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!

Review: Strict Confidence (Rochester Trilogy #2) by Skye Warren

TitleStrict Confidence
Author: Skye Warren
Publisher/Year:  Amber Shah 6/15/21
Length:  292 pages
Series: Rochester Trilogy #2

Overview

Forbidden. Commanding. Mysterious. Beau Rochester has an entire house full of secrets. And those secrets are putting Jane Mendoza in danger.

She fell in love with the one man she can’t have. She should leave Maine to protect her heart, but the thread refuses to be severed. The brooding Mr. Rochester and his grieving niece are more than her job. They’re her new family.

She races against time to find answers and protect the people she loves. The cliffside grows dark with the misdeeds of the past. Her heart and her sanity fight a battle, but they are both at risk.

Will Mr. Rochester learn to trust Jane? And will that trust destroy her?

My Thoughts

How dramatic is that summary? I mean, it does the story justice, but wow right? This second installment in the series takes us on a dark and crazy journey. IF you remember, we ended the first book with a house fire, with Beau trapped under a beam in the house because he went back in to find Kitten, and of course Jane goes back in for him. They’re both trapped now, he tells her that he loves her and then the world goes dark.

We pick back up in the hospital, and everyone is alive. Maybe not in one piece but alive. Paige was admitted likely for smoke inhalation but she seems to be doing ok. Beau somehow isn’t admitted – he’s at Paige’s bedside and when he’s not there he’s by Jane. Jane finally comes awake and she’s bruised and beaten up a bit. Thank goodness no one died – but the question that we have to answer is how was the fire started?

That’s the question of the book.

Beau finds some place for them to move to, and the coldness that she feels from Beau makes her wonder if she’s welcome in that new temp home. He blames himself for her almost dying and she still feels this connection to him that she doesn’t understand, and even more she doesn’t understand why she’s being pushed away. Until she’s not being pushed.

Their chemistry and bond is something that keeps them together even when it’s not smart. She loves him even though she knows that it’s wrong, knows that he thinks he dangerous for her, and yet they can’t help it. Beau wants to protect her and by pushing her away, he thinks that is how to do it. What happens though is that his dark side comes out and he hurts her more than pushing her away could. Words sometimes cut deeper.

We watch how the trauma affects Paige all over again. The house was the one thing that she had of her parents and now it’s gone. Her Monopoly game is gone and that was her fathers. She’s got nothing and that hurts more than the injuries that she could have sustained. We watch how Jane some how manages to get her back out of her shell and to start to be happy again, until something else happens to rip them all apart.

While the fire is being investigated, we see the appearance of a detective that has history with Beau (and not a good one) as well as a connection to Emily, Paige’s mom and Beau’s ex. He holds Beau to blame for Emily’s death and that’s something that he’s not willing to let go of. He uses Jane and the relationship there as a means to take him down, and it has an impact on our main characters life that he was expecting, but one that will have a far worse outcome.

On top of that, there’s this ghost of a woman that both Jane and Paige keep seeing. No one knows if she’s real, until you have no choice but to think that she’s real. As a reader, even before we are given the truth, we know what the ghost is, but the question is, why is she haunting them now? All the secrets seem to be out, so we don’t know the motivation there.

Where we are left at the end of this installment is no less dramatic than the first book. The characters are split up, things seem to be dying. Not from a fire, but from necessity. There are too many safety issues and obstacles in their way for people to truly be happy, so the only solution is to go their separate ways. What we find when that happens is the shock of a life time and we don’t know what that means for the safety and security of our beloved characters in the short and long run. It’s dicey, dynamic and hot, and I cannot wait to see how this all wraps up. Off to the next book – Enjoy!

Review: Private Property (Rochester Trilogy #1) by Skye Warren

TitlePrivate Property
Author: Skye Warren
Publisher/Year:  Amber Shah 3/9/21
Length:  282 pages
Series: Rochester Trilogy #1

Overview

When I signed up for the nanny agency, I didn’t expect a remote mansion on a windswept isle. Or a brooding billionaire who resents his new role. His brother’s death means he’s now in charge of a moody seven year old girl. She’s lashing out at the world, but I can handle her. I have to. I need the money to finish my college degree. As long as I can avoid the boss who alternately mocks me and coaxes me to reveal my darkest secrets.

My Thoughts

What we get in this summary doesn’t even scratch the surface of the story that we have embarked on. It’s one that is as moody and broody as the Maine island that they live on, and because of that emotion, we get something that’s intense.

True to form, we have Jane Mendoza, our leading lady in this story – a nineteen year old from Texas who has lived a tough tough life in the foster system, and now wants something better for her future. She’s bounced from house to house, and she’s trying to make her way to college, and to do so she needs money. So she gets a job as a live in nanny and boy is she clueless to what her life will be.

Enter Beau Rochester – a man who made his fortune forming a shipping company that earned him billions. While Jane doesn’t know who he is, he clues us into his past – how he was a playboy and a very bad guy. someone who played too hard after working hard and that is something that we watch him deal with even in this story.

As the summary stated, we’re in Maine after Beau’s brother and SIL pass away in an accident and he’s left to watch over Paige – their daughter. She’s young and dealing with the trauma in a way that he doesn’t know how to cope and so he’s hired Jane to help.

The journey that we go on here is one that’s quite complex but really intense and enjoyable. We watch how the trauma of the past turns into something that sustains life now, with hope for the future (at least for some). We watch how trust is something that has to be earned, but when that’s done, there’s such great success and prize from it. We watch how Jane grows into the woman that she should have been if she didn’t deal with all the loss from her past, and how Beau is someone who could potentially give her security even though he’s not the person to be in her future. There’s discovery of sexuality and what makes you feel wanted and safe, all while realizing that what is good for someone in the now is a response to things that happened in the past.

There’s are some entertaining side scenes that happen in this one. We watch how Beau’s world is introduced to Jane and the impact of that. He’s got friends who are actors, models, all wealthy and from another world. We see how the wide eyes of a nineteen year hold from Texas deals with that, and how jealousy and temptation all play into those scenes. We learn about the ghosts from the past and how they haunt several people’s dreams, and wonder if those ghosts aren’t quite dead yet.

Just when we feel things start to settle, and a rhythm comes into their routine, there’s a fire and all is lost. not just possessions but likely lives too. we have to wonder what this means for our characters and for the progress of our story. I fear for the life and future of our mains, and i’m sure that’s the Intention so that the reader has to quickly jump into the next one. I’ve just picked up book 2 and off I go! Enjoy!

Review: Fatal Marriage (Wedlocked #3) by Charlotte Byrd

TitleFatal Marriage
Author: Charlotte Byrd
Publisher/Year:  Byrd Books 5/19/20
Length:  186 pages
Series: Wedlocked Trilogy #3

Overview

I was forced into this marriage to save my father’s life and our family’s empire, but my husband has other plans. 

He wants to sell Tate Media for parts and make himself billions in the process. 

The only way I can stop him is to expose his not-so-secret life. 

Franklin Parks is a monster. We have all heard the rumors, but anyone who has dared to stand up to him has been silenced. Now, it’s my turn. 

He is protected by all of the rich and powerful because he protects their secrets in return. 

There’s only person I can trust: Henry Asher, the love of my life. 

I shouldn’t get him involved. It’s too dangerous, but we can’t stay away from each other. 

Can I escape my marriage and save my legacy or will I lose everything and everyone I love in the process?

My Thoughts

Finally we get to the final installment of this series, and it hasn’t come a moment too soon. While I enjoy the idea of what this story has to tell us, it’s not one of my ultimate favs so i’m glad that we’ve resolved things and moved on.

There’s been a lot of drama throughout this series, with Aurora being forced into a situation that isn’t fair to her, and yet the she still feels the need to ‘do the right thing’ since she knows that there’s so much more going on that she’s not aware of.

We spend our time in a few different plot lines.

There’s the one where the marriage is a thing now – she’s stuck with Franklin and she needs to make that her new normal. She’s able to keep him at arms length because she just doesn’t trust him, and she’s got plenty of reasons. She find that he’s cheating on her, walking in on 2 different women with him, and he uses the excuse that since she won’t sleep with him, he has to get it somewhere else.

Then there’s the plot line of Henry and Aurora. They can’t stay away from each other and stop trying. What they have is something real, and once they realized that Franklin was trying to keep them apart, they stop caring and let things take them where they need to go. It’s hot and steamy and yet dangerous at the same time, since for some reason Franklin always knows where she is and this gets dicey.

Add to that, we see a side of Franklin that we didn’t expect. Two actually. There are moments where we actually like frankln – he has these tender and sweet moments and we watch how Aurora wonders if she’s gotten him all wrong. If there’s something worth saving in their ‘relationship’. And then there are the moments that are completely opposite – where he’s hit her and slapped her and then we know that he’s truly evil. How evil? we don’t find out until later.

There are rumors that he’s involved in something that’s quite illegal. They set up a sting and hope that they can catch him without getting caught, and what they find is so much worse. What this does though is takes us on a fast trip to the end of the story.

We lose faith in family and we find hope in the future and what happens to get us to the end of this story makes spending time with these characters worth while. So, on that note, happy to be finished with this series and excited to find something else to read. Enjoy!

Blog Tour – Next Stop: Digging Up Love by Chandra Blumberg

Hello friends! I hope everyone’s had a lovely New Years and that you’re all staying healthy! It’s hard these days! Today’s blog tour is a bit of an expanded one with lots of goodies so please make sure to read through! We have an Interview with our amazing DEBUT author Chandra, an excerpt from her new book Digging Up Love, and a GIVEAWAY!

As a debut author, what are some things readers should know about you?

I was born in Michigan and moved to the Chicago area shortly after college. I’m the mom of four amazing children. I love to bake and I’m always on the lookout for new recipes to try, and though they often turn out less-than Pinterest-worthy, my baked goods almost always taste great.

Lifting weights is another one of my passions. I enjoy the physical challenge and the boost from achieving new goals. I also love to travel and explore, whether it be other countries or nearby towns. One of my greatest joys is finding new places to visit and experience for the first time.

And of course, I love to read! I devour books from a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to mystery, historical fiction to fantasy, but romance captured my heart and never let go.

Describe your novel Digging Up Love in just one sentence.

A commitment-phobic baker who plans to escape small-town life for Chicago hits a roadblock when an enormous dinosaur bone is unearthed in her backyard, and she falls hard for the paleontologist sent to excavate.

Including dinosaurs as a major part of the plot is unique in a romance novel. What inspired you to include dinosaurs (or at least their bones) in your story?

My kids love learning about dinosaurs, so between books, shows, movies, and time spent visiting museums to see fossils, dinosaurs have been a big part of my life for awhile now, and that might be part of what sparked the idea. Plus, I’ve been a fan of Jurassic Park since I was a kid, and I thought it would be really fun to write a romance with a paleontologist love interest.

As I was drafting the novel, I remembered reading a news article about mammoth bones turning up on a farmer’s property in my home state of Michigan, and I thought: what if it had been a dinosaur bone? There haven’t been any dinosaur fossils discovered in most of the Midwest, so that offered a lot of possibilities to explore.

Was there a moment when Quentin and Alisha’s story really came to life for you?

I wrote a sketch of a scene where a woman was on a date with a paleontologist at the Field Museum in Chicago. He was super enthusiastic about showing her the fossils, and they had this flirty, fun dynamic with a lot of banter. There was immediate chemistry, and I wanted to dive deeper into their story. At one point in the scene, the woman tripped, and her response was, “Whoopsie-daisy.” So I had this young woman who was using this sort of old-school exclamation, and I thought, why would she say that? Well, maybe she was raised by her grandparents. And the story evolved from there.

Was there a time during the writing process that you were really surprised by the story or your characters?

I was sharing an early draft of the story with critique partners and one of them mentioned how Quentin was a paleontologist like Ross from Friends, and my reaction was total shock. I used to love watching Friends, but for some reason—maybe my age at the time I watched it—even though Ross was one of my favorite characters, I had no idea what he did for a living. I decided to include my reaction into the book, because how could I not? Ross is such an iconic character, and here I had totally blanked on another paleontologist in pop culture.

Digging Up Love is very much a small-town romance, but it also includes scenes in Chicago. What made you choose to include both settings in your novel?

I knew I wanted a city-meets-country love story because it offers so many interesting and fun dynamics. Since I grew up in a fairly rural community and participated in the county fair, 4-H, horseback riding, and so on, I had that experience to draw from. I also enjoy living in the Chicago area immensely and wanted to incorporate elements of the city as well.

What do you most want readers to take away from reading Digging Up Love?

First and foremost, a happily-ever-after. While this book delves into some deep issues, this is Alisha and Quentin’s love story, and I want to leave readers with all the swoony feels! I hope to tug on readers’ heartstrings and make them laugh in the next moment. I also wanted to depict a heroine who is unapologetically into lifting heavy weights, and to include body positivity in the narrative. I hope the sense of love, both romantic and in relationships with family and friends, comes through in this story. Ultimately, this is a book about finding joy and the person who makes you feel happy and fully loved.

***

About forty yards behind the house, Mrs. S sat on her trusty motorized steed. Granny stood next to her, the top of her blonde bob a good foot shy of the reflective orange safety flag jutting up out of the back of the seat. 

Opposite the women, a backhoe perched motionless on the edge of the crater like a mechanical gargoyle, motor silent. Granny was holding a whispered conference with Mrs. Snyder, doused in her trademark rose-scented perfume so strong it could penetrate a gas mask. 

Alisha slinked up to the women like an uninvited guest at a funeral. She couldn’t help but address them in a hushed tone. “Hi, ladies.” 

Mrs. Snyder let out an almighty yelp and revved her engine. The scooter lurched forward toward the edge of the hole. Alisha dove for the kill switch, and Granny wrapped both arms around her friend’s ample waist, the heels of her Wellington boots making furrows in the grass. The scooter skidded to a halt like a clown car dumping its occupants at center stage. 

Alisha collapsed on her knees, panting. “So sorry, Mrs. S!” 

“Janet.” Fanning her flushed face, she leveled a beady gaze at Alisha. “If I’ve told you once, I told you a thousand times. Call me Janet.” She adjusted one of her clip-on earrings, blue-veined hand trembling. “‘Mrs. S’ makes me feel about a thousand years old.” 

Alisha nodded just to pacify her. The switch would be impossible. Mrs. Snyder was Hawksburg’s answer to Mr. Feeny: a seventh-grade math teacher, religious ed catechist, and after retirement, a high school substitute teacher. No sense in arguing, though. 

She pushed off the freezing ground and turned to Granny. “What’s this I hear about a skeleton in our new swimming pool?” 

Pulling the sides of her coat around herself, her grandma said, “I was gonna tell you when you got home, sweetie. But you never get much time to yourself. I didn’t want to interrupt your visit with Simone. And I doubt it’s anything. Janet just said we should be sure.” 

Surprise, surprise. Mrs. Snyder had called in the professionals, not Granny. 

“I’m sure we’ll have this whole thing resolved today.” Granny patted her arm in reassurance. 

Alisha relaxed a bit at her grandma’s touch. The Blake women looked nothing alike. Her grandma was a fine-boned peroxide blonde and fair as winter moonlight. But temperament wise, they were a match. If Granny wasn’t fussed, everything would be fine. But still . . . 

“So there is a bone?” 

Granny nodded. “A big one. See for yourself.” 

Obediently, Alisha took a step forward to peer down into the pit. The man—and it was a man, after all—crouched in the mud, squinting against a battered digital camera, wasn’t wearing the khaki uniform she’d expected. 

Instead, a dark-gray zip-up hoodie showed the curve of strong biceps and wide shoulders. He sat on his haunches in worn-in jeans and brown work boots. A cobalt-blue beanie was pulled down over his ears, accentuating the line of a straight, clean-shaven jaw. Definitely not middle aged either. 

This was fine. Totally fine. Well, he was fine, that much was certain. 

Keep it together, Alisha. 

No worries. She tugged at her cropped leather jacket. She was perfectly capable of sending a fit young scientist packing. 

Just then, he rested the camera on his thigh and looked up at them through the snow, his gaze as dazzling as a burst of sunshine after a storm. 

Alisha’s knees almost gave way. Up until this moment, she would’ve put weak knees right up there with Bigfoot in the realm of myth. But the man’s electric gray-green eyes short-circuited her nerve endings and left her legs wobbly as Bambi. 

He pulled his full lips to the side, gaze unfocused, clearly deep in thought. Then he dropped those striking eyes to the ground and stood up, rubbing a hand absently along his chiseled jaw. Her stomach turned itself inside out. It wasn’t every day she encountered a man who looked like her fantasies incarnate. But the biting wind and snowflakes swirling through the air hit her like a bucket of ice water. Not a daydream, then. Which begged the question, What to do now? 

The textbook definition of a sexy scientist stood a few feet away, smack-dab in the middle of her grandparents’ future swimming pool. Chills that had nothing to do with the freezing temps collided with the heated flush of a heart gone into hyperdrive. A magnetic tug drew her a step closer, vying with a hysterical urge to turn tail and run. 

Heavens to Betsy, cool it, Blake. 

Without another thought, Alisha took a breath and jumped into the deep end.

***

About the Book

Title: Digging Up Love

Author: Chandra Blumberg

Release Date: January 1, 2022

Series: Taste of Love, Book 1

Summary

Alisha Blake works her magic in the kitchen, creating delectable desserts for her grandfather’s restaurant in rural Illinois. Though Alisha relishes the close relationship she has with her family, she can’t help but dream about opening a cookie shop in Chicago. She may be a small-town baker, but Alisha has big ambitions.

Then a dinosaur bone turns up in her grandparents’ backyard. When paleontologist Quentin Harris arrives to see the discovery for himself, he’s hoping that the fossil will distract him from a recent painful breakup. Instead, he finds Alisha—and sparks fly. The big-city academic and the hometown baker seem destined for a happily ever after.

But Alisha is scared to fall in love. And Quentin’s trying to make a name for himself in a competitive field, which gets even more complicated when the press shows up at the dig site. For love to prevail, the two may have to put old bones aside—and focus on the future.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Digging-Up-Love-Chandra-Blumberg-ebook/dp/B092J5RTX2 

Social Media Links

Website: https://chandrablumberg.com/ 

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chandrablumberg/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chandrablumberg 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21413895.Chandra_Blumberg 

Rafflecopter Giveaway. click HERE for your chance to win an Amazon Gift Card and a digital copy of the book!

Review: Lethal Wedding (Wedlocked #2) by Charlotte Byrd

TitleLethal Wedding
Author: Charlotte Byrd
Publisher/Year:  Byrd Books 4/14/20
Length:  175 pages
Series: Wedlocked Trilogy #2

Overview

To save my father’s life and our family’s legacy, I have to marry a cruel man who wants me only as a trophy.

I thought Franklin Parks was a bad man before, but now I know he’s a monster.

To survive, I will have to beat him at his own game. But then Henry Asher, my one and only love, comes back into my life and things get a lot more complicated.

Franklin is not only my fiancé but also Henry’s boss, and he will stop at nothing to get everything he wants…

Henry Asher

I was a fool to let her go. Now, I’ll have to do everything to get her back…

Aurora never thought I could be a rich dirtbag who would do anything to get what he wants but I am proving her wrong.

To help her, I had to teach myself a few things.

To protect her, I had to become my worst enemy.

To save her, I will have to do the unthinkable.

The problem is that she doesn’t want saving. She has her own plans. But the wedding is approaching and time is running out…

My Thoughts

This sad sad story continues and we’re about to see things get not only more complicated but worse. for everyone involved.

So we know that in the end of book 1, the proverbial shit hit the fan when Tate Media was on the verge of despair. Aurora’s father was arrested, and had a heart attack and her mother blames it all on her because she wasn’t willing or eager to marry Franklin. When she realizes that she’s truly got no other choice since it’s not just her family’s livelihood at stake, but everyone who’s worked at the company for years, she has no choice and does what she needs to.

this second installment of this series spends much of our time wondering what’s truly at the core of what’s going on with our characters and what that means in the long run. We know that Franklin is well connected and it comes to our attention that it’s likely not in all the most savory ways as well. Then there’s the fact that Aurora isn’t being true to herself at all, and there’s only so much she’s willing to compromise on her beliefs and her self worth.

Then there’s Henry. He’s in various cities/states working on his podcast and he’s still not willing to let Aurora go. He knows that what happened wasn’t something that he wanted, breaking up with her wasn’t the right move, and then when the news of the engagement to his boss comes up – that forces him to take pause even more since things just don’t add up. Add to that, his mother is incredibly sick and didn’t let him know, so that’s an underlying story for him to cope with.

We go around and around in circles in this story – wondering what it’s going to take for Aurora to either marry Franklin or walk away to deal with the consequences. We don’t know how it’s going to end up, but we know that we’ll likely uncover so many secrets that will turn this series on it’s head again. When we leave off, there are things revealed, and alliances that are formed that we wonder what the ultimate end goal will be. So that means that I of course have to read the next book and so off I go to see this series resolve. Enjoy!

Review: Dangerous Engagement (Wedlocked Trilogy #1) by Charlotte Byrd

TitleDangerous Engagement
Author: Charlotte Byrd
Publisher/Year:  Byrd Books 3/17/20
Length:  310 pages
Series: Wedlocked Trilogy #1

Overview

Not long ago, there was nothing I couldn’t have. Now, I don’t even have the choice of whom to marry.

To save my father’s life and our family’s legacy, I have to marry a cruel man who wants me only as a trophy.

Henry Asher was just supposed to be a summer fling, but we fell in love. We thought we would be together forever, but life got in the way. After we broke up, I vowed to never tell Henry the truth about my engagement.

What happens when the lies that were supposed to save me start to drown me?

Henry Asher

I didn’t always have wealth or power. There was even a time when I didn’t want any of that.

Then I met her: Aurora Tate is an heiress to a billion-dollar fortune. She grew up on Park Avenue, had a house in the Hamptons and skied in Aspen. Our first summer together was magical. We were naive enough to think that love was going to be enough.

Now, she’s forced to marry a man she hates to save her father’s life.

To get her back and to make her my wife, I need to become the man she needs me to be.

Can I do it in time?

My Thoughts

The summary doesn’t really do this story justice since it makes you think that we’re going to go in one direction and we go in another. Yes, Aurora and Henry are our leading characters, but they have a very complicated way that they came together and how their relationship progressed.

Aurora is the heiress to the Tate Media empire – a company that was started by her parents, and hopefully would go to her, yet she’s got a different hankering in life, although she doesn’t know what that is. She’s been raised in a life of privilege but that’s not who she is – she struggles to relate to what her friends in that world enjoy and that’s something that Henry alleviates for her.

Enter Henry – a guy who’s working on her father’s boat, but someone that changes her world in an unexpected way. After one meeting at the pool, that continues on to a date and overnight stay, well, Aurorat’s entire path of life has changed. While she’ still following the path of her PhD she’s got a romance that consumes her.

Sadly, that’s not a romance that her family will agree to given the world that they live in. Henry meets her parents, and makes a decent impression, but it’s not an impression that gives them fait that he’s the man for her. He doesn’t have a long term goal, and he’s not able to provide for the kind of life that Aurora is accustomed to, but she’s not willing to listen to reason.

So this first installment takes us on the journey of watching them try to become what they think they could be, yet find all of the obstacles in life taking bits of their enjoyment and romance away. Aurora’s mother gives her an ultimatum which she’s not willing to agree to and stays with Henry. They move to Henry’s apartment which isn’t ideal, and then Henry loses his job. Which means they lose their apartment since it’s subsidized by his job. So their life is in turmoil.

Enter Auroria’s parents, and we see that things are always able to get more complex. There are workings under the radar here – and while they seem to offer a solution to their worries, what happens in the unexpected. They offer Henry a way to get a job now that he’s unemployed, and at the same time, they give Aurora back her apartment. what happens though is the following.

  1. he gets the job, but they grow apart
  2. she gets her PhD but wonders why no one cares
  3. She’s set up with a man that is now employed by Tate Media, and while he’s a predator on her, she’s forced to endure

so we’re left at the end of this story with a romance turned sour, a family in ruins, and the unknown of an arrangement without consent. So of course I have to read on to see where this one goes and how it plays out. On that note, i’m off to the 2nd book since I cannot go to bed without seeing what happens next. Enjoy!

Review: Dark Inheritance (Dark Temptations #5) by Charlotte Byrd

TitleDark Inheritance
Author: Charlotte Byrd
Publisher/Year:  Byrd Books 12/26/21
Length:  190 Pages
Series: Dark Intentions #5

Overview

Now that all of our secrets are out in the open, we must live with the choices we made and the truth of who we really are.

Jacqueline has found out the truth about her brother, the secret that I vowed to never reveal. She wants to see him again and doesn’t care that it will endanger not only her life but all of ours.

The thing that I have feared has happened. The worst of the worst men are after us and they only have one goal: to take our lives.

It’s time to RUN.
Darkness descends. Yet hope remains.

The danger that I tried to keep at bay this whole time has come for us with a vengeance.
Will we ever have a happily ever after or will our life together (what’s possibly left of it) continue to teeter on the edge?

My Thoughts

We left book four in the parking garage of the hospital, Lincoln and Marguarite were waiting the impending birth of their baby, Jacqueline and Marguarite were threatened by assassins who were were trying to kill off the entire family since they were in one place, but the girls were able to pay them off a million dollars for them to go away. What happens next though to end the book is crazy. There’s a shooting in the parking garage and it’s Dante’s father who’s in dire straights.

Book five takes us a bit into the future, everyone has scattered around so that there’s no way to get the entire family together anymore. Lincoln and Marguarite are in North Carolina trying to make their life work there. Dante is still always on the road for work – he’s gone around the world and finds his way to various family members to check on them from time to time. Jacqueline, her mother and Michael (who’s now really alive) are in Boston – although Jacqueline lives on her own there – away from her mom and brother. Dante learns that his mother is in Mexico, with his father and that is unsettling in itself.

Jacquline continues to be our focus, watching how she’s reinventing herself as a writer – going back to school and trying to make her life into something worthwhile. She of course misses Dante but doesn’t know if their future is ever meant to be together. When she learns that Michael is in touch with him and that they have plans to meet, that’s something that she’s got to hold on to and we watch how that has the potential to implode – with Jacquline going against what’s smart and tagging along on that trip.

The reason for the trip -a need to take out all the people who have a hit on the family so that they can live their lives more freely. It’s something that they all want since they miss aspects of what they had, friends, comfort, jobs etc. But the outcome here is nothing at all what we expect and yet we should have expected it all along.

There’s another story line happening at the same time – Allison and her fiance are still in their bubble until a plane crash changes the trajectory of things. There’s a small plane crash that happens off of Cape Cod and there are 2 people on that plane that make us take pause. One is her Fiance’s best friend – a man that he’s known for ever, had as a manager, and now who’s passed. The impact that the death has on their relationship is one that has miserable intentions. while initially they cling to each other for support, they find that they are slowly losing the spark and the need to have something with each other. Instead, Richard finds solace with his deceased friends wife, a woman that he had feelings for all those years ago, and it results in an affair. When the affair is uncovered, there are threats made to Jacqueline for her own safety and that leaves an uncertain future all around.

Then there’s the dark underbelly of this story. We know that the family wants to kill all those that have a hit on them, but it’s easier said than done. Dante has a plan that no one wants to listen to, and then there’s a plan that they can’t walk away from once they realize that their safety bubble spread out around the world isn’t so safe. What happens when they corner the assassins, well that’s an entirely different twist of fate, and not everyone that we’ve grown close to in this series makes it out alive.

So, what we end up with in this series finale is closure for sure, a glimpse into the future in some cases, and a curiosity of whether anyone is ever safe and what the motivations are for that. So, on that note, if you haven’t read this story yet, you should (esp since I didn’t realize that book 5 literally just came out days ago), and now i’m off to another cast of characters to enjoy.

Review: Dark Temptations (Dark Intentions #4) by Charlotte Byrd

TitleDark Temptations
Author: Charlotte Byrd
Publisher/Year:  Byrd Books 9/20/21
Length:  180 Pages
Series: Dark Intentions #4

Overview

I pushed her away to keep my secrets to myself. What I don’t yet know is that her life is already in danger.
I have so many regrets. If we had never met, she’d be safe now.
Some love stories are a slow burn. Ours was quick to ignite, scorching and branding our souls before we’ve even taken that first breath.

From bestselling author Charlotte Byrd comes an intense romance about debts, lies and secrets and the extent to which people go for love.

Everything around me blurred and all that existed were his lips, his touch… 
The chase and the heat between us became addictive.
Our nights together were a distraction; one we craved to the point of letting the world crumble around us.
We should have paid attention; we should have known that it would come to this.
We both knew it couldn’t last, but that didn’t change what we desired most. 
All we wanted was each other…

My Thoughts

What a roller coaster we’ve been on in this series and I actually thought that it was the final installment, NOPE! thank goodness because get so much more complicated in this 4th installment. there’s so much uncertainty around just about everything in this story. We watch as Jacqueline tries to dig into the truth around her brother’s death, and comes to the realization that her brother isn’t dead – so that means that there’s more to the story than anyone knows, and when she learns that Dante not only knows her brother, but knows more about what was going on, well…..the story gets deep!

There’s the side story around Dante, Lincoln and their father – how he’s roped them back into the profession and life that they tried so hard to get away from, and what happens isn’t the outcome that they needed. Instead, they are all put more at risk and that means that the flow of this story is going to be one filled with risk and angst.

There are many things that happen in this story that make you wonder who’s on the up and up. There are things that the police detective does and says that gives me pause because I feel like he shouldn’t have access to things that he does, and Jacqueline’s friend Allison makes the same point, but nothing comes of it. On the other hand, we keep learning more and more things about the past, about what Jacqueline’s mother knew about Michael’s life before he ‘died’ and how they all kept her Jacqueline in the dark.

So we spend the entirety of this story back on the east coast, away from Vasko and that initial goal, and on a roller coaster of emotions. It seems like there’s no bridge that can be built to bring Dante and Jacqueline together, yet through a series of unfortunate events, they are pushed together for an uncertain amount of time.

There’s heat and passion, hatred and emotion. An attempt on a life, the impending entry of a new life and a gun battle. We don’t know what that all means for the future, and we know that plans have to be devised but whatever we thought could happen for their safety is blown out the window in the last scene of this book. So on that note, while I was going to take a break from this series, i’m now going to read book 5 and see what happens. Enjoy!