?”
“Why Ms. Capone, are you saying it’s hard to concentrate around me?” He leaned down and kissed her neck and then slowly moved up toward her ear.
“Um. A little.” A small moan escaped her mouth. She stepped back. “We can’t do that.”
He stalked toward her. “We can’t?”
“Not if we want to get any work done. And you can’t look at me like that either.”
“Like you want to throw me on this table.”
“Sorry, I can’t help that.”
She put more distance between them. “Ryan, I need us to just be friends.”
The residents of Dove Pond, North Carolina, know three things: they have the finest bar-b-que this side of Atlanta, their Apple Festival is the best that ever was, and the town has phenomenal good luck whenever the Dove family has seven daughters. Fortunately, that time is now, because Dove Pond desperately needs a miracle. The seventh daughter, Sarah Dove, believes in all things magical. Books have whispered their secrets to her since she was a child. Now the town librarian, she makes sure every book finds the reader who most needs it. But recently the books have been whispering something different—that change is about to come to Dove Pond. Sarah is soon convinced that the legendary Dove Pond good luck has arrived in the form of new resident, Grace Wheeler.
After the tragic death of her sister, Grace has moved to Dove Pond with her grieving young niece and ailing foster mother hoping to retrench financially and emotionally before returning to her fast-paced city life. But she soon learns that life in a not-so-sleepy town isn’t as quiet as she’d hoped. Despite her best efforts to focus on her family, she can’t avoid the townspeople, especially her next-door neighbors, the quirky and talkative Sarah Dove and cynical veteran Travis Parker. Grace’s situation grows more complicated when she assumes her duties as town clerk and discovers that Dove Pond is on the verge of financial ruin.
Already overburdened by her own cares, Grace tries to stay aloof from the town’s issues, but she’s never been good at resisting a challenge. With Sarah’s encouragement, and inspired by the wise words of a special book, Grace decides to save her new town. And in her quest, she discovers the rich comfort of being a part of a loving community, the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the heartfelt power of finding just the right book.
“Love can’t cure a broken heart, but it can hold the two sides together while they heal.”
Holy WOW, y’all!! The Book Charmer is my first Karen Hawkins book and it is absolutely and without doubt not going to be my last! What a read this was and from beginning to end, I was all in, totally invested, and ugly crying by the end.
Sarah Dove (and her family!) is special. If you believe, Sarah and her six sisters each have special gifts which often allow them to enhance the lives of those around with. Sarah’s gift allows her to hear the wishes of the books she tends as town librarian. Though she may not always understand why, when Sarah is told by a book whom it needs to go to, Sarah complies. While not everyone believes in Sarah’s gift, all have learned not to turn away one of her books. One of the oldest books in Sarah’s library, a town history written by one of Sarah’s ancestors, has long believed and often loudly informed Sarah that she will be involved in securing the fate of her beloved hometown, Dove Pond.
Sarah has spent her life in service to her town and while she knows the town is struggling, she has no idea how badly until Grace Wheeler comes to town. As the new town clerk, Grace Wheeler has no intention of staying in Dove Pond any longer than is strictly necessary. The move to Dove Pond is a last-ditch effort to help ease Grace’s foster mother into the throws of Alzheimer’s, to settle her into a place she is long-familiar with. Additionally, Grace has also taken over the care of her niece, Daisy, a precocious and sassy eight-year-old reeling from the recent loss of her absentee mother. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Grace is angry and tired and feels she has no room or energy for friends, let alone saving a small town.
Grace has never experienced small town life and isn’t at all prepared for what she finds. Sarah Dove is the nicest person on earth and is bound and determined to bring Grace into the fold. Because her books have told her so, Sarah firmly believes Grace is the way to Dove Pond’s salvation and if she can’t get Grace on board then there’s no hope at all. Sarah’s plan is simple, make Grace see the beauty of Dove Pond, the power and grace of her people, and convince her to stay forever. Shouldn’t be hard, right? What the eternally optimistic Sarah does not at all understand is the stubbornness and anger in Grace as a result of her situation and circumstances. To convince Grace to help and stay is going to take a monumental effort on everyone’s part.
The effort to keep Grace comes in the form of annual Apple Festival. As town clerk, Grace is the head of the planning committee and is expected to pull off a miracle on a shoestring budget. As Grace begins her research she discovers how desperately in trouble Dove Pond is and after a few shenanigans involving other committee members, Grace decides to dig her heals in and help the small town come back to life. As Sarah (and many others) had hoped, Grace not only becomes invested in the festival, but in the town and her citizens as well. The road to success isn’t at all smooth and without obstacles, both personal and professional, but it is the single most rewarding road Grace has ever travelled. In fact, as she is working hard to save a small town, Grace finds her own salvation.
The Bottom Line: If I didn’t have to adult and be responsible daily, this book would have been completed in a single sitting! The Book Charmer is everything I love in contemporary fiction: small town setting, wonderful characters with bright and full personalities, a bit of the mystical, and the full range of the feels. What’s more, this book is beautifully written and deals gently though honestly with difficult topics that so many in the real world face every day. There is an overall feeling of love, friendship, acceptance, loss, and community in this book and it appealed to me on every level. Finally, as I began this review and looked up the book on Goodreads, I discovered this is just the first in a series and I am beyond excited to know more about the Dove sisters, their special gifts, and life in Dove Pond.