Title: Because I Can Author: Lisa Renee Jones Publisher/Year: Julie Patra Publishing 12/14/21 Length: 200 Pages Series: Necklace Trilogy #2
To the world, Dash Black is famous, wealthy, wildly good-looking, and intriguing. To say that he came into my life and shook my world is an understatement. He looked into my eyes and I swear our souls connected, but then, I saw what no one else was ever allowed to see. I saw a complicated man with secrets, a man who hides behind a persona that tells only part of his story. And ultimately, I felt his pain and he felt mine. He told me I belonged with him. I believed I did. But in the book of life, the pages don’t turn with a simple flip of a sheet of paper. In life, sometimes the page won’t turn. Sometimes we discover that what is right is more terrifying than what is wrong.
I love Dash Black, but he terrifies me. I believe he feels the same about me. And I’m not sure where that leaves us or what comes next.
We left book one in a very scary moment for our leading lady Allie. She’s hiding in the wine cellar of the house that she’s staying in (which Tyler her ‘boss’ owns) and someone has disarmed the alarm and is in her house. The lights have gone out and she hears steps above her. To make matters worse, she’s not able to call 911 and she’s had a fight with Dash because of his self destructive behavior so she’s basically on her own. Until she’s not.
Thankfully Dash comes to her rescue and she can leave the house unscathed. What we don’t know is who the intruder was or what they wanted, but as a result of this scary moment, Dash and Allie are on more sturdy ground and they go back to his apartment together.
This second installment is about obsession. That’s really the only way that I can level set here. Allie is obsessed with finding Allison, the girl that’s gone missing that has put her in this new world in Nashville. Dash is obsessed with Allie and while it seems like a great thing at times (their chemistry is off the charts) we know that they both have such troubled pasts that there’s no way that it can work out. Then there’s Tyler who’s obsessed with bringing Dash down, and as this story goes, we learn of others who have similar motivations.
While all this insanity is going on, we watch a few great things happen. We see Allie thrive in her role pulling together a winning auction, however it means that she has to come to terms with what that means for her future at RipTide. We watch the relationship between Dash’s sister and Allie grow, and we see how Allie’s mother grows to appreciate Dash as well.
On the flip side we see what Allie’s past can do to haunt these two, with her ex fiance scheming a way into her life in a bad way. All the progress that’s been made throughout this story with obsessing over what happened to Allison, what that means for Allie and what the future holds if and when they find her is nullified at the very end through a series of unfortunate events.
There’s heat and passion throughout this story that keeps us intrigued and there are mysteries that we only get hints to and not full clear insights to carry us to to the finale. If you’ve read In and Out by LRJ, then you know that there’s not always a happy ending with the missing person, and I fear that’s what we’re going to find in this series as well. I”m positive that one of the men that we’ve met is the one that made her feel like she had to disappear, and I am pretty sure that i’ve guessed it. What I wonder though is the motivation given that there seem to be so many men that care about her.
Thankfully we only have to wait until next month to see how this all resolves, but I will say that the sexual tension here was enough to keep a reader engaged, but I wonder if it’s enough to keep the couple together. Dash and Allie know what they’re capable of, but don’t trust each other enough to see it play out. Hopefully identifying who sent the necklace and why he needs to be forgiven will not only lead us to Allison, but to a happy ending as well. Enjoy!
Title: Dark Sins Author: Charlotte Byrd Publisher/Year: Byrd Books 8/13/21 Length: 190 Pages Series: Dark Intentions #3
When I saved her mother’s life, I didn’t do it with my own money. I took out a debt. Now I have to go back to my old life.
I have certain skills that people are willing to pay a lot of money for. Everything has a price, and Jacqueline was worth it. But what happens when I make mistakes? What happens when the debt I have to pay becomes too great and the darkness that envelops me becomes too much?
A letter arrives. It was not an accident. It was murder. But who did it? Why? The cops think it’s a false lead. There’s no other evidence, but I have to do everything to find out the truth. My brother’s death is no longer a tragedy to get over, but a wrong to put right. It becomes my obsession. What happens when I start to uncover the lies?
These characters are digging themselves into far more holes than anyone could even imagine and there are parts to this story that we are still in the dark about. We ended the last book with the idea that Michael’s death wasn’t an accident and we somehow know that Dante was involved, so….this book we hope to get resolution. Well, we do not, but I guess that’s how an author keeps us engaged for the next book!
This third book is a ROLLER COASTER of emotions. We watch how Dante and Jacqueline get closer and how they find their rhythm. And at the same time we know the other shoe will drop. We watch how Jacqueline finds her footing as a woman with a motivation. She’s trying to get a job, she’s back at school, and she’s trying to move on with her life. She and her re-roommate Allison get closer together and have found their own way to make like into something new and great. They end up on a weekend trip to the Hamptons that changes their lives yet again.
Allison find a man that redirects her trajectory and everyone’s skeptical of what this means. We don’t know this man and we don’t know what it’s going to mean for her in the future. Then we see Jacqueline and Dante reunite after going their separate ways, and we see what that means as well. Do they find themselves back in a place where they are happy or are there too many lies between them to get back on track?
Well, we all know that they have a connection that doesn’t make sense, so, we know that they will find their flow. At the detriment to many other things, but oh well.
In this story, we see what Dante has to do to survive. We watch how his mom realizes that he’s taken money from his trust fund and how she wants it back in a month since she’s not one to fool around with money. We learn that he and his brother and father have done less than savory things to make money in the past and Dante is forced back into that life in order to get the money that he needs to return it to his mom. Problem is that once he’s back in that world, he’s going to get pulled in even more and that’s what we see at the end of this book. We don’t know the long term implications, but i’m sure we’ll see it play out in book 4.
While this is all happening, we know that Dante is still uncertain about an investment that he made via his company with Vasko and has this plan to set Jacqueline up as a spy in the company. She gets the job, moves out to Seattle to work there and many many alarm bells go off for us. Vasko digs into her background and realizes that she’s not what she seems so that puts him on alert. Jacqueline reconnects with someone from her past at potentially the worst time that blows things up for her again in her personal life and we’re left upside down again.
What does all this mean for Jacqueline in her life? will she be safe in her new job or does she need to watch her back? are things over for her and Dante forever, and is he even safe with his father and brother? What about Allison and her new man? how does this all factor into the grand scheme of things?
So many questions and so few answers right now. I can’t wait to see what happens next so off I go into the next book. Enjoy!
Title: Dark Redemption Author: Charlotte Byrd Publisher/Year: Byrd Books 7/5/21 Length: 186 Pages Series: Dark Intentions #2
He saved my mother’s life. Now, I owe him a debt. But I don’t even know who he is.
Dante Langston is man of extreme wealth and privilege and just as much darkness. Our time together was supposed to be a one night stand. No names. No phone numbers. No other way to get in touch. But I keep going back to look for him. What I don’t yet know is that he already knows me. He has been watching and waiting. He needs to stay away to protect his secrets but he can’t. Neither can I. I’m addicted to his lips and his touch. He’s addicted to our shared pain. What happens when I find out the debt I owe is to him? What happens when I find out the other secrets that he is much more desperate to keep?
Again, the summary doesn’t quite tie to the book but you get the gist. This is a couple that can’t be together, but they can’t stay away from each other either. Jacqueline sees something in Dante that’s perfect for her – she truly is addicted but what he did, well that’s not something that she’s ready for yet she doesn’t realize that the lie she learned about who paid for her mother’s treatment isn’t the worst lie.
Dante on the other hand has a mess to get out of and we don’t quite know the full extent just yet. We know that he’s struggling in his business – he’s being forced to agree to something that he doesn’t want, and there’s clearly a tie to Jacqueline’s brother that he’s forced to deal with that we don’t yet know. Then on top of that, he’s bound to Jacqueline – and as much as he tries to walk away, he can’t.
So we watch the roller coaster (train wreck?) unfold. They go their separate ways for the best. We see how life starts to take a new form. Now that Jacquelines mom is on the mend, she’s about jump into the life that she put on hold. She goes back to school and finishes her degree. She gets back on her feet and starts to become more independent. She and Allison. find a rhythm to their friendship and enjoy what it’s like to be in life.
She wants to forget Dante – but she can’t. She wants to get a job and be on her own but she can’t. And when she literally runs into Dante in the park, her life is flipped again.
We start this installment in a dark place, and watch how there’s promise of something more. We hope there’s something good that will come out of everything, but what we see instead are relationships broken as a result of ones that were repaired, and there is still uncertainty looming.
Dante had to borrow money to help out Jacqueline and now the piper wants to be paid. We also see that he’s probably in over his head in a deal with work, a hunch that leads him to believe that he’s been forced to invest in a company that is laundering money in some way and he tries to get Jacqueline to spy / investigate what’s going on. What we all can expect though is that it’s going to come to haunt Dante some how in the future – he’s going to be taken down with the ship instead of looking like the hero . (that’s my guess at least).
The last scene is when we know the story will take a sharp turn. Jacqueline’s mom gets a letter there Michael didn’t die in an accident but instead was murdered. Who did it and why? And of course as the reader, we want to know how Dante is connected. soooooo i’m off to read book 3. Enjoy!
Happy Tuesday Readers! As you guys have seen over the years, and even more recently, I like to support authors and new books that are coming out – so here is the latest stop on the Blog Tour for Melinda Leigh. Please read below for an interview and excerpt from her new book, and don’t forget to enter into the Giveaway at the bottom for your chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of Her Second Death. Enjoy!
Detective Bree Taggert is one of your most popular characters. What is it about her that makes readers come back for more of her story?
Bree is strong and smart, but she’s also flawed and vulnerable. She begins the series as an excellent homicide detective but personally empty. A horrific childhood tragedy distanced Bree from her family and made her a loner. Her sister’s murder triggers the desire to change that. Bree takes on her sister’s case—and her sister’s kids. Bree sees her own childhood reflected in her niece and nephew and is determined not to let them grow up as damaged as she is. In order to do that, she needs to make herself vulnerable. In accepting responsibility for the children, she starts her own road to healing.
I believe readers want to root for her. They want to see her overcome her violent backstory. She often does what is right, not what is easy or comfortable. In each book, she not only solves a murder, she also makes a small step toward healing, with readers cheering her on.
You have published five books in this series so far, but in Her Second Death you write a prequel story. What made you want to show Bree on one of her first homicide cases?
I wanted to show the evolution of Bree’s professional life before she begins her personal journey. She is a complex character, and I’ve enjoyed exploring all aspects of her development.
In Her Second Death, Bree is assigned to investigate a violent crime. Tell readers a bit about the case and how she and her new partner Dana Romano work to find the killer.
Bree begins the story as a brand-new homicide detective. She and partner investigate the crime in the usual fashion, but Bree brings her own past to the table. She provides unique insight that helps her solve the case.
Bree finds a personal connection to this crime almost immediately. What effect does her own early family tragedy have on her handling a missing child case?
The case immediately strikes a familiar—and disturbing–cord in Bree. But she can’t allow her personal discomfort to interfere with the investigation. She’ll have to relive her past to solve the case.
What is next for Bree?
The next Bree Taggert novel, Dead Against Her, will be released in May. In it, Bree will need to face a more recent demon, the murder of a former deputy with whom she has a personal disagreement. When she took over the job of sheriff, Bree inherited some misogynist deputies from the previous, corrupt sheriff. In Dead Against Her, this conflict comes to an explosive and violent head.
The medical examiner pulled out of the Ford’s interior. “No rigor yet. Livor mortis isn’t fixed yet either. Cold would slow decomp, but he’s relatively fresh. Died very early this morning.” He closed his eyes and his jowly face screwed up as he did the mental math. “Six to eight hours ago, roughly between midnight and two a.m.”
Which matched the times on the surveillance video. “Detective Romano?” Reilly called. “CSU is here.”
As soon as the ME removed the body, the crime scene unit would take over.
“Do we have a next of kin for the victim?” Romano asked.
Reilly nodded. “He’s married to Kelly Tyson.”
“Let’s go notify Mrs. Tyson.” Romano turned back toward their vehicle. Once behind the wheel, she rubbed her palms together, then pulled a pair of leather gloves from her pocket and tugged them on.
In the passenger seat, Bree blew on her freezing hands. Romano peeled away from the curb.
“Wasn’t a robbery.” Bree rolled the facts around in her head. “They left cash in Tyson’s wallet. Also, they didn’t take the car. Drug deal gone sour?”
“We have no idea what happened, other than a guy got shot.”
“You don’t like any of those theories?” Bree asked.
Romano shot her a direct look. “I like evidence, not theories.”
About the Story
Title: Her Second Death
Author: Melinda Leigh
Series: Bree Taggert Prequel
Release Date: December 7, 2021
When a man is shot in the head, Bree Taggert and her new partner, veteran detective Dana Romano, respond to the call. They break the news to the victim’s ex-wife and learn the estranged couple’s five-year-old daughter was supposed to have been with him. What starts as a murder investigation quickly morphs into a desperate search for a missing child. The case stirs memories of Bree’s own traumatizing childhood. To find the little girl, Bree will have to relive her own terrifying past.
#1 Amazon Charts and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s garnered numerous writing awards, including two RITA nominations. Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, and She Can Kill in the She Can series; Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, and Midnight Obsession in the Midnight novels; Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, and Seconds to Live in the Scarlet Falls series; Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die, and Save Your Breath in the Morgan Dane series; and the Bree Taggert novels, Cross Her Heart, See Her Die, Drown Her Sorrows, and Right Behind Her. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self-defense, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. For more information, visit www.melindaleigh.com.
Title: Dark Intentions Author: Charlotte Byrd Publisher/Year: Byrd Books 5/27/21 Length: 200 Pages Series: Dark Intentions #1
One debt. One secret. One night. I have a secret and I’ll do everything in my power to keep it that way. I’ve been watching her for a long time. I’ve been following her. She’s lost a brother. I lost a best friend, but no one could ever know. She’s in pain, and so am I. She deserves so much better than me. I am rotten to the core and if I take this any further, I will pull her into my darkness. But I can’t stay away. I can’t stop. What happens when she starts to uncover my lies? What happens if love isn’t enough?
From USA Today Bestselling author Charlotte Byrd comes an intense forbidden mafia romance about debts, lies and secrets and the extent to which people go for love.
I’m not supposed to know his name and he’s not supposed to know mine. But we break that rule. That’s not the only one.
He gives me chills and makes my body ache. He makes my pain go away. He’s just a distraction, but I can’t get enough of him.
What I don’t know yet is that he will help save my mother’s life. What I don’t know yet is that I’ll owe him a debt. What I don’t know yet is that he is a man of many secrets. Secrets dark enough to break us both.
I’m a big fan these days of our author Charlotte Byrd so I was pleased to find this series when I was looking for something new to read. I’m in a bit of a stop gap right now waiting for a few ‘next books’ in series to come out.
This is one of those stories that you already know how it’s going to go, and you’re just along for the ride. Jacqueline is at an interesting point in her life and i’m not entirely sure how she got there. She’s graduated from a really good college, but I don’t think that she’s ever truly worked a job. Her twin brother has recently died and that set her life into a tailspin. Her mother has also been really sick with Cancer and has the opportunity to get into an experimental treatment, but that comes with it’s own risks.
Through all this turmoil, Jacqueline is working to find herself. She uses men to feel something but doesn’t necessarily get what she needs from them. Its’ through her friend Allison (roommate from college) that she learns about Redemption. A series of private clubs that caters to people with unique tastes, unconventional tastes sexually – and it seems like it could be right for her. While she’s not necessarily comfortable there, she meets a man who makes it all worthwhile.
Enter Dante – a man who comes from a distinctly different background, with more means than imaginable, but he is searching for much of the same that Jacqueline is. They meet one night at Redemption and have a night to remember. Then they go their separate ways, and we watch the story unforld.
What we don’t know (or rather what Jacqueline doesn’t know) is that Dante has some sort of connection to her, or at least perhaps her brother – and we don’t know what that line of connection is. What we do know is that he’s been watching her, watching out for her, and while he didn’t know that she would be at Redeption, it’s not a bad thing.
The story from here is a whirlwind. Jacqueline’s mother’s treatment costs a lot more money than she can ever come up with and Dante has that money. Secretly he pays for that treatment and there’s a new lease on life. At the same time, both of these two characters can’t get one another out of their head but since they shared no real information, Jacqueline doesn’t know how to find Dante, until they cross paths again.
When they do, it’s just as intense and deep, and we watch something interesting unfold. He’s there for her while her mother gets her treatment and when things take a turn for the worse. He’s not just a shoulder to cry on, but he’s something more – they both feel it. the challenge of course is that there’s a secret that she doesn’t know – that Dante is linked to her and we all know what will happen when she finds out. And that’s where we are left at the end of the book.
Thankfully I have a few train rides this week that I can try to read on, and see what happens in book 2. I anticipate anger, frustration, lies, and then the hot steamy spark that they shared in the first book. There has to be more to the story than what we’ve seen so i’m off to find out. Enjoy!
While this isn’t a book, the original ‘Sex and the City’ was loosely based on a book and i’m a fanatic. If there was one show that would watch on a loop, it would be SATC, regardless of how ‘meh’ the second movie was.
Aside from being an NYC 21 yr old when the show was in it’s hey-day, I worked at Barneys as a stylist, and had the joy and pleasure of running into one Ms Patricia Fields who did the wardrobe and who allowed me to help pull items for the show. And as such, I also met Sarah Jessica Parker herself on several occasions, and while I don’t want to say i’m obsessed, I will happy lay claim to being able to get 100% on almost ANY SATC related quiz. TRY ME!
So….this morning at 3am EST, the first two episodes of ‘And Just Like That’ came out and well….i’m HOOKED. while the characters look like they’ve aged differently, (some well and some not so much), we have the same camaraderie that we came to love, and we have questions answered on how live has changed over the past decade or so.
The last scene in E1 gives us the death that we all knew was happening, and i’ll be honest, while I assumed it was going to happen, I thought it was going to go another way since the PR team around this series have done such a great job throwing us off the scent of the true plot.
E2 continues in this sad state, watching what happens as a result of this death. seeing what doors are open and which are closed.
Carrie has a podcast which surprisingly challenges her in a way that we never expected since her column and books always gave us such an open look into her life. She and Big are in a great place which evolved out of the ending of the 2nd movie, so we can hope for the best.
Miranda is on her way to get a master degree, and with that, trying to find her place in that situation, saying all the wrong things realiziing that she’s much older than everyone else. She and steve have the challenge of a teen son who’s got a girlfriend whom they allow to stay over all the time, and that means that we’ll probably have some interesting plot lines to wait for.
Charlotte and Harry are still quite happy in their lives, Lily being the prefect daughter that we saw in the movies, with Rose continuing her rebellion, something that we knew Charlotte would never be able to cope with.
Stanford and Anthony are still at each other’s throats, and it’s comedy relief throughout.
Samantha’s story line is explained
Che is introduced as a big role in Carrie’s life, but there’s a tease to someone else in the main cast
Lisa (LTW) is brought in with a key role in Charlotte’s story line
so….what does this mean?
I have to wait until next Thursday to get the next episode (reminds me of the original timing with SATC on HBO) but i’ll be patient, and clearing my calendar so I can enjoy. I’m re-watching it for the 2nd time today already, and if you have HBO Max, you should jump into it now! And Just like that……Enjoy!
She was my best friend’s little sister, which meant she was off limits, but I couldn’t help myself. I never could when it came to her, and in the end, I left town and made something of my myself.
Ten years later and I was one of the richest men in the world. I had everything I ever wanted except for her. Little did I know, life would give me a second chance to make things right by her. She was suddenly my publicist, treating me as if I was nothing more than another client when I stole all her firsts.
Including her heart.
I needed to take matters into my own hands, making her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
For the next ten days, she signed a contract stating…
She was mine.
All I can start to say with this is that i’m now one of those people that can say ‘I saw it on TikTok’ and that’s how I found this book! Please don’t judge me! I’m glad that I found this one though since I don’t think that i’m familiar with our author M Robinson! What I will say though is that I think the clip that I saw on TikTok wasn’t the exact story line here, but whatever.
So, like the summary tells us, we have the sordid story of the younger (like 6 years younger?) little sister falling for her old brother’s best friend. They are in a bit of a taboo situation since they clearly both feel something for one another, but spend years pretending that it wasn’t the case. Thankfully our leading man had morals though since Julian didn’t make a move until Autumn was ‘legal’-ish.
The way that this story is written is that we get flashbacks to ‘then’ giving us the story on how their relationship started, peppered into the ‘current’ where their paths collide once again. As we see how their chemistry grew, how they had a relationship that was doomed from the start, we want to hope for the best, knowing that there was no way a happy ending was in their cards. When suspicions grew, and Autumn’s brother felt that there was something going on, Julian had to sever ties. not just with Autumn but with her entire family. which was tough of course because we learned that he was in the foster system and Autumns family took him in like one of their own.
We watch Julian break her heart because that’s the only thing that he feels that he can do to protect both of them, and he goes off the grid for 10 years until our story picks up again. He’s a successful billionaire, on the precipice of taking his company public and he needs some PR help to soften his image. Lucky (or unlucky) for him, Autumn is one of the best in the industry, and she comes in to do her magic.
She knew what she was walking into with this job, but she had so much hatred towards him that she planned to keep it professional. Julian didn’t know that she was the one coming in to clean up his image and is blindsided, but he’s a changed man and that means that we don’t know what’s going to come next from him.
The story from here is a game of cat and mouse. They lay traps for each other while trying to hash out the past. Trying to move past what happened in a way to get to a future. Julian wants that future to be with Autumn but she’s fighting what her heart tells her and tries to keep him away.
The events throughout this story endear us more and more to Julian which is not what we want at all. we want him to suffer for breaking her heart, but as he reveals information to the world, we start to see that he was really doing the right thing and wants a true second chance to make it right.
There are secrets on Autumns side that will break them apart and it really shouldn’t be a surprise to the reader when we see it unfold. There are things said that can never be taken back, and pain cause that should put a rift the size of the grand canyon out there, yet there’s still fight between them which also means there’s love.
Heat and chemistry that can’t be denied paired with history and a future and quite a bit of romance is what takes this story to the end. I think that we get the ending that it deserves, and a teaser of something more from another story that could be in the series even though this isn’t noted as a series. So thank you TikTok for the introduction and I hope you guys enjoy!
Every Wednesday, I visit her. Every Wednesday, I hope for more than, “what’s your drink order?” Until one Wednesday, a week from Christmas, she needs me. Okay… so she needs anyone, it seems, to be her fake-date to her sister’s Christmas wedding. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. But a week in the mountains with my dream girl? Sign me up.
Hmmm, Patrick Kelley? My borderline stalker? My Wednesday regular? I’m not interested. I’d never bring him home to meet my family. But times are desperate. I can’t spend a week in the mountains with my family alone, plus my ex will be there, so I ask Patrick…
“Will you be my fake-date for the holidays?” I figure he’ll be easy to control. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
*FAKED is sexy Christmas standalone with a HEA. It is a companion novel to Sarah Darlington’s KILL DEVIL INK series. It does not need to be read with the others in the series to enjoy. Happy Holidays!
Sarah Darlington is a ‘sweet-heat’ romance author. She’s passionate about creating sexy, slow-burn love stories that feature strong female leads and the stubborn, alpha heroes who fall in love with them. If you love romance books, I invite you to escape for a while with one of Sarah’s!
Hi Readers, I’m so excited to be a part of this Holiday Blog Tour and I hope you each get a chance to find something new to tuck into from this stop on the tour. Please read through each of the excerpts and once you get to the bottom, there’s a festive holiday treat! Enjoy!
Ring in the Holidays with Excerpts from Festive Reads by Bestselling Authors Rainbow Rowell, Suzanne Redfearn, J. Courtney Sullivan, and Chandler Baker
This winter, rejoice in a festival of entertaining new tales from Amazon Original Stories. Unwrap unique short reads by bestselling authors to keep your holiday season merry and bright. Visit www.amazon.com/holidaystories to browse a curated selection of stories—free for Prime Members and Kindle Unlimited Subscribers—and read on for excerpts from the titles by Rainbow Rowell, Suzanne Redfearn, J. Courtney Sullivan, and Chandler Baker.
After a long, lonely year, two people stumble toward each other in If the Fates Allow a holiday short story by Rainbow Rowell the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.
Reagan crept to the side to get a closer look. It looked like the deer had managed to snag its foot between two crossbars and a small tree that was growing right next to the fence.
Mason was still inching toward it, with his hands out.
“What are you doing?” Reagan asked again.
“I’m going to help it get free.”
“It’ll get itself free.”
“I don’t think it will. It’s wedged pretty good.”
The deer broke into frantic movement, struggling against the fence. “It’s going to injure itself,” Mason said.
“It’s going to injure you.”
This wasn’t a fawn or a hungry little doe; the deer was as long as Reagan was tall—it must have weighed two hundred pounds.
“Shhhh,” Mason was saying. Maybe to the deer, maybe to Reagan. He was crouching behind it, which seemed like the dumbest decision in the world.
“Mason,” Reagan whispered.
“It’s all right,” he said, reaching for the trapped hoof. “Her other legs are on the other side of the fence.”
“I think that’s a buck.”
“She’s not a buck, look at her head.”
The deer struggled again. Mason froze. Reagan took another anxious step toward them.
When the deer stilled, Mason shot forward. He bent the tree back and grabbed the trapped hoof, lifting it free.
The deer pulled the leg forward—and in the same motion, kicked its other hind leg through the fence, catching Mason in the chest.
“Oof,” he said, falling backward.
The deer ran away, and Reagan ran to Mason. “Jesus Christ!” she shouted. “I told you!”
Mason was lying on his back in the snow. Reagan went down on her knees beside him. “Are you okay?” she asked, touching his arm.
His eyes were wide. “I’m fine,” he said. “Just surprised. Is she okay?”
“She’s fine,” Reagan said. “She’ll live to spread ticks and disease, and destroy crops. Where’d she get you?”
He pointed to his shoulder.
“Can you move it?”
He rotated his shoulder. He was broader than he looked from a distance. Broad even under his coat. His neck was thick, and one of his ears was partly inverted, probably from an old injury. He had snow in his ears and his hair. His hair was much darker than Reagan’s, almost black.
“Did you hit your head?” she asked.
“No. I think I’m okay.”
“That was so stupid, Mason—that could have been your face.”
“I think I’m okay,” he repeated. He lifted his head up out of the snow and pushed up onto his elbows.
Reagan moved away from him.
He stood up, so she stood up, too.
“That could have been your neck,” she said. “That was so stupid.”
“Okay,” he said, nodding. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Reagan’s heart was still pounding. Mason looked worried. There was snow on his glasses, and his mask had fallen below his nose. He was holding her arm. “I’m sorry, okay? Are you hurt?”
“No,” Reagan said. “I’m just . . .”
Mason was holding her arm. He was standing right next to her.
Reagan made a fist in the suede collar of his coat and pulled herself closer to him.
His head dipped forward, more fiercely than she was expecting, to kiss her.
From Suzanne Redfearn, the bestselling author of In an Instant, comes a heartfelt short story about one couple’s journey to discover if there really is a secret ingredient to happily ever after before their upcoming holiday wedding in The Marriage Test.
The server appears. “Something to drink with dinner?”
“Do you have a white burgundy?” I ask, feeling like something bright to match my mood.
The server points to the French section of the wine list.
“Oh,” I say, as the list is limited and pricey. “I only want a glass. I’ll just take a—”
“A bottle of the finest white burgundy you have,” Justin interrupts.
He waves me off.
The server leaves, and I lean in to kiss him. “I love you.”
“For ordering a bottle of wine?”
“For ordering a bottle of wine to make me happy.”
I sit back again, and he returns his hand to my knee. “Good evening.”
I look up, and my breath catches. Standing a foot from our table is Annabelle Winters, my chef idol since college. She’s five feet tall with narrow shoulders and wide hips. Curls of wild black hair escape her white cap, flour dusts her black chef coat, and in her hands is a cutting board with a round loaf of bread.
“I understand tonight is a special occasion,” she says, a Mediterranean accent rounding the words. I tilt my head as Justin nods. “In my home country, we have a tradition: remarkable moments are celebrated by the breaking of bread. So, I made this loaf specially for you.” She sets the board on the table, wisps of steam spiraling from the golden, flaky crust. “This is pogača, the bread of my childhood and a symbol of love.”
With a small bow, she pivots away.
“That . . .that was . . .I can’t believe it . . .that was Annabelle Winters.”
Justin smiles wide, a proud grin that crinkles his cheeks. “You told her it was a special occasion?”
“It is,” he says. “We are together.”
I look at the loaf. “Wow. Pogača. My grandmother told me about this bread. It doesn’t use eggs or milk, and it’s cooked on a hearth over an open fire.”
“It’s still warm,” he says. “It must have just come out of the oven.”
I lift it to my face and inhale deeply, warm yeast and flour filling my nose. “Mmmm.” I hold it toward him.
He takes a breath, then leans back and nods. “Well, go on . . . break bread.”
Grinning like a kid at Christmas, I grip the edges and start to twist.
“Wait!” Justin yelps, stopping me, the loaf suspended.
He falls from his chair to the deck, my leg flopping from his lap along with his napkin.
I giggle. “What are you doing?”
“Okay,” he says, now kneeling on one knee. “Keep going.”
The people at the table behind us have stopped what they were doing and are now looking at us, and I notice Annabelle Winters beside the entrance watching as well. I look at the bread, then at Justin, then back again, and blood rushes to my face as I realize what is happening.
“Really?” I say.
He nods toward the bread.
Cheeks spread wide, I tear it in two, sending gold crumbs raining onto the tablecloth.
Poking from the steaming center is the corner of a stainless-steel cylinder.
I dig my fingers in to pry it loose and set it on the palm of my hand. An inch and a half tall and two inches in diameter, it’s engraved on top with two doves surrounded by a ring of leaves.
The woman behind us shifts for a better view.
Heart pounding, I prize off the lid. Sitting on a bed of white satin is a stunning sapphire ring, the center stone blue as the deepest ocean, a single diamond baguette on either side.
“Ava Nicole Barnes,” Justin says, his voice elevated for the audience, “keeper of my heart, guardian of my soul, and woman of my dreams, will you make me the happiest man on this earth and do me the great honor of becoming my wife?”
Not happy? No problem. Fake it. From New York Times bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan comes the sharp witted short story, Model Home, about the reality of reality TV.
On the ninth take, things get heated between the husband, Todd, and his wife, Noreen.
He complains that this house only has three bedrooms, leaving no possibility for the man cave he was promised he’d get if they gave up their downtown Milwaukee loft for the suburbs. She seems flabbergasted that he can’t see the advantage of sacrificing that space for what is by far the biggest backyard of the three houses they’ve looked at.
Todd says in a tone that manages to sound both jokey and hostile, “If we buy this house, you can’t complain when I play my electric guitar in the living room. Have you thought of that?”
Noreen replies, “I’m only ever thinking of Colby and Mason.”
If you ask me, they both deserve an Oscar. The tension is palpable, even though everyone present knows they already bought this house seven months ago.
House Number One belongs to Todd’s cousin. It isn’t for sale. House Number Two is soon to be listed. The owner was happy to provide access, since being featured on our show, even as a reject, will sell the place in a minute.
I, the wise referee/realtor/designer, smile and say for what feels like the one trillionth time in my life, “Sounds like you two have a lot to discuss. Babe, let’s leave them to it.”
I wonder briefly if I’ll ever get to say these words again on camera, but I have to put the thought from my head.
I never call Damian babe in real life. Especially not now, but even back when I could stand him.
He doesn’t meet my eye. He’s staring into space, going out of his way to look disinterested. No one notices but me. Lately I think of my husband as a disappointment turducken: a lack of ambition wrapped in a beer gut wrapped in a statement tee designed for a much fitter man.
Everyone is home for the holidays, clamoring for all the Christmas cheer only their mother can whip up. They can already smell the chestnuts roasting—or is that Mom’s hair on fire? From New York Times bestselling author Chandler Baker comes the laugh-out-loud short story, Oh. What. Fun.
During normal times, Mom loves to spend most of her day on the phone with one of us or the other. As soon as she hangs up with Channing, she’ll call Sammy; as soon as she’s done with Sammy, Tyler will call; and then she starts the whole process again. Not that we’d ever say this out loud, but we’re in the thick of our lives, so we’re busy with dating and kids and friends getting married and pregnant and such, and, well, Mom’s stories are kind of dull. Though obviously, in retrospect, this is an instance when we should have paid better attention.
Unlike Mom, Channing never complains about anything and so she didn’t make a big deal of it when Mom, again, forty-five minutes after the agreed-upon time, took over the kids, leading them on a special explorer hunt to find Canelo the Elf.
Mom is wild about that Elf on the Shelf. Canelo joined us three Christmases ago. The twins are in a Spanish- immersion program, hence the name, and Channing and Doug explained to us that if Canelo started the month of December at their house, he’d need to travel for the time spent at Grandpa and Grandma’s. It only made sense. So the trick is there are actually two Canelos. Mom bought a body double so Channing could leave hers safely at home. Canelo’s antics are one of those things we all tease her about: Somebody has too much time on her hands. But the truth is, we do kind of get a kick out of him.
Mom keeps the Elf ’s next move top secret from everyone, even Dad. Last year, Canelo relaxed in a Crockpot Jacuzzi filled with marshmallows; then he stole all of our toilet paper to build snowmen and rode a zip line down the stairs. This year was off to an impressive start as the twins took binoculars and donned safari hats to track down Canelo, who was wearing camouflage in one of the old oak trees. But we guess we’ll never know what else Canelo had in store, because Canelo hasn’t moved in two days. His painted, unblinking eyes stare at us from his perch, and none of us have been able to work out yet how it is we should explain this to the twins.
We think at some point during the Canelo expedition Sammy pulled up and plopped down on the couch, probably with his shoes still on, and started messing around on his phone. Every group of siblings has a “one,” and Sammy, for us, is the Boring One, mainly because he’s twenty-five and always on his phone. Also he just broke up with his girlfriend (see: always on phone), and yet when we tasked him with one very simple to-do—break into Mom’s phone—well all the sudden he apparently “didn’t know anything about phones.”
Sammy didn’t see anything or hear anything or smell anything unusual, but as we’ve already pointed out, this can’t be taken as gospel since he was preoccupied texting back and forth with his ex.
do you know what kind of laundry detergent you used to use on our clothes? Bc mine smell all weird now.
It’s the fabric softener. Downy infusions. Scent: Romantic.
Later, we passed around the conversation to weigh in by committee on whether she meant anything by it. We even consulted the Downy website while Mom handed out homemade eggnog because none of us care for the store bought, and there we learned that the Romantic scent carries “sensual aromas of delicate floral, white tea, and peony,” and at least half of us found it difficult to overlook a smoking gun like “sensual” right there as the subtext.
After dinner, Mom asked Channing if she’d mind watching the twins for a few minutes while she cleaned the kitchen, and we all took bets on whether Sammy and Mae-Bell would be back together by spring. The holidays can be hard on people, you know. Everyone except for Mom anyway, who just loves an excuse to corral us all together under one roof. Nothing makes her more upset than a year when she has to share Channing and the twins with Doug’s family. This year, Doug’s family was indisposed because they were up in Vermont visiting Doug’s aunt, but they probably could have been in the ICU and Mom would have been just as happy as long as the result was having Channing and the girls all to herself. Not to be alarmist, but of all the years to up and vanish, you just wouldn’t expect it to be one where Channing was set to be home the whole time.
Title: Believe Me Author: Tahereh Mafi Publisher/Year: HarperCollins Publishing 11/16/21 Length: 96 Pages Series: Shatter Me #6.5
The devastatingly romantic fifth novella in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Shatter Me series, chronicling the events after Imagine Me, the explosive sixth novel.
Juliette and Warner fought hard to take down the Reestablishment once and for all. Life in the aftermath isn’t easy, as they and their friends at the Sanctuary work with their limited resources to stabilize the world.
Warner has his sights set on more than just politics. Since he proposed to Juliette two weeks ago, he’s been eager to finally marry her, the person he loves more than anything and has endured so much to be with. But with so much chaos around them, it’s been nearly impossible for them to have a wedding. And even Juliette has been distracted by everything they need to do.
At long last, Warner and Juliette’s future together is within reach, but the world continues to try to pull them apart. Will they finally be able to be happily, officially, together?
It’s been a minute since I was last with this series and i’ll never be able to truly sort out if/when we have gotten to the end of what our creative author has given us. In this novella, we are now past the worst of it we think – Ella/Juliette is alive and well, and she and Warner have a chance at their happy ending.
Of course though, you will remember (I hope?) from the last book that things didn’t end perfectly. While they were trying to clean things up to rebuild, destroying buildings that were deemed to be unsafe, Kenji followed ordered and knocked down a building….that housed the design studio that was making Ella’s dress. So…no wedding dress…GASP!
That of course sets the tone for everything in this novella. We watch how they try to make those arrangements work and well, they just don’t. The wedding gets postponed because the world is still so unsettled. We watch how there’s a need for Ella/Juliette to go out into the world, but Warner is so worried for her safety that he doesn’t let that happen. People pull them apart in every moment and direction and we wonder if they will ever get what they have waited so long for.
We want to believe that love will be enough for them, especially through all the books that we read about their start, middle and now ending? but….it seems like they will just have to wait until another moment in time because the need for order, and power, and unity is more important than romance.
So, as a reader, of course when I finished this book, I went online to see if there’s more to the story coming since if you’ll remember, it was intended as a trilogy that was extended. Well, it seems as though there’s nothing more planned, but the ending here hints at there being a need for more. Is that the game of Ms Mafi? leaving us on another cliff should she decide that she’ll continue the story – knowing that there’s more that we could get, or ….we are just left with an open ended ending? I don’t know and it’s going to bug me. But, it shouldn’t keep you guys from reading this one so…enjoy!