Review: Play Me: The Complete Story by Tracy Wolff

No-Brainer

Title: Play Me
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 6/16/15
Length:   308 pages
Series:  Play Me (The Complete series 1-5)

Overview

My name is Aria Winston. I’ve fought desperately to escape the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas. Now I’m on my own, in control of my own life and my own destiny . . . just the way I like it. Until Sebastian Caine changes everything.

Working as a cocktail waitress at one of Vegas’s hottest five-star casinos means putting up with a ton of bad behavior from the big spenders. But it pays the bills—and that’s all that matters to Aria, who needs every last dollar to escape from her father’s destructive grasp and the brutal man he expects her to marry. But when she lashes out against a billionaire who won’t take no for an answer, she nearly loses everything—until Sebastian steps in. The owner’s son and handpicked successor, Sebastian is dark, sexy, and kinder than any rich man should be. And when he apologizes and offers to keep her job safe, Aria can’t help the way her body reacts to his. Suddenly her job, and the security it brings her, isn’t the only thing Aria wants.

My Thoughts

I’m embarrassed to say that it actually took me a few chapters for it to click that this is THE SEBASTIAN AND ARIA from the Ethan Frost series.  OOPS.  anyway, if you’ve read the other series, then you know who these folks are a bit, at least in name and i think that we were eagerly awaiting their story – to understand exactly how Sebastian and Aria know each other and what the deal is between them.

That’s exactly what we get.  The good thing about me totally forgetting who they were, is that i went into this series without any idea the back story on Aria, who her father is, what she’s been through etc, and that makes this story that much more exciting.  We only met Sebastian briefly in the other series, and really just got his help more than his story – so this is a nice evolution of that.

So as the summary suggests, there’s a constant fight for control between these folks – we see that Sebastian needs it, as does Aria, but when they come together, they begin to see that there’s an interesting way to get the control that they need, and it’s really impressive to see how it’s written.

Aria has fought to get out from under her father’s thumb, and refuses to take any help from him in her life.  The issue though is that she’s got a sister who’s quite sick, and she’s desperate to stay by her sister, but needs to stay away from her father.

Sebastian, well, he has a tough relationship with his father, who’s the former owner of this casino conglomerate, and after his father has several mini strokes, Sebastian comes back to Vegas to take over the business.  It makes things tough of course since he really wants nothing to do with his father, but at least it brings him back to a place where he can change things, and get control over a part of his life that he’s not been able to have.

Their stories of course come together when Aria is working as a cocktail waitress in his casino, and gets fed up with how some of the ‘whales’ are treating women, and ends up losing her temper and hitting one of them.  she gets fired and when Sebastian is called upon to deal with the high roller who’s threatening to sue, he realizes that there’s not just more to the story there but to the girl.

So of course as we always expect, the something more starts with an intense attraction, and knowing what we do of how Ms. Wolff writes these stories, we know that we’re not going to be let down.  The interesting thing here is that these characters edge a bit more into the BDSM realm where the other series and characters have not, and it’s a nice change.  I don’t know if she’s hit the lifestyle as hard and accurately perhaps as other authors, but still, it makes the dynamic here really nice and hot and you definitely want to see how two control freaks manage in this situation.  There’s a lot of talk about subspace and subdrop, and to be honest, every other book that i’ve read in the genre, well, the ‘dom’ so to speak has been much more aware and would never be as careless as Sebastian has been throughout this story – so in that sense, it’s a miss, but at least our author addresses his lack of consciousness in this realm and tries to fix it.

The story takes us on several paths, the one with Sebastian and his father which i’m not sure ever gets resolved, the story of Aria running from her family and hiding who she is – which is a constant wonder as i’ve read through, wondering when it was going to come out knowing that Sebastian is trying to break the casino’s ties with the mafia, and then what will come of Sebastian and Aria.  Definitely a lot to ponder, and thankfully there’s a lot of passion and heat to keep us invested.

It feels like perhaps there’s more to the series that we may get although i don’t know if there necessarily is.  But that being said, i’m eager to read more if we get it and i also can’t wait for the next installment to Ethan and Chloe’s story as well.  Enjoy!

Review: Fade into Me (Shaken Dirty #3) by Tracy Wolff

No-Brainer

Title: Fade into Me
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 2/15/16
Length:   232 pages
Series:  Shaken Dirty #3

Overview

She’s one addiction he can’t resist.

Wyatt Jennings has been called a lot of things by the media. Bad-boy rocker. Intense drummer. Addict.

Finally out of rehab and desperate for a fresh start, Wyatt rejoins his mega-platinum rock band Shaken Dirty as they prepare for their world tour. But Wyatt’s demons are never far behind, always nipping at his heels for one. More. Fix.

Enter Poppy Germaine, the band’s new social media consultant. A beautiful bombshell who somehow manages to get underneath Wyatt’s skin, Poppy’s an addiction Wyatt can get behind. And even though she’s with the label-and therefore off-limits-he craves her. Needs her.

Except Poppy isn’t actually a social media consultant. She’s the daughter of the label’s CEO, sent undercover to babysit Wyatt and keep him from falling off the wagon again. Proving herself to her father is Poppy’s only goal-until she finds herself in Wyatt’s bed. But if Wyatt discovers the truth, it could send him spiraling all over again…

My Thoughts

The saga continues, this time we’re getting to see the troubled tale of Wyatt, who’s fresh out of rehab, trying to get his life back in balance.  Because he’s a liability, the record label wants to send someone to babysit, and that someone ends up being Poppy – who’s the daughter of the head of the label, and also the one who discovered the band.  She’s got to stay under cover of course, in how she ‘manages’ Wyatt, and we all know that it means that romance is going to come into play.

The story that we get here, it’s one that’s both expected and a bit deeper than expected.  Yes, it’s commonplace to have the rockstar addict as a story line, but in this one, we have to get about half way to 3/4 of the way through in order to see things beginning to hit home for everyone what is at stake, and what their worth is to everyone.  If it wasn’t enough that we had the story line of Wyatt, we’re also learning about the process to replace Micah now that he’s been ousted from the band.

Typical of the other books in this series, we get a sweet romance starting here, although for the bulk of their interactions, it’s more about sex than about romance and relationship.  Of course they are both in denial of what’s in front of their face, but i think that it’s always that catalyst of someone lying and up and leaving that makes things actually happen.  The ending that we get here though, totally didn’t expect it to happen as it did, and it’s nice.

In addition to the plot line of following Wyatt, we see that Poppy finds herself at a crossroads since she’s never been given the chance to prove that she’s an amazing talent scout and record exec.  She’s always being forced to stay behind her brother and never get the  credit that’s due.  We see how that plays out here and that’s an interesting twist as well.

So all in all, pretty good continuation of the series, and i can’t wait to get into Jared and Drew’s stories now that they have still to be told.

Have a great sunday everyone!

Review: Drive me Crazy (Shaken Dirty #2) by Tracy Wolff

No-Brainer

Title: Drive Me Crazy
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 2/24/14
Length:   250 pages
Series:  Shaken Dirty #2

Overview

Former rivals Quinn Bradford and Elise McKinney are not friends, at least not anymore. As teens, all they cared about was psyching each other out before concerts. But when Quinn—now the keyboardist for Shaken Dirty, the hottest rock band on the scene—returns to his hometown and hears about the car accident that shattered Elise’s career, he’s determined to make things right.

Elise wants nothing to do with an arrogant rock star, despite how bad she so clearly wants him, so Quinn kidnaps the stubborn little piano player and whisks her back to his mansion. A little seduction might be just the thing to keep Elise under his care…and in his bed. But amid pranks both childish and very adult, their past comes rearing back to haunt them. And it might be more than either of them can forget.

His rival’s in his bed, and this rocker is ready to play.

My Thoughts

I like how this series is progressing, giving us a peek into the lives of these band members as they begin  to ‘grow up’ and find their own identities while on hiatus from the tour.  In this next installment, we see that there’s a more human side to Quinn, although we started to see that from the first book and how he was with Jamison.

Anyhow, it’ opens in the hospital as Elise wakes up from surgery which is a result of a car accident that she was in.  What i think it’s tough here though in the flow of the story is that we don’t ever learn exactly what happened, and all that, but we just know that it happened.  In any event, we see that Quinn is there by her side, which is a surprise given that they haven’t seen each other for 10 years, and their last time together wasn’t necessary an exit on good terms. (i.e. Quinn dipped out without so much as a goodbye).

Fast forward to the present, we get to see that Quinn and Elise still have chemistry and a really strong friendship, and Quinn wants to be there for her while she’s recuperating – and maybe more?  The nice thing between these 2 is that they are both feisty – we get to see some nice banter between them, and we get to see that while there’s hurt and fear between what they were and what they could be, they are both able to put things aside in order to just ‘be’ for the moment.

There’s the subplot of both of their careers in the mix here as well which keeps the main story going – Elise being a professional pianist and of course Quinn’s situation with Shaken Dirty, and the rehab/member situations going on. We get to spend much of the book wondering ‘what will happen’ for both of them, and as we saw in the previous book, our author gives us a peek in the epilogue.

That all being said, along with the great subplot that we have to keep the bigger series going, we have the intense chemistry with these 2 that keeps this one installment going.  while it’s not as ‘animalistic’ as Jamison and Ryder, it’s still hot in a romantic sort of way.  There’s something that’s more ‘romance than heat’ with these two, but it works.  and it’s nice.  I think that of course there’s the expectation that someone’s going to get scared off, and it’ll be a question of how they will find their way back together if it’s meant to be, and what that will look like, but it’s a nice progression that Ms Wolff gives us to get there.

So on that note, i’m off to find book 3 and see who’s next.  Enjoy!

Cover Reveal: Meddling with Murder by Ellie Campbell

Meddling With Murder by Ellie Campbell
Pages: 350
Series: Crouch End Confidential
Publisher: Across the Pond
Release Date: 9th April 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery


Blurb:



Crouch End Confidential, the agency started by
housewife, Cathy O’Farrell, with ex-cleaner Pimple, is failing badly. Hardly
surprising when their only clients are little old ladies seeking lost pets.
Until the strange case of the missing dog…




Soon Cathy’s multiple problems include stolen bikes, a
possible murder weapon, the sabotage of her friends’ new shop, drug-dealing
yobbos targeting her children’s primary school and being forced to pose as the world’s
most inept maths tutor. Worse, best friend Rosa hires her to investigate fiancé
Alec and – horrors – Cathy’s husband Declan is intent on moving himself, Cathy
and kids to the safer climes of rural Norfolk. Suddenly Cathy is endangering
her marriage, friendships and her life to untangle these messes. But
that’s what you get for meddling with murder…


 Add-To-Goodreads: Meddling With Murder by Ellie Campbell

Preorder:

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

What the fudge?
The branch creaks alarmingly as I test
my weight against it. For a second I think it might snap but then my foot slips
and we part company anyway. Bark scrapes another layer off my grazed skin and
to my horror I find myself tipping backwards, falling, falling…
Far beneath me my daughter Sophie gives
an unwitting squeal, Henrietta’s twins shriek in unison and I hear son Josh
call out ‘Mummeeee!’ when as much by luck as design my left arm catches a
forked limb long enough for me to grasp it and come to a bone-jolting,
shoulder-wrenching stop. Sweat drips down my body, my knees shake
uncontrollably and something’s poking between my ribs like a sharpened spear,
causing an actual hole through clothes into flesh.
Dangling, I somehow hook one leg round
the main trunk and cling there like my life depends on it. Which, for the
record, it does.
‘Hang on, Mum!’ Sophie yells for perhaps
the fifteenth time. She’d wanted to climb up here but I’d told her it was too
dangerous. When will I listen to my own advice?
I stop panting long enough to call down.
‘I’m OK, sweetheart. Perfectly safe.’ How long since I last clambered up a
tree? Me, an overweight, unfit middle-aged, mother-of-two in not so skinny jeans.
And what did I promise my family – that I’d avoid potentially risky situations?
That any cases I took on would absolutely not involve capturing murderers or
exposing criminals? Not that our patch of North London known as Crouch End is
inundated with killings, just that I’ve somehow succeeded in entangling myself
with two in the last eighteen months. And now the simplest of mundane jobs has
turned an everyday school drop-off into what could possibly be my final
farewell.
A terrified glance below shows Sophie
clutching on to her younger brother’s arm, their long-standing feud forgotten
as they contemplate their mother’s plight. Lauren, Henrietta’s eldest by two
seconds, is hopping from foot to foot, pale with anxiety while her sister’s
nervously studying her watch. I wonder what’s upsetting them most – the thought
of Aunty Cathy’s untimely demise or being late for class. Yet again.
Three feet above me, inches from reach,
a tortoiseshell cat stares down with baleful yellow eyes. I hold out a coaxing
hand. ‘Here, Fluffy. C’mon, kitty. Pishhh whishh.’
Disregarding me entirely, he licks his
paw before stalking further out, balancing on a twig, with the arrogant grace
of a tightrope walker. Oh how I wish I’d ignored him when I saw that
distinctive white-tipped tail swagger across the zebra crossing. But I’d spent
weeks scouring backyards, crawling on hands and knees, peeking under parked
cars, over hedges, listening to sweet old Mrs Thompson choke back sobs as I
admitted failure.
I’m gathering my courage and strength to
scale higher when my mobile rings. I wedge my bum into a crevice between branch
and tree, tighten my hold and, with a few contortions worthy of the great
Houdini, extract my phone from my pocket to peer at the screen.
Caller’s number withheld. Should I
answer it?
Am I in any position to answer it?
Could be urgent.
‘Hello?’ I venture.
‘Is this…?’ A woman. Middle-aged at a
guess, posh sounding. She drops to a muted whisper so low I have to crane to
hear. ‘The HP…um…WS…um…thingy?’
Several months back I’d been donated
this money, you see, ten thousand pounds, which was kind of hot, but gone cold.
Semi-illegal – not to be returned. Brilliant timing as my husband, Declan, had
recently re-evaluated what he wanted from life: Rhode Island Reds and a less pressurised
career, I’d been suspended from work and my house cleaner, Pimple, was tired of
domestic duties. I was thinking maybe it’s time I should do some soul-searching. So we, as in Pimple and myself,
decided to start up a business.
‘That’s right,’ I say briskly, with
enough softness to encourage conversation. ‘The H.P.W.W.O.C.S. Helping People
Who Would Otherwise Commit Suicide. Or even H.P.W.M.O.C.S. – People Who Might
Otherwise…but we’re called Crouch End Confidential now.’ Impromptu market
research among friends had ended up with tongue-tied repetitions and lots of
‘You whats?’
We’d originally substituted the would for might, because after all, how can one predict who’ll kill
themselves? Some people threaten it with no intention of going through with it
and others, not a word and then boom – lives are devastated. Then there’s those
who talk about it all the time and no one gives a hoot because they’re labelled
attention-seekers and before you can say boom again – they carry out what
they’d always said they’d carry out.
‘But you are that organisation? The ones
who help with, uh difficult problems, like er…’
‘Lost pets?’ I finish for her, looking
up again at Fluffy. ‘Yes, we do a fair amount of those.’ Far more than
intended. ‘What kind do you have?’
‘Well, I-I…’ She seems at a loss.
‘Only—’
A strange wailing fills the morning air.
At first I think it’s the cat, but it’s clearly a siren, volume increasing as
it draws closer. Exceptionally loud now. Anyone would think it—
‘Is that the police?’ There’s a fearful
edge to the woman’s voice. Or perhaps she’s merely anxious to be heard over the
noise.
I glimpse through the branches, hearing
cotton rip as I lean forward. A huge red vehicle’s speeding this way, lights
blazing.
‘Fire engine,’ I report back. ‘Can’t see
smoke but it must be nearby. They’re slowing down. They’re—’
Stopping right beside the kids…
What the blazes?
Sophie’s small face gazes up at me,
expression distraught in the strobe lighting, finger pointing in my direction.
‘PERHAPS I’D…’ I find I’m screaming into
the phone as the siren abruptly cuts out. I turn away from the cluster of
grinning helmeted and booted firemen assembling at the foot of the tree as
someone cranks up the ladder. Fluffy takes one look, turns tail and bolts down
the other side. I modulate my voice to more professional tones. Perhaps I’d
better ring you back I’m about to suggest politely, but too late. She’s gone.
***
‘Calling Cathy O’Farrell. Hello? Can you read me?’
‘Yes, I’m here.’ I swiftly hide the nail
polish, climb into my swivel chair and wire myself up to the Skype headset.
‘Where exactly, lovey?’ Pimple’s
bespectacled eyes scan the computer screen. They travel left and right, until
they finally focus on where I’m now perched facing the webcam, sporting a big
beaming smile. ‘Found you. Hang on a jiffy.’
She ducks down, sits back seconds later
clutching a wide-toothed comb and starts tugging vigorously at her tight curls,
turning them into a helmet of grey frizz.
‘That’s better.’ She drops out of sight
again, emerging with pencil in hand. ‘Now update on yesterday?’ She licks the
lead tip.
My business partner, former cleaning
lady and long-time friend. I both love and hate her enthusiasm for news. Love
that she’s still interested in our work even though she’s travelling the globe
on that luxurious cruise ship. Hate that I’ve nothing of interest to convey and
am very likely letting her down, business-wise.
‘Shouldn’t you be in bed?’ I say, having
lost track of the various time zones she’s travelled through.
‘Gosh, no. It’s only just gone
midnight,’ she says cheerfully. ‘I’ve a card game booked in an hour and then
I’m off to the casino. Thought we might have a catch-up in between.’
‘OK,’ I say, reluctantly clicking onto
my spreadsheet. ‘You remember that petrol station cashier with the lost
tomcat?’
‘Sure do. How’s that going?’
‘Good. We fitted him with a tracking
collar. Discovered he not only had two homes but three. All the owners met for
coffee. Arranged a feeding rota. She was very grateful.’
‘How grateful?’
I scroll through the columns – last on
the right – Income. ‘Oh Pimple, I just couldn’t ask her to cough up.’ I drop my
head in shame and twist the headphone wire round and round my finger until it
turns bright pink at the tip. ‘She was skint, stony broke. Only got the cashier’s
job recently. Five kids to feed as well as the cat and still claiming benefits.
And that’s what the fund’s about isn’t it, helping those in trouble?’
‘But Cathy, we’re meant to be running a
viable concern here,’ she says. ‘Fair do’s, we agreed to support a few charity
cases, but we need paying ourselves at some stage.’
‘I know.’ I’m totally feeble at fee
chasing. ‘Oh but I did find Fluffy this morning. Owned by Mrs Thompson.’
‘Pensioner. Harringay Ladder.’
‘That’s right.’ I’m always amazed by her
memory for detail.
‘Marvellous. We got paid for that then,
yes?’
I groan. ‘I was going to charge her, I
swear. But then she pulled out this ancient threadbare purse—’
‘Phooey!’ she scoffs. ‘Oldest trick in
the book, that one. Bringing out the ancient threadbare purse. You’ll need to
wise up, Cath. Those houses on the Ladder are worth a bomb. What else?’ Her
pencil’s poised above her pad.
I run through our list of jobs, which
takes precisely three minutes as apart from our two ex-clients, there’s only
the newsagent who contacted me yesterday to ask if we’d investigate who’d been
stealing his papers and a schoolkid called Ben who’d rung Monday to say his new
mountain bike had been nicked and the police weren’t doing anything about it.
I’d asked him to wait a few days and if
no joy to call back.
‘That’s it?’ She wrinkles her brow.
‘For now.’
‘Looks like I’ll need a new mop when I
get home, after all.’ She lets out a sigh that sounds like a steamship in heavy
fog.
Worse thing is she probably will.
Money’s haemorrhaging faster than I can spell the word. We had to invest in the
computer because mine was horrendously slow. Then there was the cost of
stationery, surveillance equipment, etc. – all the paraphernalia needed in
setting up. At least office space is free. We’re based in Pimple’s Edwardian
semi-detached home, couple of miles down the road from Crouch End. Seemed daft
forking out when she had a spare room – perfect to shove two desks in. It’s
where I am now.
‘Oh I’m sure that won’t—’ I stop.
Because there’s a ploppy sound and she disappears into the ether, like Endora
from Bewitched.
I wait a few seconds, see if she’ll
reconnect, but nothing. No need to call back. We’ve both said what we had to.
The phone, the one all prospective clients are meant to call, is staring at me
accusingly.
I pick it up. Check it’s still working.
Could be a fault and hundreds of sad souls have been trying to connect. Crying
out for help.
I listen a second. Strong, healthy brrr.
Damn.
***
By the time I turn into our drive around five
thirty, I’m bushed. Rest of the afternoon had been spent clearing up the
newsagent’s problem. I’d arrived at his shop, introduced myself, politely
listened to his plans for an elaborate stake-out and then suggested we first
have a good delve around the shop floor, back room and the flat above. Bingo.
Turned out, his elderly widowed mum was nicking the papers and hiding them
under her bed. Early signs of dementia at a guess but at least that’s that one
solved. For us anyway. Frankly it was too bloody efficient. Less than an hour’s
work but the poor guy’s got a long hard journey ahead. How could I possibly
charge him?
On the other hand, I scold my
ineffectual self, I need to toughen up. Do I really want to start again on a
job-search?
I hang up my jacket by the porch and
trudge through to the kitchen.
Declan’s standing over a saucepan which
is bubbling away on the six-ringed range cooker which dominates our good-sized,
somewhat country-style, kitchen. A heavenly tomato-ey aroma permeates the air.
Everything’s worked out great for him. He’s ridiculously happy with his new
postman’s job. Has to leave home at five a.m., but he’s always been an early
riser so never minds. Gets bags of exercise on his assigned pushbike, and he
finishes mid-afternoon, in time for the school run. Never mind that it pays
half what he earned before. It’s the quality of life that counts, right?
Plus, best part, I have dinner waiting
for me every weekday evening. All those years of wedded bliss with me muddling
along, running out of recipes and not really being faffed and now he’s
completely taken charge of the cooking. Wondrous.
I put my nose in the air and sniff.
‘Mmm. Smells delicious. You do know I’m out later?’
‘Wednesday
Once Weekly girls’ night. How could I forget?’ He turns to peck my cheek.
‘Thought I’d make a big stew anyhow. We can eat some over the next few days and
freeze the rest. Much more economical. Talking of which…’ He opens the fridge,
pulls out a used cardboard carton and lifts the lid with a cheesy grin. Five brown
eggs, still with a few feathers attached, smaller than shop-bought but hey.
‘Ta-dah. Even Pocahontas delivered. Fresh, free range, and best of all free.’
He always says this and I always tut and
do an exaggerated who-gives-a-monkey’s shrug. Not that I’m averse to owning
chickens. Can be rather relaxing squatting outside their coop, watching them
scratch the earth and vie for pecking order. And Josh and Sophie wake
themselves up early each morning to see which hen’s laid what, which is a heck
of a lot better than me screeching at them to get out of bed. Plus free
anything’s great with my almost non-existent wages, but I don’t like admitting
it, because he bought them without consulting me – his wife. Then again, at
that time, he was acting weird and buying other things without consulting me
too. Like our super-expensive oven, which we’re still paying off. Male
menopause, my insurance broker reckoned. But we’re over that. Back on an even
keel. Perhaps not financially but definitely hormonally speaking.
‘Where’s the kids?’ I slump onto a chair
and watch him stirring, tasting, stirring again.
‘Upstairs. Sophie’s watching TV. Josh is
on the Xbox, where else. He’s done his spelling homework, though he needs help
with reading later.’
‘OK, I’ll cover that.’
I watch him as he adds a spoonful of
paprika, dash of Worcestershire sauce then a variety of fresh and dried herbs.
He’s tall, few inches over six foot, gingery-brown hair, blue eyes. Irish born
and bred, although you’d never believe it from his London accent. His body’s
still good for his forty-three years. Actually, tell a lie, his body’s
fabulous, but that’s only because he gets to spend afternoons in the gym while
I’m slogging away in my office.
We’ve been married a little over eleven
years. Not saying there’s been no ups and downs in that time, but the ups far
exceed the downs. My friends all consider him Mr Wonderful and sometimes I do
too, even though I maybe don’t say it often enough.
***
‘So how was the gossip at the school gates this
afternoon?’ I ask.
Just after eight and I’m sitting back at
the kitchen table, now set for one sole diner, after doing the
bath-bed-book-lights-out routine. Declan’s preparing a salad and I’m enjoying a
quick cuppa before heading off.
‘Drugs,’ he says, dicing a carrot.
‘Who’s on drugs?’
‘Feral youths supposedly.’
‘So what’s new?’
‘That.’ He nods at a letter on the
sideboard behind him.
I pick it up and begin silently reading.
Dear parent…
‘Says there,’ he starts chopping up tiny
cherry tomatoes into even tinier quarters, ‘two teenagers were spotted hanging
around Princes Road Primary. Offered a pupil some substance. Guess which one?’
I can’t imagine. Love my kids’ school
but they’re famous for blowing the slightest unsettling ripple into a tsunami
of alarm.
‘No, stop. Let me think.’ I hold my hand
up and screw my forehead in concentration. ‘Heroin? Ketamine? Miu Miu?’
‘Meow meow, you mean. Miu Miu’s an
Italian designer, but I wasn’t meaning which drug, I was meaning pupil.’
‘No idea.’
‘Pip Henfield.’
‘Sheryl’s Pip?’
‘Yep, and William was with him.’ He
tosses the tomatoes into a bowl, adding a drizzle of olive oil.
That confirms it. ‘My oh my. Knowing
that family, I’ll bet it was something hideously toxic – like a Diet Coke. Or a
powdered doughnut.’ I’m not too familiar with Pip, but I’ve seen him around,
being the elder brother of Josh’s ex best friend, William. Once inseparable
they’ve recently gone their separate ways, or rather Josh dumped William for
another classmate. Slightly mortifying because I often bump into William’s mum
at morning drop-off. Truth be told, though, if someone’s heart had to break
over an early bromance, then I’d rather it wasn’t my kid’s.
‘School’s taking it seriously. Pip ran
back in and told his teacher.’
‘Of course they are.’ I scan greedily
through the rest of the letter but the details are amazingly vague. ‘They’ve
got to, don’t they, to protect themselves. Besides Sheryl’s running the PSA.
And the way that woman overreacts, it ought to be the drama club. Remember when
she saw Custard lick William’s mouth and went into hysterics about intestinal
worms, giardia and rabies injections? And then when I’d finally calmed her down
and convinced her the poor dog had barely made contact and not to call an
ambulance, William piped up, “It’s OK, Mummy. He does it every time.” I’m sure
Sheryl was gloating like a goat.’
‘Too right she was.’ He fetches a
cucumber from the fridge and slices it into paper thin layers. ‘Holding court
when I arrived. Gaggle of parents hanging on her every word.’
I tap the letter in my hand. ‘Says here
that we should keep vigilant. Talk to our kids.’
‘And so we must. They’re guarding the
gates at pick-up time. The teachers rushed out but the “yobbos”, as Sheryl
called them, had disappeared by then and there was nothing on CCTV.’ He digs
his fingers into an iceberg lettuce and expertly tears it apart. ‘Becoming
worse round here for sure. Honestly, I feel sorry for Josh and Sophie. Probably
have better survival chances with a pack of ravenous wolves than inner cities
today. Drugs at primary school, vandalism everywhere, fourteen-year-old
pregnancies. And that’s without random crazies, potential terrorism and the
local crime…’
Is it my imagination or does a cold wind
suddenly whistle through the kitchen?
‘They love it here. And they’re a darn
sight better adjusted than William and Pip, with their allergen-free,
sugar-free, gluten-free cotton wool existence.’
‘You might be right.’ He opens a bottle
and pours himself a rare glass of wine. I mean rare for him, that is, rather
than vintage. For an Irishman his alcohol intake is shockingly moderate. ‘So
how was your day?’ He eyes me shrewdly. ‘Any more enquiries? Prospective
clients?’
‘One, but the caller got cut off.’ I
feel obliged to sound a bit more positive. ‘Terrible line but she was definitely
interested. Sounded right up our alley.’
‘Uneventful otherwise?’
‘Pretty much. Managed to close a couple
of cases.’ Hopefully he’ll assume that means money in the bank.
‘Good for you. Hang on a second, what’s
that?’ He leans towards me and begins tugging at my hair, emerging with a tiny
twig between his fingers.
‘Thanks.’ I take it from him. ‘Very
blowy outside today. Oh what’s that?’ I pick up a magazine lying on the Welsh
dresser and leaf through pages of bucolic landscapes, slightly uneasy at the way
he’s watching me – kind of sideways, mouth quirking.
‘Got dropped through the letterbox.’ He
brings the saucepan over to the table and ladles a portion onto his plate.
‘Advertising houseboats. Miles cheaper than conventional houses.’
I put the magazine down. ‘No wonder.
Who’d want to live on a leaky old barge with no room to swing a cat?’
‘Speaking of cats,’ he’s still wearing
that weird expression, ‘not seen any lurking around lately, have we?’
‘Well, there’s doubtless loads lurking
around.’ I stand up so I can avoid his eyes, grab a dessert spoon from the
drawer and dip it into the bubbling mixture. ‘They say you’re never more than
six feet from one in London.’
‘Isn’t that rats?’ He laughs.
‘Rats too.’ I blow fast at my spoon,
like a silent flautist. ‘Stands to reason, where’s there’s rats there’ll be
cats. Supplement their Whiskas.’
‘Only…that was the other thing parents
were chattering about. Fire brigade had to rescue a mum who’d chased some cat
up a tree. All on YouTube. Children arrived at class forty-five minutes late.’
‘Talking about being late…’ I leap up,
pointing at the oven clock. ‘Holy Christ, is it really quarter past? Meant to
be meeting the girls at eight thirty. I’ll never
be ready in time.’

Preorder:

Meet the Author:

Ellie Campbell is a pseudonym
for sisters, Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, who write together from their
respective homes in Surrey, England (Pam) and Colorado, USA (Lorraine). After
years of selling short stories independently, they began their Ellie Campbell collaboration
with a first novel, How To Survive Your Sisters, followed by When Good Friends
Go Bad, Looking For La La, To Catch A Creeper and Million Dollar Question. They
write contemporary women’s fiction laced with humour, romance, and mystery.
Meddling With Murder is their 6th novel and follows Looking For La La and To
Catch A Creeper in the funny, cozy ‘Crouch End Confidential’ mystery series.
 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/EllieCampbell

Giveaway:

Prize: 10 Ebooks of Meddling With Murder by Ellie Campbell.
Ends 3/3/16 
Open worldwide to those who can legally enter. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Njkinny from Njkinny Tours & Promotions and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Review: Crash into Me (Shaken Dirty #1) by Tracy Wolff

No-Brainer

Title: Crash into Me
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 11/25/13
Length:   208 pages
Series:  Shaken Dirty #1

Overview

She’s totally off limits, but this rocker wants a taste…

Jamison Matthews has lusted after Ryder Montgomery since she was a preteen. But now that Ryder and her brother’s band, Shaken Dirty, has made it huge, she’s just one of many pining for the brooding lead singer. Too bad Ryder still sees her as a little sister. Not that it matters. Her brother would never allow it, and the last thing Jamison wants is to be another notch on a rock star’s bed post. Even if it’s Ryder’s.

Ryder doesn’t deserve happiness. After his fame destroyed his last girlfriend, he swore he’d never fall in love again. So when Jamison, the girl he’s been in danger of loving for years, joins the band on the road, he’ll do anything to deny the sparks between them-even after one hot night together. But Jamison is determined to show Ryder that he’s worthy of love-her love-and that she’s all grown up…and ready to play.

My Thoughts

After discovering this author through the Ethan Frost series, i had to give this one a chance, and i have to say that it’s really enjoyable if not reminiscent of a series that i read years ago.  It’s ok – there’s nothing wrong with a series about a rock band where every installment we get to see a glimpse into what makes the rockers tick – and what makes the story great.  The only downfall though is that there are too many similarities in this series to make it uber original from the other one that i read. Sinners on Tour by Olivia Cunning.  There’s the same premise, a rock band and a sister joining the tour for various reasons, but it’s been ages since i’ve read it, and the author’s styles are a bit different so i’m all for it.

Anyway, in this series, we meet our leading lady Jamison who’s had the week from hell with losing her job, her car, her man and basically everything sucks, and the only good thing is that her brothers band is on tour and will be in town so she’s decided to surprise them a day early and show up at the show.  They are like a second family to her, given that she’s been in the fold since she was thirteen, and the guys consider her a little sister to her dismay as she’s been lusting after Ryder – the bad boy of the band for that whole time as well.

So it’s through a series of events that 1) Ryder doesn’t realize that he’s singing to her at the show, 2) Jamison finds herself in a compromising position with a member of another band on the tour who doesn’t want to accept ‘no’ – and Ryder comes to her rescue…and this is where our story starts to heat up.

It’s really well written to be honest, you get the sense throughout the story that both of these characters are damaged which isn’t surprising but they find solace with each other which also isn’t surprising.  Their chemistry is clear as day and the way that are together is romantic AND hot.  which is a nice mix.  You want to root for them even knowing that there are huge consequences since Jamison’s brother isn’t thrilled with the idea of them together.

Sadly there’s one other similarity that we get to the other series too – there’s a member of the band who’s addicted to heroin and we find him unconscious, not breathing and no heartbeat towards the end of this book.  That’s happened before in Sinners and well, i think that if you’ve read that one, you know how this one will end up.  I think that we’ll just have to see how that branch of the story shakes out.

Ms Wolff does a great job of giving us characters that we want to be invested in, and that we get really hot and steamy for, and that’s a nice trait.  The plot line itself could be a bit deeper, but i don’t know that it’s necessary since it’s just thread that will keep all these future installments bound together.  And to that note, the epilogue that we get teases what we’ll see in the coming books, without giving too much away.  so on that note, i’m off to book 2 and i’ll be back later!

Review: Exposed (Ethan Frost #3) by Tracy Wolff

No-Brainer

Title:  Exposed
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 5/5/15
Length:   306 pages
Series:  Ethan Frost #3

Overview

Will Ethan Frost go too far for the woman he loves?

The moment Chloe Girard walked into my life, she exposed secrets and emotions I always thought were best kept buried.

She wants to move on, to ignore the past. But I can’t do that. Not when she still suffers. And not when the man who hurt her remains unscathed. So when I discover the perfect opportunity to make him pay for what he did to Chloe, I can’t walk away, no matter the consequences.

But there’s a fine line between justice and obsession. As I turn up old crimes and new lies, I know that I’m playing with fire—and risking the very foundations of our relationship.

My love for Chloe is absolute. I just hope it’s enough to save us both.

My Thoughts

The saga continues.  i don’t know what’s more interesting – how this couple can’t seem to catch a break with trusting each other, or the depth and breadth in which things unfold with all of the other characters involved.  We know that Ethan and Chloe have a long road ahead of them to be happy and healthy together, and we know that there’s a trip to vegas in the works to get hitched, but i think that there has to be more complications coming up since we all know that it can’t be that easy.

Of course, the trip to vegas becomes something of a mixed bag of uses for Ethan, as he’s not only able to marry the woman that he loves, but he’s able to get in front of the head of the Italian Mafia in the hopes of cutting off all of his ‘brother’s’ resources and hopefully burying his hopes of a future.  That all happens, but i think that it’s all happening a bit too easily.

Then there’s the issue of how Chloe learns of all that’s going on and how she reacts which is always volatile.  She’s got Tori there to help ground her, but of course her instinct is to run and that she does.  Back home thankfully but still…it’s running.

Now that these 2 are married, we see less of the professional side of things with this couple and more of the outside forces trying to bring everything down.  Ethan’s got his vendetta of sorts to crush everything that Brandon is working towards, and if that weren’t possible enough, his mother gets involved and tries to discredit Chloe and make her look like a gold digger.  and someone who has her own agenda.  Of course we know that Ethan won’t stand for that, and it’s an unfortunate set of events that happens towards the end that puts this next installment on a tailspin.  There’s a death, suspects and curiosity as to who the killer is.

What we also continue to get here is the AMAZING passion and heat that this couple shares and that’s something that our author has been incredibly consistent about.  We know that often times there’s even more passion when there’s contrasting personalities which we have here, but aside from that, there’s aggressive heat and then there’s the romantic side of things which is a nice mix.  I feel like that’s one of the strings that really keeps this story together – aside from the tension that we have with the underlying plot, we have so much sexual heat flowing that you can’t help but to read through it quickly.

On that note – i’m off to find the next installment since i believe there’s a book 4 and i hope that you guys have a great day!

Review: Addicted (Ethan Frost #2) by Tracey Wolff

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Title:  Addicted
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 7/15/14
Length:   226 pages
Series:  Ethan Frost #2

Overview

Ethan Frost returns in another breathtaking novel by Tracy Wolff—New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author of Ruined—perfect for fans of Release Me and Bared to You.

As Chloe Girard discovers, there’s love . . . and then there’s addiction.

Ethan Frost is everything a woman could want in a man. He’s rich, gorgeous, powerful, one of the most eligible bachelors in the world.

But that’s not why I’m with him.

I love Ethan for all the things no one else gets to see: his innate kindness, his reckless spontaneity, his unwavering determination to use his brilliance for good. I love the way he looks at me, the way he touches me. The way he makes me forget the wreckage of my past and the twisted fear that still lives inside me.

But sometimes it terrifies me how much I crave him, how much I need him just to breathe. I always thought it would be my past that ruined us, but there’s a darkness in Ethan I never dreamed existed. Can we survive as his secrets surface—threatening to unravel us both?

My Thoughts

Well the story continues with as much angst and heat as the first one brought, yet i think that we spend more time with these 2 fighting than with them together.  It’s sweet yes, but i think that there’s definitely more to come since there are more and more things coming up to make life complicated.

Where we left off in the first book is that we know that Ethan and Brandon are brothers (half brothers) and that there’s so much of Chloe’s past  that will continue to come up as a result of the link there that it means that it’s going to be very very hard for them to find some type of resolve.  That in itself is enough for this story to get more and more complicated.

On top of that, there are so many secrets that keep getting hinted at between everyone in the story – the fact that we don’t know Ethan’s past, and we get to a point finally in this story that we learn bits and pieces that it makes you wonder what else is going to come up.  There’s also a tease that there’s something dark in Tori’s past (Choe’s best friend) but we never get a chance to scratch that surface.  Then there’s the appearance of Miles, Chloe’s brother – and well that never bodes well for anyone, especially since he knows the link between Ethan and Brandon.  And if that weren’t enough, Ethan’s mom shows up and well you know shit’s going to hit the fan.

Throughout this 2nd installment, we get the ups and down of the passion that these two share.  We see that Ethan tries to respect Chloe’s need for distance and space, but it just ends up making things worse.  It’s at a business function that it’s so awkward that Chloe has to leave and well, that may be what pushes him over the edge for her.  Theirs is a love that’s really strong for some reason – such a quick and fast bond that is quite expected in this genre, but so damaging for someone who’s trying to overcome as much as they are.  Of course the only way to deal with that is through heated passion, chemistry that can’t be denied and that’s what we get from our author.

The interesting thing with this series that our author gives us is that each installment has an epilogue that gives us a sense of closure and happiness, yet we know that there’s another installment coming that will actually take place before that epilogue so it’s confusing, but perhaps gives readers a sense of calm before the storm that we know is about hit.  On that note, i finished this 2nd book MUCH faster than i expected (probably because it was so good) so now i have time to jump into #3 before the weekend’s out!

Review: Ruined (Ethan Frost #1) by Tracy Wolff

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Title: Ruined
Author: Tracy Wolff
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 1/7/14
Length:   228 pages
Series:  Ethan Frost #1

Overview

He’s the last man Chloe Girard should love . . . but the first she ever could.
 
Ethan Frost is a visionary, a genius, every woman’s deepest, darkest fantasy—even mine. And, somehow, I am his.

He stole into my life like a dream. Turned my reality upside down and made my every desire come true—especially those I never knew I had. He demanded everything I had to give and gave me everything of himself in return.

But dreams don’t last forever, and ours is no exception. Because my nightmares are darker, and my wounds deeper, than I could ever reveal. And as much as Ethan wants to protect me, the secrets we share will only tear us apart.

My Thoughts

I’m always eager to find a new series to get into and this one gives me exactly what i was hoping for even if it was a VERY expected path.  We meet 2 very damaged characters, yet i don’t know that we even fully get to the heart of the damage. Chloe is our leading lady and we quickly learn that she’s had to grow up very quickly as a result of trauma of being raped in high school.  Ethan, his past is still a mystery but we know that there’s more to him than he’s letting on.

It’s a chance encounter in the cafeteria that brings these two together, and it’s a blender that keeps them coming back for more.  Throughout their interactions at the onset, there’s tension between them that’s undeniable, we see that they are fighting each other so much tat it’s inevitable that they’ll find their way back to one another.  The question really just becomes what will it take and how will they survive.

The nuance here that we done see in a lot of these types of stories is that Ethan’s not looking to really hide his relationship with her and that’s a piece that we always see – that there’s a fear of being ‘found out – but here – he doesn’t care.  It’s nice in a sense, but detrimental to her career it may seem.

The nice thing that our author Ms Wolff does for us is really give us a sense of what it takes to get these two together and have them stay together.  It’s sweet how they are constantly giving each other momentos of who they are so that they are building their relationship on something that’s more than just superficial, but i continue to wonder what’s still under the surface and what’s being hidden.

It’s not until the very end that we see that there’s going to be conflict and of course we come to expect that knowing that it’s a trilogy.  someone has to screw up and push the other away and then it’s a matter of understanding what the reason is and if they can repair what’s been broken.  It’s also a surprise revelation of sorts that shows up at the door – and to be honest, i was expecting it, but it’s still quite a surprise to Chloe.  That all being said, i have the next installment all ready to read – and that’s what i’m going to do.  Happy Sunday!

Review: Deepest Kiss (Stark Trilogy #3.10) by J Kenner

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Title: Deepest Kiss
Author: J Kenner
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 3/8/16
Length:   101 pages
Series:  Stark Trilogy #3.10

Overview

Overview

From New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner comes a tantalizing ebook novella starring fan favorites Damien Stark and his wife, Nikki Fairchild. Deepest Kiss follows the couple from their island resort to their home in Los Angeles, and introduces Dallas Sykes, the seductive bad boy in the newest Stark International Novel, Dirtiest Secret—the first book in a new trilogy of the S.I.N. series.

Includes a special preview of J. Kenner’s provocative new novel, Dirtiest Secret!

My love for Damien Stark runs deep, and my need for his touch runs even deeper. He’s my shelter in this world, my light when everything seems dark, and all it takes is one kiss for my body to come alive.

Yet no matter where we go, our secrets threaten to surface. Someone dangerous from my past is back to stir up trouble, and now it feels like there’s nowhere I can hide.

I know Damien will always protect me, that our fierce desire will give us strength. In his arms I find safe harbor—and the sweetest release.

My Thoughts

I’m more than happy to continue to get these little novellas as extensions to the bigger series since i’m definitely not ready to let the story or characters go.  There’s so much that we get from Nikki / Damien as well as Syl/Jackson and i think that the more and more that we get to see of Dallas – the more excited i get for his own series to come out next month.

That being said, in this short installment, we get to see Syl on the precipice of giving birth, and the introduction of an unknown guy who spooks Nikki on the island, and then is determined to be the same guy that’s decided he wants to hire her for an app development.

The protector in Damien comes out in full blast, and the protector that i’m sure we’ll see in his own series has come out with Dallas, and that makes this series that much hotter and enjoyable to read.  J Kenner continues to give us the passion and heat that we long for – with a chemistry between our mains that is not just obvious but enthralling.  I can’t wait to see what happens next since there’s still a lot up in the air on motives for this guy, and who he may know or doesn’t know.  (blackmail and those photos of Jamie and Nikki have come back into play).

So…that being said – i can’t wait to see what’s next.  Enjoy!

Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

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Title:  Morning Star
Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 2/9/16
Length:   550 pages
Series:  Red Rising #3

Overview

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

My Thoughts

I’m actually quite a bit sad right now that this series is over and it’s been a while since i’ve truly been able to say that.  We had been on this complex journey of a group of 20 somethings who were living in a world and time that we can’t even begin to imagine since life was forced onto every other planet and moon in our solar system.

Where we were left off after Golden Son, we saw Darrow’s rise back into a position of power, however after their Iron Rain, and their attempt at taking over control of Mars along with trying to capture the Sovereign and The Jackal and any number of other folks, Darrow finds himself captured and watches some of his best allies die.

So we pick up in Morning Star at a point where we’re uncertain who’s still alive, who’s going to be able to help Darrow if anyone, and what that means for the Rising.  We see the true colors of the Golds come out – by Jackal’s capture and torture of Darrow for the better part of a year, of Victra being paralyzed and really no hope in saving not just themselves but the future for everyone in the system.  It’s only through the smarts of some friends who wouldn’t ever give up, that we see the saving of Darrow and Victra, and a chance to really take back what’s theirs.

Throughout this story, similar to the other installments, we see a series of lies, fake alliances and people turning on one another in unexpected places.  We also see that there’s a fair share of ‘acting’ going on which works to the betterment of Darrow’s plight.

Darrow and Mustang take to the polar caps with Ragnar to overthrow his mother’s reign and we see much more death there than ever expected.  Along with the capture of Cassius, the escape of Aja, we see death come to the Obsidians, and i for one had to take pause because a great friend was lost, but a partnership was formed from that.  We meet Sefi, who becomes the new Queen of the Obsidian, and we see that while she’s not sure she’s going to trust Darrow and crew, she’s going to unite her color in the hopes that something better can come.

They prepare again for a great battle, one that they can’t truly anticipate the outcome since they are continuously being out numbered, out planned, out schemed, and there is always a friend who turns sides that makes things all that more complicated.  Sevro is caught in the middle of what’s supposed to be a friendship being reuinited, and well,  we see that it has horrible outcome, which is even more painful as he’s just married someone unexpected.

Yes, there’s even been a fair share of romance, and to be honest, something that’s happened and revealed in the epilogue that i knew was bound to happen.  To me, there had been the question throughout the first 2 books on whether Darrow would ever let go enough of Eo to love Mustang again, and when he chose to reveal himself as a Red to her, i had truly hoped, but we spend much of this final book wondering if love can bring them back from all that they’ve gone through.  We also see Sevro take a chance and see it pay off.  We also see that the love of family takes an even bigger role, both in real birth family and the family that they built together among friends – and it’s a truly sweet thing to see flourish.

The world that is left at the end of this trilogy is one that no one knows what it will become.  While there were lofty goals that the system of society would be completely changed, only those that remain at the end of all the warring and fighting know that it’s not something that they can change overnight, and that those that passed during the fighting were perhaps some o the people that had the best chance to make an impact.  I’d love to see what this environment would look like decades in the future and i think that our lovely author should write us a novella that takes the jump.  but…i doubt that will happen so i’ll just have to be content with how everything resolved.

have a great weekend everyone!