About iscm13

I'm a mom of 3 living in NYC who loves to read. When i'm not at work, or shuttling my kids around the city (since i'm sure you can imagine that it's hard to entertain little ones in a small apartment), i'm immersing myself in all things pop-culture, watching movies, or listening to music. One day I hope that i can get inspired enough with an original idea so that i can join the ranks of some of my favorite story tellers to bring to life a great tale - but so far, i'm more than happy to dive head first into a good story or 2.

Review: The Castle (Endgame #3) by Skye Warren

TitleThe Castle
Author: Skye Warren
Publisher/Year:  Amber Shah 4/4/17
Length:  230 pages
Series: The Endgame #3′

Overview

FINAL BOOK IN THE TRILOGY!

Safe in the ivory tower…

Gabriel Miller swears he’ll keep me safe. Enemies lurk outside, waiting to strike. An army held back by these walls.

Except some animal instinct warns me the danger is much closer. It’s already here. Is Gabriel my protector or my enemy? Is this house a castle or a cage?

There’s nowhere for me to go, no one left for me to trust.

No escape from a past determined to capture its prize.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest, it took me a few days to get into the final installment of this series, and i’m not entirely sure why that’s the case. Probably because of life since this story is still very exciting. We know that Jonathan Scott is out there, yet to be discovered and we know that he’s got a vendetta not only against Avery, but the world in general. Gabriel is doing his very best to keep her safe and that means keeping her locked up in the house and when she plays with fire to negotiate time away, we see what the compromise is.

This third and final installment takes us on a path of watching this relationship grow from one that started on false pretenses into one that became something serious and solid, into one that opened up their eyes to how much they were willing to give up for the other in order to survive.

There’s a lot of discussion around who has the power, and of course it ties back to Chess. Avery even chooses to write her paper on the historical role of women and how It ties to the game of chess to show the evolution of who help the power and what the notion of checkmate really means. The idea of the Castle itself, that’s something that holds an important meaning in solving the whereabouts of Jonathan Scott and how they can get to him.

We see Damon Scott as an entirely different person in this story. We know that his relationship with his father isn’t one that is great, so to see another side of him comes out when a woman’s safety is compromised is a sweet evolution. There’s also an interesting twist related to Damon that we get to see as this story evolves and it makes so much sense once it plays out.

There’s death, destruction, lies and anxiety, all on top of passion, heat, sensuality, personal growth and discovery. I’m sad to see this series end, but we know that the story Avery and Gabriel have coming ahead of them has a single minded direction and the closure in the story gives hope. Next up is a spinoff of sorts and I cant wait to dive in. Enjoy!

Review: The Knight (Endgame #2) by Skye Warren

TitleThe Knight
Author: Skye Warren
Publisher/Year:  Skye Warren 1/31/17
Length:  250 pages
Series: The Endgame #2

Overview

The power of pleasure…

Gabriel Miller took everything from me. My family. My innocence. My home. The only thing I have left is the determination to get back what’s mine.

He thinks he’s beaten me. He thinks he’s won. What he doesn’t realize is that every pawn has the chance to become a queen.

And the game has only just begun.

My Thoughts

So many lies in such a short amount of time. When the relationship between Avery and Gabriel started based on less than ‘legal’ means, we knew that things were going to get dicey, but of course as we saw what Gabriel was truly capable of, we really started to despise him.

The naiveté that Avery has is something powerful and throughout this second book, both she and her mother are likened to Helen of Troy – the historical woman who’s beauty brought down countries and empires. It seems as though Helen, Avery’s mother is that woman, she had a power over so many men (and women) that she likely saw her death as a result of that, and the power that Avery has in her youth and allure is just as strong.

We left off the first book with Gabriel throwing Avery away essentially and when Avery is out on the street, she learns that her father has a heart attack, yet another set back as well as learning that her house is now no longer hers and it’s up for auction. The path that this second installment is one of watching how this all plays out, knowing that holding company that has the deed to her house is one that’s owned by Gabriel.

There’s so much uncertainty driving the motivations, and throughout this story we realize that perhaps Gabriel isn’t as evil as we wanted to believe. He’s protective of Avery, even though it seems as though their relationship is doomed. He continues to provide the care for her father even though things are going awry.

Avery learns more and more about her mother’s past and as a result, there are questions that people keep telling her not to search for that she doesn’t listen to. She finds a diary from her mother in the attic and learns some of the sordid past that was just ahead of her parent’s wedding. She searches out her mother’s best friend who reveals unexpected secrets that I think we all should have expected.

Throughout this story as well, we watch Avery stand on her own two feet. She moves into a seedy motel since that’ what she’s able to afford, and we watch her survive. There’s a protector for her in the form of a homeless man named Will who makes an impact on her life in the motel. Harper, the friend from college who’s stuck around continues to provide support and we see what that means for Avery especially when she needs a friend the most.

All this helps her deal with the emotions and feelings that she continues to have for Gabriel. She has this connection with him that’s deeper than her sole physical and sexual experience, and she has a sense that it’s the same for him. How he behaves and what he says makes her wonder if there’s more than meets the eye.

Where this story nets us out is a fire, a lost house, and a future that’s unknown. We have a name, and an identity but this person has gone into hiding and we don’t know when they will strike next, and we have to be prepared. What we do know is that the relationship of ALL our characters and how they are intertwined has changed and we can only hope for the best in how it plays out. On that note, i’m off to find book 3 and see where they go! Enjoy!

Review: The Pawn (Endgame #1) by Skye Warren

TitleThe Pawn
Author: Skye Warren
Publisher/Year:  Skye Warren 10/28/16
Length:  312 pages
Series: The Endgame #1

Overview

Gabriel Miller swept into my life like a storm. He tore down my father with cold retribution, leaving him penniless in a hospital bed. I quit my private all-girl’s college to take care of the only family I have left.

There’s one way to save our house, one thing I have left of value.

My virginity.

A forbidden auction…

Gabriel appears at every turn. He seems to take pleasure in watching me fall. Other times he’s the only kindness in a brutal underworld.

Except he’s playing a deeper game than I know. Every move brings us together, every secret rips us apart. And when the final piece is played, only one of us can be left standing.

My Thoughts

I have to feel just a bit impressed that there’s a book from years ago that I haven’t read (or at least I don’t think i’ve read it before) by an author that i’m a fan of. So that’s what we get with the first installment of the Endgame series. You have the beginnings with Avery, a girl who’s grown up with the means to maintain a specific lifestyle but it seems like there are things taking place behind the scenes that has the chance to jeopardize it all.

We start our story with her at her graduation party, where she’s wearing the right things, and talking to the right people until she goes to find her father, and walks in on a conversation that makes her rethink all that she knew. She goes to run and almost falls down the stairs to be saved by a man that exudes power, and has this appeal that makes her stop and think. Little do we know the role that he will play in her life in the future.

Fast forward a few years when the world has come crashing down on Avery. Her father’s poor business choices have resulted in them losing all their money, and then her father getting beaten to an inch of his life, leaving Avery to take care of everything and herself. Her dreams are dashed and she needs to figure out how to keep her father alive.

Enter Gabriel and the men from the Den. She knows that while unsavory, they can give loans for the right payment terms and she goes in knowing that she has nothing to offer, and learns that perhaps herself is the best thing for her. The agreement ist hat she’ll be auctioned off to the highest bidder for a month and then she’ll get the money that she needs to survive. Gabriel is the #2 in The Den and to watch how he orbits around Avery, how he’s drawn to her and to protect her, well we all know how this will end.

What happens from here is a story that really takes us on quite a few twists and turns. We can only assume that the objections that they have overtly will slowly change into a chemistry and relationship that neither expected. There’s revenge on the part of one, and naiveté on the side of another, and all together, that means that we’ll see combustion, heat, passion and most likely hatred.

Secrets come to light and bonds of trust are broken. What ever path we thought this story was going to go down is dashed when there’s a trade made at the end and that leave us wondering if there’s more revenge than even Gabriel and Avery we’re aware of. So on that note, i’m off to get book 2 and get back into their world. Can’t wait to see who outsmarts whom, and what it means for the other.

Review: The Baby Clause (The Contract #1.25) by Melanie Moreland

TitleThe Baby Clause
Author: Melanie Moreland
Publisher/Year:  Moreland Books 1/16/22
Length:  100 pages
Series: The Contract #1.25

Overview

Richard VanRyan can add another line to his resume—Daddy.
How does he handle the new addition to his life?
The Baby Clause is a short continuation of Richard and Katy’s story, containing humorous glimpses into his life as a father, and how his world has changed.

My Thoughts

This was a cute novella of sorts to continue the story that we got sucked into in book one. If you’ll remember, we ended the last installment with Katy sharing the news that she’s pregnant with Richard. A man who had a horrible upbringing and was certain that he’d make a horrible father. We all know the influence that Katy has on him, so it’s no surprise to see that the story took a turn.

In this novella, we get to start off with Katy in labor and watch how concerned Richard is for her and the baby. This already shows us that he’s going to be over protective and very involved, and that comes to fruition. We watch how the Gavins are also a huge part of their life, the extended family from work has turned into a true family and what everyone experiences, EVERYONE experiences.

This short story shows us what life has become for them with a new born and getting back to life. Richard has a struggle getting back to work and finding his balance while also wanting to spend as much time at home and with Katy and Grace. It’s sweet to watch and it’s a lovely way to show the evolution of what a person can be with the right motivation.

We see the struggles and complexities that come in the workplace when he’s forced to choose between being a professional and a father, and we see the implications and results of that as well when the time comes for one to take priority.

Life has changed and no one could have imagined what things would look like a year or two in the future. We do see another curve ball though come up in the midst of all this and that’s the ending note of this novella that takes us into the next. So, i’m off to find another book to read and see what’s next in the world of Katy and Richard. Enjoy!

Review: The Contract (The Contract #1) By Melanie Moreland

TitleThe Contract
Author: Melanie Moreland
Publisher/Year:  Moreland Books Inc 12/23/21
Length:  200 pages
Series: The Contract #1

Overview

A tyrant by day, a playboy by night. That is the reputation that precedes Richard VanRyan. He lives life the way he wants, no concern for the opinion of others. He cares for no one, is completely unrepentant, and he has no desire to change his ways.

Katharine Elliott works under Richard as his PA. She despises him and his questionable ethics, but endures all the garbage he sends her way, because she needs the job. Her end goal is far more important than the daily abuse and demands she tolerates from her nasty tyrant of a boss.

Until the day, he asks her for something she never expected. A new role with a personal contract— fiancée instead of PA.

What happens when two people who loathe each other, have to live together and act as though they are madly in love?

Sparks.

That’s what happens.

Can the power of love really change a person?

Will they survive the contract?

What do you do when the one person you hate the most becomes the one person you can’t live without?

My Thoughts

Well, the first thing to note is that I discovered this book through a new app called RADISH that gives you serialized access ‘for free!’ to new books. i’m hooked, although I may have to admit that I read faster than Radish allows me to.

Anyway – back to this story. It’s one of those power dynamics meets the need to change your life in the form of a woman who is underrated. We start this story with Richard, an ad exec who is passed over for the promotion that he felt he deserved because some other guy in his office took a client from him. That puts a plan into action where Richard decides that he’s going to get an offer from their top competitor in the market, and then force the boss to give him what he deserves.

This other agency though is where the trajectory of our story changes. Richard is at the agency he’s at because it fits his personality and reputation. He’s a bit of a shark, lacks the emotional connection to just about anything and is a playboy. This other agency is all about collaboration, family values, and teamwork. Richard’s reputation precedes him and this means that he needs to put up an image of something that he’s not, convince them somehow that he’s not what he seems, in the hopes of getting a job.

What happens though flips his world on his axis. Richard builds this story where he’s leaving his current role because he’s fallen in love with his assistant – perhaps the ONE rule that his current agency has, and that means that he needs to leave, as does she. He’s a changed man because he’s found the woman who was worth changing for, and that’s why he wants to work for Graham Gavin.

Enter Katy – the assistant. A woman who Richard despises because she’s clumsy and yet she takes everything he throws at her and does her job to perfection. He beats her down and berates her, and he doesn’t even know the backstory to why she is how she is and why she subjects herself to all this, and frankly he doesn’t care. until he’s forced to when he brings her into the lie in order to get this job.

Katy has a challenging past as we often find in these stories. Her parents died when she was a pre-teen and she was bounced around from home to home until she was finally taken in by a woman who had just lost her husband. They loved each other as true mother daughters would, but it’s when Penny was diagnosed with alzheimers that Katy realized that everything she had was all to take care of Penny now.

The Contract. This was the solution for both Richard and Katy. Richard needed Katy to agree to terms to stay with him, pretend to be his fiancee, live with him etc, in order to land this job. Katy needed the money and what he could give her so that she could provide for the care that Penny needed.

They got more than they bargained for. Richard realized that there’s so much more to Katy than he knew, and there were aspects that he even appreciated and liked. Katy saw that there were walls up that made Richard into the man that he was pretending to be, and that with a bit of work, she could make him into a better man.

What happens throughout this story though is that we see lies grow and grow, but we see relationships grow at the same rapid speed. There’s so much good mojo happening here that we know it will crash and burn in epic style. There’s no way that they can put up this farce of being engaged for 6 months a year even, and when Richard realizes that his job is based on a trial 6 month period, it means that their fake relationship has to go longer. They have decisions to make. When do they get married so that it doesn’t look fake. How do they manage their lives knowing that they will be linked together for quite some time in a relationship that’s not based on anything good. What will happen when family tragedy hits, and when the other shoe drops professionally that causes the house of cards to crumble?

With all that ‘what happens next’ talk, what we do see Is the development of something real that we wonder if it’s strong enough to last. There’s new emotion, there’s new knowledge and there’s new self realization that makes you want to root for everyone even when you know it’s a lost cause. So, on that note, i’m excited to jump into the second book in this series and see where their path will take us. Will it be hot and sexy, will it be wrought with stress? no one knows…Enjoy!

ARC Review: Lucifer’s Sin (Walker Security: Lucifer’s Trilogy #1) by Lisa Renee Jones

TitleLucifer’s Sin
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Publisher/Year:  Julie Patra Publishing 3/22/22
Length:  200 pages
Series: Walker Security: Lucifer’s Trilogy #1

Overview

About the series: Tall, dark, and deadly, these men run Walker Security. Each is unique in his methods and skills, but all share key similarities. They are passionate about those they love, relentless when fighting for a cause they believe in, and all believe that no case is too hard, no danger too dark. Dedication is what they deliver, results are their reward.

Meet Lucifer, one of those men…

A man with demons that run deep and dark…

The only woman who can bring him to his knees…

As one of the newest members of Walker Security, Lucifer lives up to his name. He’s a man with demons that run deep and dark. A man with secrets. A man betrayed by a woman, and that betrayal has shaped every part of his life moving forward.

He lives on the edge with fast cars, faster women, and some might say a death wish. That is until he crossed paths with Walker Security and one of their own pulled him from the bowels of his self-created hell.

But his own personal devil is about to show herself again. That woman from his past is back, and nothing is as it seems.

My Thoughts

I must start off by thanking our amazing author Lisa Renee Jones and I think our friends at Netgalley for getting me this pre-read copy. Mind you, i’ve already pre-purchased it as well, so while I was able to get the first installment at gratis, i’ve still happily contributed to the revenue stream and the books success!

Anyhow, what we have here is nothing short of an INTENSE next installment to the Walker Security family. We have spent quite a bit of time with so many of the characters over the years, and what we get for Lucifer doesn’t pale at all in comparison to the others.

What we learn is that Lucifer has this past where he was in the military like most of the others, and he came out of it and tried to make something of his life so that he could cope with the demons that he gathered over the years. In doing that, his path crosses with our leading lady Ana – an FBI agent and a woman who was trained to be on guard from a young age at the hands of her stepfather. A man that has many enemies but the power to keep them at bay. He’s trained Ana to protect herself, to be on guard and to be able to take down any opponent, and its’ when she puts Lucifer to his knees that we see the world’s axis pivot.

One night is all that it took – she was reacting to a crime that was happening and Lucifer was in the same place at the same time. She doesn’t take chances, and forces him to the ground, and it’s not until he learns who she is. the stepdaughter of the man he works for that we know things will get interesting.

Sparks fly and we know that there is a happy ending coming for this couple, until the world falls apart.. cause that’s usually how things go.

Fast forward a few years and we’re back together with these two. Lucifer gets a call from a guy named Jake who he worked with – and Jake tells him that there’s a hitlist, that he’s running for his life and then the line goes dead. someone picks up the phone and tells Lucifer that if Lucifer doesn’t want Ana to be next, he better figure out how to protect her. So back into the past we go.

Lucifer needs to keep Ana safe and yet she wants nothing to do with him since we learn that he killer her brother. there’s more to the story of course but that’s what we know. So the heat and passion that these two shared before is something that we know we’ll have to deal with, especially with the hate layered on.

There’s so much back and forth with these two – the tension is insane, and yet we know that they both want to get past it, and just don’t know how. While that’s the under-current, we know that ti’s imperative that we find out who’s behind the hitlist, and what they want. There’s clearly someone that’s close to them that wants something from them but we don’t really know that whole story.

So where we net out is a place where we know Ana and Lucifer have been lied to, and we know that there’s an adventure ahead to uncover the secrets of the past. We hope that it will lead to more hot and sexy times between them and it’s inevitable because well…Lucifer is Lucifer and he’s HOT. I don’t know how i’ll be able to wait for the next installment to come out but somehow i’ll work on my patience. On that note, if you haven’t pre-ordered the book yet, do so, and it’s out on MARCH 22, 2022 so get your copy and let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Review: Dark Reign (The Collector Trilogy #1) by Amelia Wilde

TitleDark Reign
Author: Amelia Wilde
Publisher/Year:  Dangerous Press 11/9/21
Length:  328 pages
Series: The Collector Trilogy #1

Overview

Wealthy. Reclusive. Dangerous. Emerson LeBlanc doesn’t enter society much. He only ventures out in pursuit of new art for his collection. It starts with a haunting painting. Then he meets the artist…

Innocent Daphne Morelli is more exquisite than anything he’s ever seen. He becomes obsessed with her. It doesn’t matter that she’s a living, breathing person with her own hopes and dreams.

​​​​​​​She’ll be the perfect addition to his collection.

My Thoughts

The summary here led me to believe that it was going to be slightly different than the story turned out to be, and frankly it took me a long time to get through it. I don’t know if it’s me, or the story – so I guess we’ll see if i pick up the next one.

Just like the synopsis says, we start our story with Emerson, he’s The Collector. and he’s known for being able to make or break an artists’ career. He finds himself in Motif, a gallery that he doesn’t usually go to and discovers art by DM, someone that he didn’t know before, but becomes obsessed with.

what we learn of DM, Daphne is that she comes from a family that is ‘connected’. They have been in a business that isn’t necessarily on the up and up, and they have a family rivalry with the Constantines, another family that’s in a similar position. What we know is that because of a tenuous relationship between the families, Daphne is beyond protected by her brother and his bodyguards. She wants to live her own life, and while he allows it, he also buys out a building across from where she lives and works so that Daphne can be protected.

What he doens’t know, is that he can’t protect her from everything.

Emerson is obsessed and we don’t get the true backstory on why he gets like this. We know that he’s a recluse and we know that he’s got a very bad relationship with his own family and the outside world, but we dont know the causes. What we do know is that he’ll venture out to find Daphne, to endear himself to her, and then hope to make her his.

What happens throughout this story is a bit of a wild ride. We see horrible things happen to Daphne’s family and we watch how that impacts the choices that Daphne makes. She is intrigued and that puts herself at risk, but the attraction that she has to Emerson makes her throw caution to the wind.

We’re left at the end of something that sounds like the demise of the freedom that Daphne has known. Will it be at the hands of Leo her brother, or at Emerson the Collector? we don’t know yet, but i’m sure more will come to light in the next book. Enjoy!

Review: When I Say Yes (The Necklace #3) by Lisa Renee Jones

TitleWhen I Say Yes
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Publisher/Year:  Julie Patra Publishing 1/25/22
Length:  200 pages
Series: The Necklace Trilogy #3

Overview

I believe that there is one person in this world that can both break us and make us whole. One person who can love us more than life can hurt us. With this comes deep, intense passion, and a burning connection. But in turn, that person can destroy us, cut us, make us bleed in ways no other ever could. They have power over us. 

For me, that one person is Dash Black.

He walked into my life in a rush of sunshine, in the darkness of heartache and uncertainty. We were broken apart, and whole together. He healed me. I believed I did the same for him. Until the past became the present, and every moment of suffering in his life consumed him. Instead of seeking refuge in me, he pushed me away. As the famous quote from an unknown author says, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.”

I’ve set Dash Black free. Now, I wait.

My Thoughts

What an insane ride we get to go on with this series – and this final installment doesn’t disappoint. This couple that has so much in common and so much against them continues to struggle with what their reality is. We watch them fight for each other and fight against each other and where we were left off in the end of book 2, they were fighting against each other.

If you’ll remember from that last installment, we were in New York with our characters, they were there for a book signing for Dash and we knew that NY was a place that triggers a lot and has a lot of Allie’s demons. Her demons come to a head with them in the form of Brandon, her ex who’s now the agent of Dash’s father, and forces them into a signing together, which of course causes strife.

We watch how Dash tries to take control, to be the bigger person, but Brandon is still so spiteful of everything that happened that he’s not willing to let things go. He provokes Dash and that results in Dash pushing Allie away and he goes to self destruct.

So we pick up this next installment at that point. We know that Dash is going to fight in an underground club since that’s his MO and Allie needs to find him before it’s too late. She calls Tyler, knowing that it’ll anger Dash but she has no other idea where to go. When Tyler isn’t able to find Dash, she goes to Mark, and as we’ve seen in the In and Out series, Mark will never cease to surprise and amaze us, and the role that he takes in this book is one that we really learn to enjoy.

Mark finds Dash and helps devise a plan to get him out of the fight club. It works, but Allie thinks that they are over regardless. What happens though is that Dash realizes that Allie is his means to saving himself, not fighting and we watch their relationship take a new and powerful direction.

The balance of this story follows a few different paths. There’s the question of where Allison is and why she left, and no one knows the answer. The more that Allie learns and the more that she digs, the more concerned that she gets. Tyler finally comes to admit all that she meant to him, and he continues to try to contact her to no avail.

Then there’s the concern over what Brandon is going to do next to hurt Allie. and what that will mean for Dash. He’s vindictive and that means that they all need to be on high alert. Brandon doesn’t let us down – he attempts to go after Allie and we’re ready for him!

Throughout this story we watch and the rollercoaster goes for this couple. They want to be together but they worry that there are too many secrets to let them have their happily every after. Allie’s digging into Allisons whereabouts puts her in the crosshairs of quite a few people that she likely shouldn’t be in contact with. We met Brad Waters in an earlier book and he gives us a bad feeling. We meet Benjamin (Benji) in this installment and his vibe is similar. and then there’s Jack, Tyler’s father. All men that are powerful and fit the description that Allison had in her journal of the man that she went to after Tyler broke her heart. Not sure who is our prime suspect but they all give us the feels that they could be it.

What happens to bring things to a close is a series of events that were placed in a path in perfect order. Allie learns just enough, enlists the help of Neil the FBI source that is helping Dash, and gets a few additional pieces of information that give her what she needs to get her answers. What happens though is something that we should have expected but didn’t think about in completion and ends our story on a serious note. There’s a shooting, there’s a surprise appearance of someone that we’ve known well, and there’s a creation of sorts of something new that makes sense but was also unexpected.

So on that note, I REALLY enjoyed this finale because we do get closure on what we were hoping for. We continue to watch Allie handle the necklace with care and we watch how her future is uncertain and then gets some more clarity. She’s forced to make decisions that impact not just herself but others, and the choices that she makes seem to be the right ones in my opinion. Enjoy!

Blog Tour + Interview + GIVEAWAY: The Wedding Setup by Solini Dev

Hi Friends! I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend! As you know, I do love supporting authors as they come out with new work, and this is another instance of that. Next Stop: The Wedding Setup!

Below you’ll find an interview with our author Sonali Dev, an except from her book and a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card and digital copy of this new book! Definitely check it out, and my own personal review will be coming soon!

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Interview with Author Solini Dev

The Wedding Setup may be a short story, but it is tremendously powerful. How would you describe it to readers?

Thank you. It’s the story of a girl who used to be a rebel who followed her heart and fought for what she wanted, and then her brother’s death leaves her responsible for her widowed mother. It’s about being knocked off your feet and getting stuck, and learning how to stand back up and reclaim yourself.

The story invites us to take an intimate look into a mother-daughter relationship. This is a universal theme, however, you also steep the plot in your own Indian heritage. Can you tell readers what this story means to you as a daughter? What it means to you as an Indian woman?

There is so much of my own relationship with my mother in this book. We’ve always been incredibly close. She’s outspoken and confident and she modeled some powerful behaviors for me growing up about owning her own body and her voice. But there were the other parts where she was a product of her time and culture, believing in absolute terms that it is a woman’s duty to nurture her family, to marry ‘at the right time,’ to be a certain kind of mother. These are things she pushed hard. Things I internalized but also fought to do on my own terms and not hers. Ayesha’s relationship with her mother used to be this way, and then a tragedy changes their dynamic. So, it’s an exploration of how battles for identity get derailed by tragedy and grief and what it takes to heal.

Ayesha’s mom describes her as obedient, responsible, and “always putting everyone else before her own needs.” After hearing this Ayesha (internally) feels hypothermic. Can you explain how these seemingly sweet compliments completely destroy your heroine?

The mother-child bond comes with a kind of intuitive understanding of each other that’s unique to that relationship. So, while Ayesha has lost her fiery spirit and both she and her mother have lost years to their grief and struggle to survive, her mother knows who her daughter is deep down and how much she’s buried. So there’s a very nuanced intent to these ‘compliments’ and they hit the nerve they’re meant to hit. Ayesha’s reaction to these words is her dead parts coming back to life.

It only takes a moment—one second—for Ayesha to break free from her ice…a single word from Emmitt has her coming back to life. Why does she have such a powerful reaction to someone she hasn’t seen in seven years?

Ayesha had a crush on Emmitt for many years before they got together. She’s always had a strong reaction to him. The years they spent together as young adults were years when she came into herself, and felt seen and cherished. Then she loses all of that when her brother dies and they break up. So, it’s a combination of things that come together when Ayesha meets Emmitt again. They have a natural connection, but also, with his return come all the memories of who she used to be and how much she used to let herself feel.

Ayesha has never forgotten how Emmitt turns “her messy, impulsive, unfettered emotion into something beautiful.” But she has forgotten the effect that she has on him. What buried memories are uncovered as she watches Emmitt react to their reunion?

Emmitt has always dealt with the world and the pain it causes him by keeping everyone at arm’s length. But Ayesha destroys his defenses with her ability to love (and do everything else) so fiercely. So, when he loses her he’s already lost his ability to protect himself. Their joint grief is what separated them, so, while they understand each other’s pain they both also understand the loneliness of not having each other to lean on. They’ve had to make the journey to healing individually, but meeting each other again brings up the piece that needs the other to heal.

How did you get to know your couple? How were you able to understand what was needed to heal their broken hearts?

The one theme that threads through all my books is finding yourself on the tightrope between personal freedom and responsibility to family and community. Healing is always about finding or rediscovering your love for yourself. So, I understand my characters through that lens: how have they lost themselves? What about themselves do they need to reclaim and fall in love with? A truly connected couple is one who aids this journey in each other, recognizes it, and supports it.

In a limited number of pages you not only give readers a living, breathing couple, but also an avalanche of equally interesting characters like Ayesha’s best friend, suitor, aunties…and you even create depth with characters that are no longer living. Why was it so important to spend time with these secondary characters? What do they reveal about your hero and heroine?

I believe that as humans we are a sum total of our relationships and the world we live in and build for ourselves. How someone treats other people and how they respond to how they are treated is what constitutes character. 

At its heart, every story is about a person who is somehow at odds with the world they live in or with themselves because of the expectations of their world, and the journey they make to resolve that conflict. Ayesha wouldn’t be Ayesha without her mother and Bela, her best friend and the community she was raised in. Bela has been her wild other half growing up, then their paths diverged, but they continued to be each other’s support. Her mother has become a crutch she uses to hold on to her grief. Emmitt’s grief over his friend has run his life for seven years too. So the secondary characters are just as integral to the story as the protagonists.

While the plot focuses on grief, there is also great joy to be found. After all, the backdrop of the story is a giant wedding. What do you personally find the most fun at a traditional Indian wedding celebration?

I’m always only there for the food and dancing! Fine, and getting to dress up. And the wine. Also, maybe the chance to hang out with family and friends I only see at weddings. And the drunk aunties and uncles.

After readers devour The Wedding Setup, which of your other books would you recommend they read next?

First, thank you so much for devouring The Wedding Setup! I’m incredibly proud of my Raje series, a set of retellings of my four favorite Jane Austen novels set in a politically ambitious Indian American family from Northern California. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors is a gender flipped Pride and Prejudice. Recipe for Persuasion is a two-generational homage to Persuasion set on a Food Network show. Incense and Sensibility, the love story between a gubernatorial candidate and a yoga therapist who can save him but also destroy his campaign, pays tribute to Sense and Sensibility. And the upcoming The Emma Project (May 17th 2022), which is a gender flipped Emma that explores what it means when a person with tremendous privilege offers charity to someone who has much less.

The Wedding Setup Excerpt 

Goose bumps rose across Ayesha’s skin, one sharp dot at a time. 

“Ayesha.” 

That was it. Just that one word. Her name. In a voice that was its own ghost. 

She squeezed her eyes shut. One tight squeeze. Tight enough to hurt, tight enough to almost dislodge the false eyelashes Andre had pressed into her lash line one by one with the precision of a surgeon. Then boom! she was in control again and back to Ayesha on Ice. 

Eyes blank, face set, she turned toward the voice. 

Emmitt

The impact of him was a body blow. 

The entire universe stilled. Words weren’t a thing. Or sound. Breath? What was that? 

Ayesha! Get a grip. 

No grip. That’s how it had always been. She’d had no grip when it came to Emmitt Hughes. Not even a little bit. Not when she’d spied on him and Ajay playing Mario Kart and Minecraft and GTA for hours, for years. Not when she’d yearned and dreamed and spun stories with him at the center. 

I’ve made my love for you, my god. 

It was the cheesiest of lines from one of those Bollywood songs her parents had played on repeat at the restaurant. Amma had loved translating the over-the-top lyrics and explaining their nuances.

Back when Amma was full of stories and songs and laughter. Before Ajay. 

Ajay. 

Her brother’s unspoken name fell between them like a glass bauble and shattered. 

“You remember Emmitt,” Edward had the gall to say. 

Bela shot him a glare. 

You didn’t tell me he would be here. Ayesha threw the silent accusation at her traitorous best friend, who gave her nothing more than another worried look. 

No, Eddie. Remind me again who he is? The snarky words stuck in Ayesha’s throat. Old Ayesha would have said them. Old Ayesha said everything. 

“Emmitt,” New Ayesha said, every feeling buried under her customer-is-king voice from the restaurant. “Nice to see you again.” 

His Adam’s apple bobbed in the long column of his throat. How was he still so darned beautiful? 

One swallow, and then he smiled back. Banking feelings where no one saw them had been his thing. Emmitt the Wall. That’s what Ajay had called him. Her brother had been best friends with him since Emmitt had moved to Naperville in fifth grade after his parents’ divorce. Years of friendship, and he’d still held Ajay at that slight distance he’d been so good at. Something she would always wish she hadn’t cured him of.

You broke me, Ayesha.You broke every defense I’ve ever had against the world. 

She, Ayesha Shetty—too tall, too dark, too outspoken, too intense, too ambitious, too everything for everyone else had been just enough to break through Emmitt the Wall. 

“It’s nice to see you too,” he said gently, sounding . . . she dug through her brain to come up with the right word. Grown-up? Contained? 

Good. Because Ayesha was all those things now too. Not a grenade with its fuse pulled, ready to blow up the world.

***

About the Story

Title: The Wedding Setup

Author: Sonali Dev

Release Date: January 11, 2022

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Summary

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

Author Biography

USA Today bestselling author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that explore universal issues. Her novels have been named best books of the year by Library Journal, NPR, the Washington Post, and Kirkus Reviews. She has won numerous accolades, including the American Library Association’s award for best romance, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for best contemporary romance, and multiple RT Seals of Excellence; has been a RITA finalist; and has been listed for the Dublin Literary Award. Shelf Awareness calls her “not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today.” She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two visiting adult children, and the world’s most perfect dog. 

Buy Link: https://amzn.to/3pWDqM8 

Social Media Links

Website: https://sonalidev.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SonaliDev.author 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sonali_Dev 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonali.dev/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7025918.Sonali_Dev 

DON’T FORGET – we have a Giveaway. please click the link HERE for your chance to win an Amazon gift card and a copy of this new book!

Review: Best Kept Secret (Rochester Trilogy #3) by Skye Warren

TitleBest Kept Secret
Author: Skye Warren
Publisher/Year:  Amber Shah 11/16/21
Length:  250 pages
Series: Rochester Trilogy #3

Overview

The secrets haunting Beau Rochester come alive.

He doesn’t deserve happiness, but he holds it in his hands. A woman he loves. A child. The past threatens to rip them away. He risks losing them forever.

Jane Mendoza is determined to protect the people she loves from every threat–the mysterious arsonist, the corrupt police force. The darkest danger comes from a place she never expects.

She risks more than her newfound family. She risks her life.

My Thoughts

Well, what our amazing author Skye Warren continues to do is leave us on quite the dicey cliff when we end an installment to this story, and if you recall, Jane was sent back to Houston for her own safety, breaking her heart and that of Beau and Paige, but what does she find? Emily Rochester sitting in her bedroom. We know this can’t go well since she’s supposed to be dead. And what makes it worse, she pulls a gun on Jane too.

So you can only imagine the roller coaster that we are about to get on. What’s the story behind her still being alive? what does that mean for Jane? Is there jealousy because Jane and Beau were together? So many questions that we can only hope will be answered throughout this story!

As you can imagine, Emily does a great job telling Jane her ‘story’ and we have to either choose to believe her or not, but Jane is a trusting woman and goes that route of trust. Where that takes her though is on a private jet with Emily BACK to Maine in the hopes of getting Beau to listen to what happened in the past, and figure out how to keep everyone safe so that Emily can come out of hiding.

What do we learn? We learn that Emily watched Rhys get murdered and she knows who the killer is. Shocker – he’s one of the characters that we’ve spent time with in book 2 and one that has a bone to pick with just about everyone in the story. Joe Cuasey. Yup – the detective and the brother to Emily. We don’t easily get the details on what happened and what was the root of the evil here, but we do spend the bulk of the story trying to figure out a way to safety while also bringing him down.

The other story line here is that of the romance that may or may not be destined for greatness. As you’ll remember, Jane promised Paige that she wouldn’t leave her and of course when Jane’s sent away, that breaks the little girls heart. She’s not ready to listen to anything that Beau has to say, and that means that we have a child who is forced to mourn yet another death of sorts in her life. Then there’s the notion that Beau sent Jane away for a reason, because he felt that it wasn’t safe for her to be around since she’s the target of someone’s hate. When Jane comes back though, she’s a new woman. one who’s clear on her value and self worth and she’s not going to let Beau call all the shots and have the power.

The dynamic switch here is really enjoyable to watch and the impact that it has on their chemistry makes things combust even hotter than they did before. Jane shows him that she’s not fragile and breakable and that she’s capable of so much more than anyone gave her credit for.

Which of course comes in handy when their plans to bring Joe down blow up in their face. Things get insane. There’s an attempt at an arrest, guns flying everywhere, and Emily’s cover is blown. What happens next is the bit of the story that you’ll have to read, but when people see face to face that Emily is alive, things go nuts. When people learn what Joe truly is, things go nuts. So, crazy things happening all around.

We get the closure that we need from this story, while also setting up so many questions on relationships that were teased in this story and characters that we want to know more about. Mateo for example, he’s a Hollywood star and he’s also a home town boy. He can have anyone that he wants, but it apparently seemed like he wants Emily. There’s a history there that we don’t quite know about and after book 3 of this trilogy ends, we learn that Ms Warren is writing a story about them as well for us to dive into. I can’t wait. Enjoy!