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Mark of Stars – Shifting Fate Book 2 By Tessa Hale


Mark of Stars
Shifting Fate Book 2
By
Tessa Hale

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All Rowan wanted was a normal senior year. To fade into the background of her classmates. Instead, her entire world has been turned upside down. Words she never thought she would utter are now a part of her everyday life. Shifters. Powers. Bonds.

Comfort comes from the five fated mates who would do anything to protect her. Their connections are deepening, yet Rowan isn’t convinced all of them want her. Holden has secrets. Vaughn comes to her rescue in one breath and cuts her to the core with the next. But Anson, Lucas, and Keene will do anything to make their bond work and to convince Rowan that she’s all they’ve ever wanted.

They’re all trying, but each new development leaves Rowan reeling. As they realize just what kind of gift Rowan has, they discover it’s impossible to know who to trust.

Because there are those who lurk in the shadows, forces that want the power Rowan has humming beneath her skin. And they will stop at nothing to get it…

If you haven’t read the first book in this series, STOP, go back and read it. This book begins where that one left off.

In the last book things went overboard with Rowan’s adoptive mother in front of her adoptive father. Rowan was becoming delirious with fever and Holden realizes what’s going on and his father offers for Rowan to stay with them while her father gets her mother settled where she can get help for her grief.

Now the reason Rowan was fevered was because of her being apart from her mates, although that reaction was early in comparison to the way it normally is. She also shifts for the first time in this one, also early since she hasn’t been in contact with a pack for a year.

At the end of that book, Vaughn protects Rowan from three rogue wolves and is severely wounded. Rowan puts everything she has into healing him and passes out.

This book starts as Rowan wakes, she’s been out for a week. The major thing at this point is when she healed Vaughn their bond formed. She now has the bond mark. A star with five points and a triangle in the middle, one of those points is filled in.

Now for the record here, for the bond to form it doesn’t have to be sexual. At their age it’s a matter of connection on a deep emotional level.

Vaughn didn’t want that link and while he’ll do what he needs to keep her safe and healthy he’s determined not to get closer. It obviously took a lot for Rowan to heal him, he really was close to death. It also proves how strong her healing gifts are.

Rowan is still mad and confused after seeing Jasmine and Holden kiss. He insists it surprised him and he pushed her away. He doesn’t want her that way. They are supposed to be friends, nothing more. Apparently, Jasmine has different thoughts on that matter.

She’s going to need to practice shifting so it becomes easier as well. They know she’s powerful and after that thwarted attempt to kidnap her, security is going to be an issue. Of her bonds, the ones she can be sure really like her for herself and not just some bond are Keene, Lucas and Anson. Although Anson’s ex Sadie isn’t giving up the fight just yet.

Then there’s the fact that Mason had to register her since she’s shifted. He was able not to do that until it actually happened. Now the Quad is coming to their pack to test her.

The Quad is the top four wolves in terms of power and gifts. They are the final say on every judgement referred to them by the council.

They are coming to verify she’s a healer and see if she possesses any other powers.

This is a favorite scene.

I stiffened, my hands going damp. The guys moved in closer, and Ivan didn’t miss the action. He raised a single brow. “I asked you a question, young lady.”

I swallowed hard, using Coby’s tip to look at his nose instead of his eyes. “I’m not hiding anything that I know of.”

Ivan let out a harumph. “We’ll see about that.”

He extended a hand to me. I stared at it for a moment before slipping mine into his. Ivan’s eyes flared as he held on. I hurried to pull my hand back as he studied me with a thoughtful expression. “Very interesting.”

His reaction had the woman stepping forward, extending her perfectly manicured hand. “I’m Cinna.”

“Rowan,” I said with a small dip of my head.

Her shake wasn’t long, but there was a wariness in her expression as she released me. She glanced at Ivan. “There must be an explanation.”

Kaleb moved forward next. “Nice to meet you, Rowan. I’m Kaleb.” His expression was neither warm nor cold, but there was an assessing quality that had me fighting not to squirm.

“You too.” I reluctantly extended my hand.

Kaleb took it, his jaw going slack for a moment. He quickly covered it, releasing my hand and stepping back. “I’ll be damned.”

“What the hell is all the fuss about?” Gregor asked as he strode towards me.

There was something about the way he moved, the hardness in his stare, that had me taking a step back. Vaughn’s hand found my lower back. “We’re here,” he whispered.

Gregor’s eyes narrowed on Vaughn. “Remove your hand so I can get a clear read.”

Vaughn scowled at Gregor but did as he commanded.

Gregor didn’t wait for me to meet his shake, he grabbed my hand before I could raise it. His eyes widened, and the grin that stretched across his face was nothing less than terrifying. “This is going to be fun.”

I yanked my hand out of his grasp, not caring that the action was rude.

Gregor turned to Mason. “You haven’t been entirely honest with us, Mason. You downplayed her power. Lying to the council is a punishable offense.”

Holden stiffened at my side, and I slipped my hand into his, squeezing hard.

Mason didn’t show the slightest hint of a reaction. “I would never insult the council by lying. I informed you that she was powerful, our first healer in centuries. If you’re sensing something else, please loop us in.”

Ivan leaned on his cane, surveying the room. His gaze kept returning to the guys at my sides. “There’s a prophecy in the old texts. That a wolf will come along to reveal the rot in the shifter community. She will have five mates and untold power. She will burn out the sickness among us and truly unite the packs.”

Holden’s grip on my hand tightened, and Vaughn pushed into my other side.

Ivan took a few wobbly steps forward. “Has your bond been revealed?”

I glanced at Mason hoping for some sort of instruction.

“Look at me,” Ivan barked.

My head snapped back in his direction. “Yes.”

“Show us the mark,” Gregor demanded.

Anson let out a low growl, and Lucas grabbed his shoulder, pressing down hard.

I released Holden and lifted my T-shirt a fraction while tugging on the hem of my sweats.

Cinna let out a gasp and whirled on Mason. “Do you think you can pull one over on us by faking something like this?”

“It’s not fake,” Mason said calmly.

Kaleb studied me with that same assessing stare, as if he were trying to put all the puzzle pieces into place. He moved forward, slowly extending his hand. It hovered over my mark but didn’t touch. “It isn’t fake.” His eyes tracked over the five points of the star. “It also isn’t complete. Do you know who your mates are?”

“You’re looking at them,” Anson said, his voice hard.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Gregor barked. “The feral wolf is in her bond?”

Vaughn bared his teeth at the Quad member.

Gregor took a step back. “This has to be rectified.”

“There’s no rectifying fate, Gregor. You know that. This bond is destined. You can’t break it,” Mason said.

Gregor’s expression blanked. “There are ways.”

“Has her gift been explored?” Kaleb asked, breaking into the conversation.

“She has healed herself and two of her bond mates,” Mason informed them.

Cinna picked an invisible piece of lint off her dress. “We need to test her further.”

Test? What did that mean? I instantly pictured the Quad hurting people just for me to heal them.

Ivan stepped forward, and for the first time, I saw a hint of sympathy in his gaze. “We need to know what we’re dealing with. If you are the one the texts are talking about.”

“We also need to know if Mason is instructing you properly. The Ridgewood pack might not be the right place for you,” Gregor said.

I lifted my gaze to his. My wolf demanded I not back down. “This is my home. My family. I’m not going anywhere.”

There were low growls of assent around me.

Gregor glared in my direction. I could feel his power pressing down on me. He was trying to make me submit. To defer to him and his decisions. It wasn’t going to happen. I kept my eyes locked with his. No matter how much power he threw my way, I forced my chin to stay up and didn’t look away.

“Incredible,” Kaleb whispered.

Gregor let out a growl. “How old is she?”

No one said a word.

Gregor turned to Mason. “I asked a question.”

“Seventeen.”

Gregor grinned with delight. “You’re an orphaned wolf shifter who has not yet reached adulthood. You’re under the council’s care.”

I trembled but did my best not to let it show. I was so tired of adults thinking they knew what was best for me. I stared at Gregor. “One week. I have one week until I’m eighteen. If you try to take me away from here, I’ll be gone the instant that week is up, and I’ll make you pay for it.”

Gregor prowled towards me. “You think you know this game you’re playing at, little girl. But you have no idea.”
Hale, Tessa. Mark of Stars: A Parnormal Reverse Harem Romance (The Shifting Fate Series Book 2) Kindle Locations (1486-1535). Kindle Edition.

Now the Quad is one issue, Sadie is another, and then there’s her adoptive father. He shows up on the eve of her eighteenth birthday to take her away from the ‘cult’.

I kind of feel sorry for Rowan, she’s been thrown into a whole other world and is trying really hard to adjust to her new environment.

Mason’s people find Rowan’s mother and that’s yet another shock. She does have some answers though, not exactly what Rowan wanted to hear.

It’s one thing after another, but there’s plenty of love, laughter, fun and there’s sizzle in this book as well.

I am already reading the final book in this trilogy.

5 Contented Purrs for Tessa!

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Author of love stories with magic, usually with more than one love interest. Constant daydreamer.

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Press’ Passion – Wicked Winemaker’s First Label Book 3 by Heather Slade


Press’ Passion
Wicked Winemaker’s First Label Book 3
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Heather Slade

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A cyber intelligent Brit
with a soft side for the innocent.
A rescued MBA student with goals and dreams.
This winemaker is willing to help
—one WICKED way or another.

PRESS

Women swoon at my British accent, but I’ve been in America most of my life, hacking computers by day, and saving innocent women by night. A regular superhero. When I start getting close to Luisa, I want all disguises off. She’s falling for someone else, but I’m determined to wait it out—start a full court PRESS to make her mine.

LUISA

Focus, heal, and grow—those are my goals. After enduring the unthinkable, it’s time, time for me, time for my future. But when my walls start crumbling, it’s him who starts to pick them back up, making me see my potential. My truth. My life.

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In the first part of this book there is a lot of overlap with the previous book Ridge’s Release. This is necessary so this book can be a standalone. It also tells the story of Luisa’s rescue from Press’ POV, before detailing more of Luisa’s relationship with Beau and her therapy with Dr. Benedict.

As I’m sure you already know if you have read Ridge’s release, Luisa has a crush on Beau. However, the friendship she’s developed with Press is becoming more to her. Press of course isn’t seeing that, he’s seeing Beau being a jerk and toying with her affections.

It’s revealed that Luisa being abducted wasn’t random someone specifically requested her, and the price tag just went up. With her sister’s wedding in progress, Luisa doesn’t want to cause an uproar and insists just about everyone stays on Tryst’s ranch. The only ones to travel with her will be Zin, Press and Jaicon a former MI6 agent. They’d be traveling not to Seahorse Ranch but to Napa and Press’ parent’s home.

Things start to get a bit crazy when they arrive to the news Press’ mother was taken to the hospital and when he arrives to be with his father, he finds his mother has passed. Now he’s grieving but his brother needs to be informed and his father shouldn’t be alone. Security will be an issue, but Luisa doesn’t want to leave him.

A kiss from Beau that once would have meant everything to her but now doesn’t is the cause of Press putting distance between them. His father sees what Press doesn’t in fact it seems everyone sees the truth except for Press. Did I mention things are getting crazy?

This is a favorite scene.

The flight from Paso Robles to Napa seemed impossibly long in the helicopter. However, being able to land right on my parents’ property saved an hour’s drive from the airfield.

Luisa was quiet during the flight, but periodically, I reached over to squeeze her hand in reassurance.

I couldn’t imagine how she must be feeling, particularly since I still didn’t know exactly what the message she’d received said. Once we arrived and she was safely tucked away and asleep, I’d ask Jaicon for details.

Exhaustion was setting in on me as well. I’d slept restlessly, if at all, the last few days. While I didn’t want to admit it, part of that was due to Luisa’s absence.

When the helicopter landed on the front lawn, it dawned on me I hadn’t given any thought to the sleeping arrangements. Not even as much as determining whether Luisa would stay in the guesthouse where she’d been before or in the main house. And while she’d managed in the guesthouse previously with Jaicon and the rest of the team there with her, circumstances had changed quite drastically.

The other thing I was uncertain of was when my father would arrive with Tank, Magnet, Atticus, and Blackjack. Regardless, I knew his main concern would be for Luisa’s safety and well-being.

“Naughton? Would you like to stay the night and head back in the morning?” I asked.

“Appreciate it, but I told Bradley I’d be home in a few hours.”

“I truly don’t know how to thank you,” I said, shaking his hand.

“It’s what we do, right?”

I nodded. To my knowledge, no one in the Butler family had been a member of Los Caballeros. However, we’d certainly enlisted the aid of their family— Laird and Kade in particular— on several occasions.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw Jaicon was a few feet behind us, talking on her cell.

“We’ll stay at the main resident tonight,” I said to Zeppelin instead.

“Copy that, sir,” he responded.

“Are you sure it’s all right?” Luisa asked. “Of course. There’s plenty of room, and even if there weren’t, all that matters is your safety.”

I rested my palm on the pad near the front door, and it sprung open. I led Luisa inside. Jaicon and Zeppelin followed.

“I spoke with your father, who suggested you stay here this evening. Given they’ll arrive close to dawn, he said he’d stay at Beau’s,” Jaicon reported.

It wasn’t necessary for him to do so, but since the conversation had already taken place, I didn’t see the need to contact him myself to argue about it.

I picked up Luisa’s bag and led her upstairs. “Can I get you anything?” I asked.

“Where will I be staying?”

“There is a room next door to the one I’m in. It was Beau’s when we were children. Thankfully, they’ve been redecorated to serve as guestrooms.”

I opened the door, turned on the lights, and was happy to see the bed had been made, something that was definitely Mrs. Gonzales’ doing, not my brother’s. It also meant she’d changed the linens.

I pointed to an interior door. “That leads to the lavatory. I’m in the room just on the other side, but no worries about privacy. There’s an additional door on my side with a lock.”

She sighed. “I’m not worried about privacy, Press.”

I set her bag on the chest at the end of the bed. “You must be exhausted. I’ll let you get some rest. If you need anything at all, I’m just through there.”

She stood where she was, hugging herself and biting her lower lip.

“Luisa?”

Her eyes filled with tears.

“Come here.” I pulled her into my arms. “Tell me what you need, pet.”

“I’m scared,” she said, barely above a whisper.

“You don’t have to be alone. I can ask Jaicon to—”

She shook her head.

“What if we read a bit?” I offered.

“You wouldn’t mind?” “I’m still tightly wound from the trip myself. It will help us both rest more easily. I’ll get my tablet from the other room. It’ll take but a minute,” I added when I pulled away, but her hand gripped mine. “Well, then, how about if you come with me?”

“Hang on.”

I waited while Luisa kicked off her shoes and removed her jacket, then I led her through the doors connecting the two rooms. Once we’d entered mine, she dropped my hand.

“This room feels different.”

I walked over to the table where my tablet sat, took off my own shoes, and dropped my jacket on the chest at the end of my bed. “How so?”

“Warmer.”

“If you’d prefer it, we can read in here. You can stay in here as well.”

“Will you stay, Press?”

My back was to her when she asked, and I was thankful for it. I closed my eyes, breathed in deep, and reminded myself that to Luisa, I was her safety net, her protector, and while she may consider me a father figure, if I had to choose, I’d prefer older brother. Not that I wanted to be either.

The desire I felt for her was completely inappropriate. She needed comfort, reassurance, someone to hold her as she slept.

The first time we lay in each other’s arms, I was overcome by grief and exhaustion after learning my mother had passed. She’d comforted me that night. Could I do the same for her now? Could I set aside the longing I felt, or would my body react of its own accord to the woman I hungered for? A kiss alone or a touch— skin to skin— would likely bring me to the epitome of pleasure.

It had been four months since I stopped seeing the last woman who’d been my lover. I hadn’t thought of her once since I first met Luisa the night she walked out of the shipping container, broken. Then, I only wanted to protect her, help her heal, be someone she felt safe with.

As she recovered, she became a woman I desired more than any other I’d ever known. It went beyond that, though. I’d fallen in love with her.
Heather Slade. Press’ Passion (Kindle Locations 2122-2172). Wicked Winemakers First Label Book Three.

A really scary twist in this one and some interesting hints about Zin and Jada.

Luisa is a lot stronger than many give her credit for, Press does see this, and he’s been in love with her for so long and she with him. I really wanted to knock some sense into him.

I am looking forward to the next book in this series. Should be interesting with Zin as one of the main characters.

5 Contented Purrs for Heather!

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Heather Slade

USA Today and Amazon Top 15 Bestselling Author Heather Slade writes shamelessly sexy, edge-of-your seat romantic suspense.

She gave herself the gift of writing a book for her own birthday one year. Forty-plus books later (and counting), she’s having the time of her life. The women Slade writes are self-confident, strong, with wills of their own, and hearts as big as the Colorado sky. The men are sublimely sexy, seductive alphas who rise to the challenge of capturing the sweet soul of a woman whose heart they’ll hold in the palm of their hand forever. Add in a couple of neck-snapping twists and turns, a page-turning mystery, and a swoon-worthy HEA, and you’ll be holding one of her books in your hands.


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Dragons and Cupcakes – Shifters and Sweets Book 2 by Zoe Chant


Dragons and Cupcakes
Shifters and Sweets Book 2
By
Zoe Chant

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Dragon shifter Caleb’s only hope of breaking his family’s devastating bad luck curse is an ancient, badly burned parchment. The incredibly useful surviving directions are as follows:

1. Find —– ome of the Aurum Lacu———
2. Prep——— caref———-
3. BEWARE! If not —————- DEATH ————— HORROR BEYOND IMAGINING

That, and a clue leading him to a small town called Girdwood Springs, are all he has to go on.

What he hadn’t counted on finding in his search was a beautiful, determined woman… who just happens to be his fated mate. And who has just busted him committing what might technically be considered trespassing.

What else could possibly go wrong?

With a property developer seeking to raze her beloved forest to the ground, ranger Kira has enough on her plate already. And now, to top it all off, some smoking hot guy with zero camping knowledge and an inability to read signs saying DO NOT ENTER has apparently decided to go on a strange scavenger hunt in her forest.

Obviously, it’s in her best interest that she personally escorts this oddly charming weirdo around the area. Helps him pitch a tent. Shares a cup of coffee with him. Confides her fears about the forest’s future to him. Falls head over heels, in more ways than one.

Together, with a little skill and a lot of courage and some fated mate destiny, maybe they can turn their luck around.

Caleb is traveling to Girdwood Springs to search for the cure for his cursed family. Someone each generation has manifested the curse and he is the one in his. Cursed centuries ago, with bad luck and now no one knows why or has the ability to reverse it. All he has is a burned parchment that he needs to interpret correctly. There’s a huge warning sort of spelled out on the parchment.

He figures he’s looking for some sort of golden artifact in the Girdwood Springs Forest, since Aurum means gold in Latin. Of course, his car breaks down and with no cell phone service he walks up the mountain to the town.

Girdwood Springs Forest has its own issues with the protective trust expiring and Kira Dearborn, who is a ranger there, is feeling the pressure with Tongle & Heit Property Developments’ people tromping through like they already own it. The thing is the trust was supposed to be for perpetuity but somehow the will and paperwork stating that has gone missing.

Kira starts her workday thinking about everything that is happening, and her run ins with the head honcho of Tongle & Heit she starts checking trails, beginning with one already closed. It’s here she runs into Caleb, and she thinks he’s working for Tongle & Heit.

This is a favorite scene.

The forest here truly was beautiful – the deep green cedars and the fall leaves of the smaller trees, the bright, clear blue sky, the mountains rising in the distance. Caleb had been a city dragon all his life, but he was starting to see why so many dragons still chose to stay in their ancestral homes in the mountains, refusing to join the modern world. The natural beauty of places like this simply couldn’t be denied.

I’d love to shift and unfurl my wings in a place like this, Caleb thought. He’d been tempted to do something like that this morning, even though he knew it wasn’t really possible so close to a human town. One hiker he hadn’t noticed, and bam – he’d be all over every conspiracy theory website in the country. Which wasn’t a huge problem, as such, since most humans would just assume it was a hoax. But it was so embarrassing – having to go back home and look like the latest idiot who hadn’t been careful enough while shifting. It had happened to his cousin Roland once, and he hadn’t lived it down for years.

Interestingly enough, as he spoke of the beauty of the place, Caleb noticed the woman’s face softening. He could tell by her uniform that she was a park ranger, so he supposed it made sense that she’d love this place – and he really couldn’t fault her for yelling at him, she’d only been doing her job.

“It is beautiful,” she said, her voice softer, before she bit her lip, residual suspicion crossing her face. “And… you’re really not from Tongle & Heit Developments?”

“Huh. No, I can definitely say I’m not,” Caleb said, shaking his head. Hearing those names was something he definitely hadn’t expected. Tongle & Heit were one of the largest dragon-owned corporations in the world, created when two already powerful dragon clans had merged.

They were known to be rapacious and ruthless – but then, that was simply their dragon natures. Getting between a dragon and something it wanted for its hoard was always a bad idea, and not all dragons had seen a reason to temper those instincts, even if they otherwise had joined the modern world of humans.

But why on earth have Tongle & Heit Developments been sniffing around here, of all places? Caleb wondered.

“But you know that name,” the woman said. “So you know what they’re up to.”

Caleb shook his head. “I’m sorry, I really don’t – I’m familiar with the company name, though. Who isn’t?”

“Well, that’s true,” the woman said, a little grudgingly. “They’re a big company.”

Ask her for her name, Caleb’s dragon hissed suddenly. She is our mate, and we are standing here making small talk! This is not the dragon way!

Caleb shushed it, but, he realized, he really did want to know her name. The tag on her uniform shirt read Dearborn – and Caleb quickly had to dart his eyes away, in case he got caught looking at the full, luscious swell of her breast beneath it.

“Uh, sorry, my name’s Caleb Tanner,” he blurted out. “What’s yours?”

Well, now Ms. Dearborn was looking at him a little strangely again. But he supposed it wasn’t strictly necessary for him to know her given name – not to mention it was a kind of abrupt change of topic.

“It’s Kira Dearborn,” she said, a little slowly, still looking at him with narrowed eyes. “Or Ranger Dearborn, since I’m at work. And look, as much as I appreciate your apology, you really shouldn’t be here right now. It’s not safe, between the rains and the… the increased foot traffic recently. So I’ll have to ask you to come back with me now, and I’ll try to recommend a different track so you can still enjoy your hike.”

Kira – or Ranger Dearborn, if she preferred – began to turn away, leading him back up the trail. Caleb wondered if he should try to chat to her a bit to make up for his earlier bad impression – perhaps if he made himself agreeable now, she’d change his opinion of him as a gatecrashing boor.

Plus, I’m really not in either the Tongle or the Heit clans. Perhaps she’s had some trouble with them? Does she know about dragons and other shifters after all?

Her having heard of Tongle & Heit Developments didn’t tell him much, though – it operated in the open, and its only secret was that it was dragon-owned. But the powerful Dragon Council had set down rules for dragons who wanted to run businesses in the human world, and Rule Number One was that they had to abide by human laws. Some dragons didn’t like that – but if they didn’t respect the laws that humans had set down, then the Dragon Council was always willing to make sure its own laws were enforced. Harshly, if necessary.

“Have you had some issue with that development company?” Caleb asked, as together they made their way back up the twisting trail. Kira seemed very sure-footed as she walked – perhaps her slip had just been a little bad luck. The kind of thing he’d usually be afflicted by. Perhaps he should have been thanking his lucky stars he hadn’t slipped over in front of her, and ended up in her arms. Not that he would have been complaining about that exactly, but it probably would have only compounded her first impression that he was… well, kind of an idiot.

Kira glanced over her shoulder at him. “Yeah, you could say that – they want to buy up all this forested land and bulldoze it, and turn it into a mall complex and holiday resort. They’ve been tramping up and down the mountain for weeks, ruining the trails and stomping all over the place as if they already own it. As you can imagine, I’m not a huge fan of theirs.”

“No, I can see why you might not be,” Caleb agreed, looking around the forest again. The thought of so much beauty being lost made his heart ache.

There is nothing those villains will not seek to spoil, his dragon said, smoke rising from its nostrils. You know it’s true. We should seek them out, and challenge them on our mate’s behalf. Show her how a dragon defends what belongs to its mate.

Caleb shook his head, pushing the dragon’s thoughts down. Fighting a dragon duel was out of the question for any number of reasons – not least because with his luck, he’d end up crashing into a mountainside and losing the fight before it even began.

“But I can tell you now, I definitely don’t have anything to do with them. I didn’t even know they had plans out here,” Caleb continued, once he’d shushed his dragon into submission. “Let’s just say I’m not that surprised, though.”

“The land is protected – for now,” Kira said, as they crested a small rise, and the cabin Caleb had seen on his way in came into view. “But at the end of the month that’ll all be over. The land is supposed to be willed to the township in trust for at least ninety-nine years, but the will that places it in trust has gone missing. And without that, the land is up for grabs.”

Caleb could hear the pain throbbing in her voice, and he heard an answering pain growing in his own chest. But then, that was part and parcel of the bond – her pain was his pain.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, meaning it. “Is there any chance anyone can do anything? The will might not be able to be found, but if someone else buys the land –”

“Who has deeper pockets than a massive property development company?” Kira asked, turning back to him with a shrug. Despite her defeated words, Caleb could see burning anger in her beautiful hazel eyes. “That’s what decides things, right? Whoever has the most money. And I don’t think anyone’s going to come along who’d be willing to try to outbid Tongle & Heit, even if they could.”

Caleb grimaced. As much as he wanted to argue with Kira, he knew there was truth in what she was saying. Anything he could say would just sound like a platitude – well, it would be a platitude.

We must not give up when our mate requires our services. If we do not even attempt to help her, then we have no right to think ourselves worthy of her, his dragon snarled. There must be a way.

Swallowing, Caleb wanted to believe it was right. But while his family wasn’t exactly poor, there was no way he could ask them for that kind of money. They simply didn’t have it. And with his luck… well, he was more likely to accidentally burn the forest down than save it.

“Anyway, I’m sorry about all that – we do have a fundraiser for a legal effort to challenge the sale of the land, if you’re interested in donating,” Kira continued. “So we’re not completely powerless. We can at least tie them up for a little while longer.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” Caleb said. “Any time you can keep them at bay is useful, right? If it gives you more time to find that will.”

Kira nodded. “Yeah. But it might be just wishful thinking. The last place anyone saw that will was in a small archive building by the town hall. Which burned down a couple of years ago.”

Burned down…?

Caleb blinked. That… sounded just a little suspicious to him. And to his dragon as well, if the way it suddenly raised its head and narrowed its glowing eyes was anything to go by.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Caleb asked it, as he followed Kira to the cabin.

It sounds to me as if those scoundrels have had their eye on this land for some time, his dragon replied.

The more Caleb heard, the more determined he became to help Kira out. But before he did that, he knew he had to get his curse lifted. He’d just be more hindrance than help right now.
Chant, Zoe. Dragons and Cupcakes. Kindle Locations (281-349). Kindle Edition.

So now instead of just one goal, Caleb has two. First break the curse then find the proof to stop Tongle & Heit.

A few incidents in and Caleb knows he has to divulge everything to Kira including the fact he’s a dragon. When he shows her what’s left of the directions to reverse the curse, she knows exactly what he’s looking for and where to find it. He will also have to enlist the help of Silvie and Gale.

Fun, adventurous, intriguing and a dragon with a one track mind, Mate!

5 Contented Purrs for Zoe!

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Zoe Chant loves writing paranormal romance. Over a cup of tea (or something stronger) she whips up sexy tales of hunky heroes and adventurous heroines to tantalize and satisfy her readers. Sizzling hot romance, no cliffhangers!

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Embracing Joy – Blossom Ridge Book 5 by Becca Jameson


Embracing Joy
Blossom Ridge Book 5
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Becca Jameson

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Giana

I’m a well-known masochist.
I’ve been a member of Surrender for two years.
Someone unknown sponsors me.
I can barely make ends meet, and I’ve just lost yet another job.
When Kendric discovers me living in my car, he takes me home.
It’s a horrible idea. I can’t stay with him.
He’s a Daddy. I need a sadist in my life.
But I’m falling for him, and I don’t have any other place to stay.

Kendric

I’ve been secretly sponsoring Giana.
She’s intriguing, but I’ve never approached her.
She’s not Little. I’m not a sadist.
At least that’s what I’ve believed for two years.
When I find her living in her car, another side of Giana comes out.
She submits to me as a Daddy Dom.
She thrives, even when I take her to Blossom Ridge.
Convincing her she’s my Little is a challenge, and I’m all in.

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In the prologue of this book, we see the discussion about Giana’s sponsorship to Surrender. It’s Kendric who steps up to pay the sponsorship, he’s a bit infatuated with her but he’s not a sadist, he’s a Daddy Dom and she’s definitely a masochist.

It’s two years later, and we meet Giana and her friend Hannah as they prepare for their night at Surrender. Hannah knows she watches Kendric and teases her about it. As much as Giana might wish for Kendric to dominate her, she knows he’s a Daddy Dom and she just isn’t a little.

It’s Kendric’s turn to lock up Surrender and as he’s leaving he sees a car in the lot. It’s a cold night and while it’s not unusual for a car to be left, he investigates further. He realizes the car is Giana’s and the windows are fogged, he hopes he’s not interrupting something when he knocks on the window. It’s Giana who looks out at him, and she’s alone.

Little does she know everything, and I do mean everything is going to change.

This is a favorite scene.

I’m stalling. I take a deep breath and rap my knuckles on the driver’s side window.

I hear someone gasp inside and a moment later, fingers wipe away the condensation. Thank fuck it’s Giana. Her eyes are wide and she opens the door. “What are you doing here?” she asks me as if I’m the odd ball.

I grab the frame of the door and the side of the car so I can bend down and see inside better. She’s alone. I narrow my gaze. “What am I doing here? What are you doing here? I thought you left a while ago.”

She sighs and lowers her gaze. She’s wearing a lot of layers. A thick heavy coat, gloves, a scarf wrapped around her neck and the back of her head. “My car won’t start,” she murmurs.

“Why didn’t you come back inside to ask for help?” The hairs on the back of my neck rise. Something isn’t right.

“I didn’t want to bother anyone.”

“Did you call a tow truck? Or what are you waiting for?”

She rubs her gloved hands together. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know what you’re waiting for?” I’ve never seen her this nervous. My brain is trying to figure out what’s going on. Meanwhile, I shift my gaze to the back of her car. It’s jammed packed. “What is all this stuff in the back seat, Giana?”

She sighs. “Everything.”

I blink. Everything? What does that mean?

I squat lower, so my face is below hers and I’m looking up at her.

“Giana, talk to me.”

She draws in a slow breath. “I lost my job and I’ve been staying at a motel, but then my car wouldn’t start, and…”

Fuck. Jesus.

“I work for a temp agency,” she continues. “They’ll find me something else. I just need to get by between now and then. It won’t take long.”

“Were you going to sleep in your car, Giana?” I ask gently, though that is obvious.

“Yes. I’ll be fine. I promise I’ll figure something out tomorrow.”

Like hell. “Do you have friends or family you can stay with? Can I drive you somewhere?”

“No.”

“What about Hannah? I thought you two were close?”

Giana jerks her gaze to mine. “No. I don’t want her to know about this. We’re not that kind of friends. We’re club friends. We don’t get together outside of Surrender. I’d be embarrassed for her to know I’m struggling.”

My lips move. There are no other options here. “Okay, you’re coming home with me then.”

She gasps and shakes her head. “Not a chance. I won’t impose on you like that.”

“It’s not an imposition, Giana. I have plenty of room.” I rise to standing and reach out a hand. “Come.”

She shakes her head again. “Kendric, I can’t. I hate that you saw me out here. Can’t you just forgot it and leave me. I’ll figure it out in the morning and I’m sure I’ll get a new position with the agency in the next couple of days.”

“Giana, I’m not asking. I’m telling you. Get your stubborn ass out of that car now before I decide to take you over my knee and spank your bottom so hard that Mistress Claudia’s crop earlier will seem like child’s play.”

What the fuck am I talking about? Jesus. I don’t spank anyone that hard. No one. I’m a gentle giant. I like snuggles and giggles and fun trips to the zoo. I can and have spanked Little girls before, but not hard enough to make them cry.

Giana’s eyes are wide and she’s staring at me. Mouth open. No words coming out.

I open the door wider. “You going to walk to my truck on your own, or should I throw you over my shoulder and carry you kicking and screaming like a naughty Little girl?” Jesus, fuck. I’m losing it.

“Kendric…”

“I’ll count to three. If you’re not out of the car, I won’t even give you the chance to take any of this stuff with you.”

She licks her lips. “Sir…”

My dick gets hard the moment she calls me Sir. That’s right, Baby girl. Sir. Or Daddy. Not Kendric. “One… Two… Three.” I reach in and grab Giana around the waist, easily lifting her small frame out of the car and tossing her over my shoulder.

She squeals and squirms as I reach in to snag her keys from the ignition. I hesitate for a moment, wondering about the decision to leave everything she owns in this car. What if she gets robbed in the night?

Mostly what I see is black trash bags, probably because she doesn’t own suitcases and left her residence in a hurry. If she’s homeless, she has gone months without paying her rent.

A tight ball forms in the back of my throat at the thought of Giana homeless and alone. How long has she lived like this? I feel like shit for not noticing.

I grab her purse while she fights me. My arm is wrapped firmly around the back of her thighs though. She’s not strong enough or large enough to get free. “Stay still, Little girl, unless you want me to double the spanking I’m already planning.”

She stops fighting me, but only long enough for me to let my guard down. The moment I loosen my grip, she arches her chest and tries to shove off my shoulder.

I grip her legs tighter and set my other hand on her ass, squeezing it hard. It has to hurt after the cropping.

Ouch,” she shouts. Finally, a human reaction.

“Yeah, ouch. You’re going to think ouch, Little girl. Stop fighting me and tell me if there’s anything valuable in this car we need to take.”

“Yeah. All of it,” she complains. “Leave me here with it.”

“Not happening. Computer? Phone? Cash?”

She slumps in my arms. “No.”

I shut the door, lock the car, and haul this bundle of feisty woman to my truck. What the fuck am I going to do with her?

I should call someone else. Maybe Claudia or at least Roman. Anyone. Someone else can put her up for the night or the week or the month. I’ll lose my mind with her under my roof.
Becca Jameson. Embracing Joy (Kindle Locations 165-214).

Concern for Giana is Kendric’s main reason for taking her in, but there’s also her response to him in the parking lot. It seems to him that there just might be a Little hidden inside her and he’s going to find her.

Giana protests albeit a bit too much, she agrees to see where things go. She has much to work out in her life and just maybe Kendric’s the man to help her do that.

I loved the way this story unfolds and that the trip to Blossom Ridge is quite revealing.

This is sexy, fun, enlightening and sizzling too.

5 Contented Purrs for Becca!

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Coming Soon!

Becca Jameson Becca Jameson

Becca Jameson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 books. She is most well-known for her Wolf Masters Series, her Fight Club series, and her Club Zodiac series. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and Goldendoodle. Two grown kids pop in every once in a while too! She is loving this journey and has dabbled in a variety of genres, including paranormal, sports romance, military, and BDSM.

A total night owl, Becca writes late at night, sequestering herself in her office with a glass of red wine and a bar of dark chocolate, her fingers flying across the keyboard as her characters weave their own stories.

During the day–which never starts before ten in the morning!–she can be found jogging, running errands, or reading in her favorite hammock chair!

…where Alphas dominate…


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One Duke Down – Rogues to Lovers Book 2 by Anna Bennett


One Duke Down
Rogues to Lovers Book 2
By
Anna Bennett

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A FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER

Miss Poppy Summers is determined to keep her family’s fishing business afloat. Her poor widowed father has fallen ill, and her foolhardy brother has moved to London, leaving her precious little time to read or pursue her own dreams. But she’ll do anything for her family, so she cheerfully spends mornings in her rowboat, casting her nets. The very last thing Poppy expects or wants to find tangled in them is a dangerously attractive man. Especially one with a head wound—who’s convinced he’s a duke.

AND A DUKE OUT OF WATER

Andrew Keane is the Duke of Hawking, but he’s having the devil of a time convincing his wary, fiery-haired rescuer of that fact. The truth is he came to the seaside resort of Bellehaven Bay to escape his life in London. Unfortunately, someone in Bellehaven wants to kill him—and he intends to find out who. He implores Poppy to tend to his injuries and hide him on her beach, reasoning it will be easier to find his attacker if that man assumes Keane is already dead. She wants no part of the scheme but can’t refuse the generous sum he offers in exchange for food and shelter while he recovers. It’s a mutually beneficial business arrangement…nothing more.

ARE ABOUT TO MAKE WAVES

Under Poppy’s care, Keane regains his strength—and a sense of purpose. As they work together to solve the puzzle of his would-be murderer, he’s dazzled by her rapier wit and adventurous spirit; she’s intrigued by his mysterious air and protective streak. Though Poppy’s past gives her every reason to mistrust someone like Keane, the seawalls around her heart crumble in the storm of their passion. But when clues hint at the prime suspect in Keane’s attempted murder, Poppy must decide where her loyalties lie. Torn between the world she’s always known and the one she’s always dreamed of, she’ll need true love for a shot at her fairytale ending.

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When Poppy Summers finds a man tangled in a fishing net on her beach, the last person she expected it to be is a Duke.

With a gash on his head and his clothes torn up, Andrew Keane, the Duke of Hawking does not look the part. It takes some convincing for Poppy to agree to seek out his valet for confirmation. Once she’s validated his identity, Keane convinces her to help him find his attacker so he can be brought to justice.

Poppy gets to explore some fun activities with him as they work through his list of possible suspects. As the Duke hides in her reading shack, they share meals and discuss many things. The Duke is impressed by her wit and intelligence so it’s not surprising to him that he’s falling for her.

Poppy’s family has always had their eyes wide open with regard to the nobility. Mostly she’s found them to be callous and uncaring of anything that doesn’t apply to them directly. Not to mention a family that hurt someone she loved dearly.

I love the way this story unfolds. From the beach to the ballroom this was a delightful read. There’s even a bit of excitement when the truth comes out.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

5 Contented Purrs for Anna!

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Anna Bennett

Anna Bennett started swiping romances from her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager and decided historicals (with their balls, dukes, and gowns) were the best. So, when she had the chance to spend a semester in London she packed her bags—and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.

Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the stories she loves and won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® for Regency Historical Romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute shoes, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

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Hale – SEALs of Honor Book 31 by Dale Mayer


Hale
SEALs of Honor Book 31
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer

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Hale received an unexpected request to join Marsha McConaughey on a special mission. Only four of them would track a terrorist, with a history of blowing up American citizens. The bomber’s current plot was foiled, but, in the chaos, he escaped across the border into Canada, giving a middle-finger salute to the first set of cameras on the other side.

Marsha has been hunting assholes like this one for years. It’s wearing on her. This is her last job, but she’s determined to walk away on a success. This one means more to her than the others. This man took out several members of her team. She wants this a*****e. Willingly chasing him into Canada is one thing, but into the backwoods of Prince Albert National Park is another thing altogether.

When the killing spree continues in Canada, the team is more determined than ever to stop this guy—before he kills anyone else—particularly the woman hunting him.

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Hale Rodney is finishing up a course that includes the history of terrorist bombs. One in particular he recognizes the signature. This catches the eye of the instructor who later informs him he’ll be joining a mission to catch this particular bomber.

Marsha McConaughey has been after this bomber, ‘the ghost’, for years. She came really close once and this time she’s determined to get him. This is going to be her last case and she won’t fail. Everything she had set up had to change when the ghost changed his location. He’s now believed to be in Prince Albert, and Hale makes the observation that it’s a good place to hide out, with the huge National Forest.

As they are traveling, Hale makes arrangements to pick up some camping and outdoor gear from his stepbrother. He wants to be prepared for anything at this point.

Marsha is shocked to find her men dead at the house she arranged for their stay. Hale immediately takes over with a contingency plan she had no idea he had. He grabs the groceries the men had bought and gets everything back into the truck. It’s time to go hunting.

Hale takes them the long way around a popular campground, and they walk about five miles to the site he has in mind.

This is a favorite scene.

Finally he stopped and announced, “We’re here.”

He felt her relief rolling toward him in palpable waves, as he turned, grabbed the pack off her shoulders, and said, “Let’s get that thing off you.”

As soon as the pack was on the ground, she crouched into a squat position, wrapped her arms around her chest, and tried to stretch out the center of her back. He dropped his own pack, walked behind her, then scooped up her arms and spread the muscles from her shoulder blades up and around. Then he gave her a hard two-minute massage and added, “That should help.”

She stood up, rolled her shoulders, and nodded. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now let’s get set up for the night.” He pitched a small tent the same color of the trees around them.

She stared at it. “One tent?”

“Yep, one tent. Neither of us could carry any more than we did.” And, since she had barely even carried her weight, she surely wouldn’t argue. He tossed her a sleeping bag and suggested, “You might want to collect some leaves or something from around here to lie on.”

She winced. “We’ll sleep on the ground?”

“I have one roll each,” he explained, “but you’ll notice very quickly if you don’t have a pillow. Grab your T-shirt and fill it with leaves so at least you’ll have something. Or, if you don’t want to do that, you can just use your clothes, as packed.”

“I’ll try the clothes tonight,” she replied, and he just nodded. As soon as the tent was up and their gear stowed inside, he walked over and looked at the grocery bags that he’d been carrying in the top of his pack. “Was there much that they bought?” she asked quietly.

“Quite a bit. The question now is, how far can we make it go?”

“How long do you expect to be here?”

“Not long, but you saw how far we had to walk.”

She nodded. “I did, and I’m still not thrilled to be here.”

“Nope, but you’re safe at the moment.”

She frowned at that. “Safe wasn’t the entire plan.”

“No, but neither was getting killed, like the other three.”

She winced at that. “That’s not fair.”

“Maybe not, but it’s true,” he replied quietly.

“What exactly will this location do for us?”

“It’s simple.” He pointed. “A spot about five hundred yards from here is fairly popular with locals, yet wouldn’t be something that too many others would know about. However, if the Ghost’s up here, my guess is that he’ll be close.”

“Why?”

“Because he can drive there.”

She stared at him in shock, and then her tone turned ominous. “We just walked for five miles.”

Hale nodded. “He’s on the other side of the river.”

“What good is that?”

“Because I know how to get across.”

She fell silent. “I suppose you’ll tell me now that he won’t know we’re here?”

“We’re higher up. Now he might smell our fire if a heavy fog rolls in, keeping the air down. However, unless he’s quite as good as he thinks he is, he won’t get to us before I can get to him.”

“I suppose you’ll say that you set up some kind of warnings along the way.”

“No, but I am observant enough, and I will be making regular recon trips to see that nobody has followed us.”

She nodded slowly. “I still don’t understand how we’re supposed to capture him up here.”

“It’s hard to say,” Hale admitted, “but he’s hunting us. So we need to go to ground for a while, until either he figures that we’re not coming or he figures any op has been called off because of the killings.”

“He’ll be hunting us regardless, and he knows I would never call it off.”

“That just means we could be staying here longer then.”

“Why, when that won’t get the job done?”

“Why don’t we get a good night’s sleep and think on it,” he suggested.

She glared at him, and he nodded. “I know you’re pissed now, but maybe things will look different in the morning.”

“We sure as hell didn’t have to walk five miles.”

“Yeah, we did, because not too many people would follow us.” Hard for her to argue with that.

“It’s still a long way here and a long way to get back.”

“It is,” he admitted, “and again there’s a reason for it. Let’s see what we have for food and then call it a night.”

She bent down to the large bags that he had packed. “Is this all the groceries?” she asked in astonishment.

“Yeah, what the guys had picked up.”

She noted, “Steaks, potatoes, … even bacon, eggs, and bread. Lots of sliced deli meats and cheeses. Even peanut butter.”

He nodded. “Yeah, so, in a way, we’re in good shape.” She wanted to argue with him, but she didn’t, and that was good because, right now, he wasn’t in the mood. “I’ll cook these steaks, since they won’t keep and hope they don’t bring in predators.”

He soon got a fire going and, with such ease, that she just stared at him.

“You’ve got to remember,” he told her. “This is what I do.”

She frowned at that. “So, if I had picked somebody who wasn’t an expert in survival, I would be in a hotel right now?”

“If so, you’d be dead,” he stated flatly.

She winced at that. “Great, not exactly how I wanted to view this.”

“Maybe not, but you’ve got to admit the chances of that being the truth are quite clear.”

She hated to admit he was right, but it was a good possibility. “I still don’t know how he knew about the guys.”

“It doesn’t matter. Either he’s paid some locals or has other sources, and I know you don’t want to hear this, but they could potentially be within your own department.”

“Nobody knows where I am,” she replied quietly. “And the only one who knows you are here is Mason. Unless you told anybody?” she asked, searching his gaze.

It was hard to see in the dim light, but he could see her eyes. “Nope. I just knew that I had a job to do, so I came. I don’t bother telling people any details. First off, they’re not allowed to know about most of my jobs to begin with, and you never know when things will change, and you end up having to make clarifications later,” he noted. “I’ve learned that it’s just much easier to keep your mouth shut.”

She smiled at that. “Believe it or not, I agree.”

“Oh, you’re not going to argue with me, huh?” he teased, rolling his eyes. “That’s new.”

“Since when have I argued with you over everything?”

“Since … we met,” he stated, with another eye roll.

“Maybe you deserved it.”

He snorted at that. “You might think I deserved it, but I won’t agree with that assessment.”

She smiled. “Of course not, that would be way too simple. All right, so what can I do to help?”

“For now, just sit there and rest,” he suggested. “You’ll be very stiff and sore, so maybe do some exercises to stretch out your body. You might also want to tend to your feet. You’ve probably got blisters, and, for sure, you need dry socks.”

“I can do all that, but is there anything I can do for dinner?”

“Nope, not at the moment.”
Dale Mayer. Hale (Kindle Locations 710-777). Valley Publishing Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

With each page the suspense rises, and both Marsha and Hale are feeling a bit of an attraction toward each other. Of course, this isn’t the time to take action on that.

More death, the involvement of the RCMPs and plenty of hold your breath action as this tale unfolds.

I was sorry to read that this is likely the end of the SEALs of Honor series, although the author says we’ll see some of our favorite characters in other series.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.


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Just Another Spark – Kingston Family Book 8.5 by Carly Phillips


Just Another Spark
Kingston Family Book 8.5
By
NY Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author
Carly Phillips

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He’s a rock star wanted by millions.
She’s a wife willing to fight for their love.

Rock star Dash Kingston is finishing the last leg of his band’s U.S. tour. Exhausted and ready to be home, he can’t wait to see his girl. Time zones, show times, and the demands of his career have made married life harder than expected. Even knowing the rock star life wouldn’t make their relationship easy.

Cassidy Kingston thought she was ready to handle being married to a man idolized by women everywhere. She believes in their love even though the separations when the band is on tour can be torture. But the paparazzi and media don’t make their time apart easier and the gossip headlines hit her harder than they should. She trusts her husband even if she misses him like crazy.

When rumors surface that Dash is seeing someone, what’s a girl to do? Surprise her husband and remind him of what he’s been missing. Except you know what they say about the best laid plans.

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Cassidy knows not to listen to the gossip channels or read those papers. She knew when she married Dash Kingston there would always be someone out there twisting the truth into something unrecognizable.

This tour however had been harder, they are both having problems connecting. Opposite coast time differences, schedules, even just sleeping has interfered with them having a conversation more than hello and goodbye.

It’s a surprise for Cassidy when her brother, Axle the group’s drummer, manages a quick trip home. She enjoys a meal with him before he has to leave again, reassuring her that Dash is missing her just as much as she misses him.

He does some finagling with his agent and flies home on the family jet after the weekend’s concerts. Unfortunately, fate has something else in mind.

This is a favorite scene.

She should be finishing up soon, so I’ll drive you to the apartment and you can surprise her when she gets home.” Dash had a house in the Hamptons before he married Cassidy and, after, they’d purchased an apartment in the city for her convenience when K-Talent took over office space there, as well.

“Okay, perfect. That’ll give me a few hours to set the scene for when she gets home. I’ll order in dinner and flowers, get the table set, light some candles …” He nodded in approval of his own plan. “I can give her the ultimate surprise.”

Xander chuckled. “Dash Kingston, one-time playboy, is a romantic. Who knew?”

If his brother wasn’t driving, Dash would be tempted to slap him in the head. Instead, he folded his arms and leaned back against the seat, allowing his body to feel the exhaustion from all the sets and the five-hour trip.

*     *     *

MURPHY’S LAW, CASSIDY thought, as she dragged her weary body into the elevator of the New York City apartment she and Dash owned. If it could go wrong on set today, it had. From the broken air conditioner, to not enough extras showing up for a crowd scene, to one of their primary co-stars showing up drunk, the day had been an exercise in patience.

They’d had to sober up the actor with coffee and water and shoot scenes out of order until he looked and sounded ready to tape. Even so, when his time had come, he’d needed too many takes to nail his scenes. No air-conditioning in the summer meant she’d sweat like crazy until the repairman had finally fixed the issue and the stars of the movie had not been happy with the increasing temperature. Cassidy wasn’t sure how she felt about being a producer.

She’d started as a creative director at K-Talent. The first year had been a learning experience but she’d soaked up the information. On the company’s one year anniversary, Sasha and Xander had offered her a position as head of Film and Television, making her Sasha’s right hand. They’d always worked closely together, so the job was perfect for her. She’d also been able to pick projects and run them by Sasha. This past year, she’d moved into production and the truth was, Cassidy missed her former role.

She’d hoped to be home by six for a change. Instead, she stepped out of the elevator a short time after 9:00 p.m. on the penthouse floor. If anyone had told her when she and Sasha were sharing a small place in Los Angeles, one day, she’d be married to a rock star, living in the lap of luxury, and a producer in a film production company—she’d have laughed and called them crazy.

Yet, here she was, ready to walk into the luxurious apartment she and Dash had decorated together, alone, while her husband was clear across the country.

Despite the tour, everything in their lives should have been perfect. She was confused as to why it wasn’t. From the time they’d gotten together, he’d been true to his word. He and the guys had cut back on the amount of time the band traveled. Twice in almost four years wasn’t much to ask and the first time the band went on the road, she and Dash had talked often. They’d FaceTimed, and phone sex had been fun and constant.

This tour was different because they had no time for each other and that wasn’t the life she’d signed up for. If she was going to be married, she wanted a husband she felt connected to. The physical miles apart she could handle, but she hadn’t been prepared for the emotional distance she felt now.

She let herself inside and smelled something delicious. The lights were on in the kitchen and dim flickering shadowed the wall in the dining room visible through the kitchen pass-through. She wasn’t worried because a burglar didn’t make dinner or light candles, and her stomach did a flip at the possibilities waiting for her.

She strode into the main area of the apartment and there was her husband lying down on the couch, eyes closed, obviously out cold. She took in the dining room table that had been set with their dishes, not paper plates, silverware and water goblets. A bottle of wine chilled in an honest-to-goodness wine bucket he must have borrowed from a restaurant, and she’d bet the ice inside had melted. Like the candles had burned halfway down.

Her heart dropped at the sight. She wished he’d called instead of surprising her but even if she’d known he was here, there was no way she could have left the set.

She stepped over to the sofa and looked down at his sleeping form, taking in the features she adored. His dark lashes lay dark against his skin and she saw the deep circles beneath his eyes, telling her how hard he’d been working and the late nights the band had been keeping. But that had been true of the last tour, so what had changed?

Her. The answer slammed into her and her chest squeezed tight. She worked longer hours. She didn’t have time to take his calls. Yes, he was extra busy, too. But her life had gotten much busier, to the point where she hadn’t been able to fly out for a visit as she had a couple of years ago.

She sat down beside him, her hip nudging against his, making room for herself, and his eyes fluttered open. “Cass.” He pushed himself to a sitting position.

“Hey, stranger.” She smiled softly. “I am so sorry I’m home so late. I had no idea you’d be here.”

He treated her to his dimpled grin. “I wanted to surprise you. Xander let me know you were hung up at work, but I hoped you’d get here in time to enjoy some of this.” He gestured to the romantic atmosphere he’d set for them.

She sighed, letting her disappointment show. “Isn’t this just like the way things have been going for us?” Tears filled her eyes, taking her by surprise.

“I’m sorry, too. Our opening act is being sexually harassed by her manager and she won’t let us report it. Not until the tour is over. It’s complicated with the guys, especially Jagger, but I’ve been around overtime to make sure she’s never alone. But I swear, Cass, no matter what the tabloids say—”

She placed her finger over his lips. “I know. If you had to tell me, that would mean I didn’t trust you, and I do.” No matter how she’d felt when she heard CGC’s reporting and seen the photos, in her heart, she knew he’d have a legitimate reason.

He took her hand and pulled her on top of him, letting her position herself before he took her mouth with his. The moment his lips touched hers, everything turned right in her world. He kissed her for a long time, his tongue sliding against hers, his teeth nipping, his lips gliding, never coming up for air until she broke the kiss.

“I just need to breathe,” she said, laughing. Reaching out, she wiped his damp lips with her finger.

“Breathing’s overrated.” He threaded his fingers through her hair and tugged on the long strands. “Are you hungry? The food I ordered in is cold, but we can heat it up again.”

She shook her head. “I grabbed a sandwich from craft services. What about you?”

A sheepish look crossed his face and his cheeks flushed. “I got hungry and ate.”

She shook her head and groaned. “I don’t blame you,” she said, touching her forehead to his. Without warning, she yawned, the day that had started at 5:00 a.m., catching up with her.

Dash reached around and slapped her ass, causing her to squeal. “Okay, up you go. Let’s go to bed.”
Carly Phillips. Just Another Spark (Kindle Locations 195-241). CP Publishing. Kindle Edition.

It truly wasn’t either of their faults that they are exhausted and only manage to sleep.

As the tour ends and that one really big problem gets handled, Cass tries a surprise of her own.

I love this couple. They are both strong and so totally in love with each other.

5 Contented Purrs for Carly!

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Coming Soon!

Carly Phillips

Carly Phillips is the N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels featuring hot men, strong women and the emotionally compelling stories her readers have come to expect and love.

Carly’s career spans over a decade and a half with various New York publishing houses, and she is now an Indie author who runs her own business and loves every exciting minute of her publishing journey. Carly is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs (two wheaten terriers and one mutant Havanese) who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.


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Spark of Fate – Shifting Fate Series Book 1 by Tessa Hale


Spark of Fate
Shifting Fate Series Book 1
By
Tessa Hale

1cf2a-addtogoodreads

It was supposed to be a fresh start. A completely blank slate in a place where no one knew about the tragedy that ripped her family apart six months ago. A tragedy Rowan can’t help but blame herself for.

Now the only thing she wants is to blend in. To escape the house that has become more like a prison. Her new school is her only hope. Somewhere she can pretend she’s just like everyone else.

Only Rowan doesn’t realize how unique she is. Holden is the first to recognize it, but he’s not the last.

Rowan can’t explain the draw she feels to the guys who have found their way into her life. The way something seems to spark the first moment she touches each of them. How it almost hurts to walk away from them at the end of each day.

Things are changing, from the ripple of power humming just below her skin to this new family she’s finding herself a part of. But not all of the changes are good.

Someone doesn’t like the power Rowan is stepping into or the bonds she’s forming with the guys who have gifts as rare and strong as her own. And when the truth is revealed, it has the power to burn everything in its wake…

Rowan’s life changed the minute she survived a car crash, but her sister Lacey didn’t. Rowan was adopted but always felt part of the family now she’s not so sure. They moved to Cloverdale, a small town in Washington. Her father has a job in Seattle and a daily commute isn’t possible, so he stays in the city during the week.

Rowan does her best to take care of her mother, it’s hard when she tells Rowan she can’t look at her. Rowan is still fighting nightmares, but she’s also looking forward to fresh start where no one knows her. While her father is home, he buys groceries and he’s there when Mason and his son Holden bring a welcome basket.

When Holden shakes her hand, a spark happens, same as when she met the man in the woods. It just seems weird to her, and she puts it off to some strange static electricity in the area.

When she starts school, all pretense of a new start vanishes when she overhears girls talking about the accident that took her sister’s life and she almost died. A panic attack hits and runs into Lucas who helps calm her and that spark occurs once more. Holden as promised brings her to the cafeteria at lunch and brings her to a table where she meets more of his friends. Cassidy aka Cass, Ridge and Jack. Also, Jasmine who seems to have a thing for Holden joins them.

When she brushes hands with Keene in Holden’s truck that sensation of spark hits again. She just doesn’t know why, and that they were discussing someone powerful that doesn’t know intrigues her as well. Even though the explanation is reasonable.

Anson has been playing it up with Sadie and Rowan just wants him to leave her out of the drama. Now in Gym class she’s put on the same team with Anson and Jasmine. Fun times, not!

Up until now the spark thing has been mild yet unusual. That is until Anson touches her.

This is just one of my favorite scenes.

Coach snorted and proceeded to break us into the groups. I fought a groan when he put me on a team with Anson and Jasmine. They were the only people I knew in the whole class, and I would’ve chosen any other team but this one.

Anson crossed to me, a wicked smile on his face. He bumped my shoulder with his. “Hey, teammate.”

I took a step away. “Hey.”

His smile faltered a bit. “What’s wrong?”

I met his gaze, not looking away. “I don’t appreciate getting dragged into whatever dysfunctional thing you have going on with Sadie. You want to screw every girl you can at this school, fine. I’m not going to be on that list. And I don’t need another reason for Sadie to set her sights on me. I just want to get through my senior year with as little drama as possible. Honestly, you two are perfect for each other.”

Anson’s mouth fell open. “I didn’t mean—” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, Rowan. I didn’t mean to put you in a bad spot. I’ll talk to Sadie.”

I squeezed my eyes closed, pinching the bridge of my nose. “Please don’t tell her to lay off me. That’ll just make things worse.”

He rubbed a hand over his buzzed head. “I really don’t understand girls.”

“Try treating them like human beings. You might have better luck.”

“Hey.” He moved in closer. “I treat you like a human being.”

I blew out a breath. “There are moments where I think I see the real Anson, just flashes, but I like him a hell of a lot better than whatever macho Casanova you play at the rest of the time.”

His mouth pressed into a thin line. “Noted.”

“Be whoever you want, just be real in the process.”

Anson stared across the gym, his focus seemingly nowhere in particular. “If you don’t show people the real you, it hurts a hell of a lot less when they leave.”

His words had a careless tone, but they sent little fissures cracking through my heart. “Anson,” I whispered.

Those green eyes glinted, not with mischief this time, but with anger. “I don’t need your fucking pity.” He turned and joined another boy at the front of the court.

“Making all sorts of friends,” Jasmine said with a smirk. “I knew it was only a matter of time before the wool got pulled back.”

I ignored her and took a place in the middle line. A whistle blew and the game began. I knocked into the people next to me at least half a dozen times. I managed to hit a few balls, but I missed a lot more.

Jasmine scoffed as I blew past another, catching only air. “You could at least try, new girl.”

I gritted my teeth and stayed focused on the game. The other team served again. Unfortunately, they’d realized I was the weak link. The ball came sailing towards me.

I focused on not closing my eyes, but it was instinct when a ball was flying at your face. I clasped my hands together and aimed. The frustration of the day, the conversation with Anson, and Jasmine’s steady stream of jabs bubbled below my skin.

The volleyball hit my forearms with a crack, the skin there stinging like a dozen wasps had just attacked. The ball flew into the air, hitting the massively high ceiling and then landing with a smack in the opposite court.

“Holy hell,” Coach said as he approached, rubbing the side of his face. “That’s out of bounds, but you’ve got an arm on you, Caldwell. You should think about trying out for the team this winter.”

I stared at the ball as it bounced off the court, then at the ceiling. How had I done that? The whole game, I’d struggled to get the ball over the net, let alone who-knew-how-many feet in the air.

The other team served again, still aiming straight for me. I braced again. This time, I didn’t have a chance to go for the ball. Someone crashed into me from behind, sending me sprawling to the floor.

I landed on my side, my elbow and shoulder taking the brunt of the fall. The force knocked the wind out of me, as if I’d been taken down by a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound linebacker.

“What the hell, Jaz?” Anson barked.

“She screws up every time. I was just trying to get us a point.”

Coach blew his whistle. “Get off the court and cool off, Jasmine.”

She scowled at me but moved to the bleachers.

Anson’s face filled my line of sight, but I was too consumed with trying to get my breath back to truly notice.

“Are you okay? Can you move?”

I blinked a few times, my vision clearing. “Yeah. I’ll be fine.”

“Let’s sit you up, nice and easy.” Anson reached out a hand, taking mine.

The moment our hands met, a spark lit, but this one was even stronger than the ones I’d experienced before. It coursed through me like an electrical current. Bright spots danced in front of my vision and then there was nothing at all.
Hale, Tessa. Spark of Fate: A Paranormal Reverse Harem Romance (The Shifting Fate Series Book 1) Kindle Locations (948-991). Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot of things happening in this book, first of course is Rowan’s parents and the weirdness there. Then there’s Sadie, with gossip and sniping. Jasmine and her obsession with Holden and most of all this secret that has me turning the pages to see what is going to happen next. Oh, and that thing with Vaughn, Keene’s brother, is very interesting too.

I love the slow build up in this book, each secret revealed is more intriguing than the last. The ending? Well let’s just say I’m glad this series is complete so I can start the next book right away.

5 Contented Purrs for Tessa!

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Author of love stories with magic, usually with more than one love interest. Constant daydreamer.

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A Midsummer Knight’s Scream – Magical Renaissance Faire Mysteries Book 3 By Nova Nelson


A Midsummer Knight’s Scream
Magical Renaissance Faire Mysteries Book 3
By
Nova Nelson

1cf2a-addtogoodreads

First she fell from Heaven.
Now she’s accused of murder.
What the halo?

Fallen angel Olivia Swift still hasn’t come to terms with the wrongful accusation that got her kicked out of Heaven and stuck in this never ending Renaissance Faire. As she spends her days jousting as the Autumn Knight, the centuries bleed together. But when a routine tilt turns into murder with a packed arena bearing witness, this angel’s endless time in the Kingdom of Elbion could be cut short.

With the help of a criminally minded dove and a chivalrous fellow knight, Olivia has until that night’s Midsummer Feast to exonerate herself by finding the one who framed her. However, that’s easier said than done in a realm with so many spells, secrets, and grudges…

Will this knight complete her quest before the king and queen lop off her heavenly head?

Olivia Swift is a fallen angel, well not really fallen more kicked out for something she didn’t do until they could investigate further. When she fell, her wings separated and are now her companion Pax the mischievous dove.

Olivia jousts as the Knight of Autumn and her match is with Elias Deschain, the Summer Knight. On this particular day he’s very late, and as they wait Ursula Hardcastle, the Winter Knight, and Fabian Goodman the Spring Knight enjoy discussing the current gossip. One rumor being, Brandon Bonmarito, the Falconer, was going to admit his feelings toward a particular knight, although another rumor has it that Queen Magnolia of the fairies has her eye on him. In yet another romance, the pirate captain Bruce Roberts, has been seen in the company of one of Swept Away’s witches. They also mention the sheriff and his not so savory methods.

When Elias shows up, he doesn’t answer Fabian’s question about overindulging, rather just sways in his saddle. This has Olivia wondering if he is capable of the joust, but she doesn’t get the chance to follow up as they are called to the ring.

His helmet has been in place the whole time they circled the ring and even his horse was irritated with him not following the normal routine. After Ursula and Fabian delight the crowd, they’re up, Elias still acting weird but takes his position and his lance, but he starts late and doesn’t begin the tilt. Something was definitely off. Olivia decides to pull back as soon as her lance makes contact but that’s not what happens.

The worst thing is it’s not Elias under that armor. It was an angel named Lazaraphael and he was dead. Killed by the adamantite that formed the head of Olivia’s lance. A note in his armor was in Michaela’s handwriting and instructing him to find Olivia.

This of course has to be reported to the King and Queen.

This is a favorite scene.

Iwas unable to tear my eyes from the handwriting on the paper. “I don’t know… I have nothing to do with that. Why would anyone…? I don’t understand.” Fabian folded up the slip again and tucked it safely away. “I don’t understand it either, but a man is dead, that cannot be denied. And neither can the fact that he died by your lance. You know I hold you in the highest regard, Sir Olivia, but I’m afraid it’s my duty to bring you straight to the court on charges of murder.”

“Fabian, I didn’t know—”

His voice took on a gentler tone as he said, “I believe you in my heart, dear Autumn Knight. But there is no evidence in your favor at this point. It pains me, but I’m duty-bound to let King Symon and Queen Collette decide your guilt and subsequent punishment. Will you come with me willfully, with honor fitting your position as knight, or must I use force?”

“Just go with him,” Ursula said. “I’ll sort out what happens next here. We haven’t canceled a tournament since the plague, and I don’t intend to cancel today’s. I’ll work with Yorick to find some stand-ins. You two go sort out this mess.”

Still slightly in shock, I nodded.

Our jousting plated armor was not only heavy, but restrictive, and Fabian and I both unburdened ourselves of it in the stables, silently stripping down to our gambesons—his the hunter green of spring and mine a deep orange the color of fall foliage. The quilted clothing would feel stifling in the summer heat before long, but by comparison with the armor, I felt cool. It was the only relief I had as my mind continued to spin.

The court of Queen Collette and King Symon wasn’t far. The royals often made appearances to cheer on their knights, but not with any regularity and almost never when completely sober.

Fabian led the way, past the loudest pickle vendor you can imagine, past the mud wrestling tent, and past a group of gnomes who conspired with their heads together near the chapel. They were up to no good for sure, and I spared a thought for the wedding in progress that was undoubtedly about to be interrupted in the most chaotic sort of way.

Fabian didn’t seem to notice any of it, focused as he was on taking me in to see the king and queen.

“Fabian, you have to believe me, I had no idea about the lance. If I was going to kill someone, don’t you think I would, I don’t know, do it somewhere less public?”

“That is a conundrum,” he said, not slowing at all. “And I suspect it’s something you’ll want to mention to Her Majesty and His Highness. I am but a knight. Whether I believe you or not is irrelevant to my duty.”

I tried hard not to roll my eyes at that, but I failed even harder. Sometimes chivalry was a real pain in the halo.

“I demand an audience with the King and Queen, may they die before their time,” Fabian announced to one of the castle guards.

The “may they die before their time,” was, believe it or not, a show of respect around the Kingdom of Elbion. The king and queen (whose curse had gotten us all into this messy trap in the first place) were all but done with life and dealing with it in different ways. King Symon couldn’t get enough of anything. He was enthusiastic, in what I considered a manic sort of way, about everything he came across. Since he couldn’t die, he was easily the most reckless force at the Faire, and he appeared to love every second of it.

Not so for Queen Collette who was, well, not suicidal, but bored in the extreme and pining for the end that would not come. Her pining usually included a drink in her hand. As I’d heard it, Yorick the jester was the one who’d come up with the epitaph of “may they die before their time” when he was on a roll roasting them at a solstice feast, and it had delighted both Queen Collette and King Symon so greatly, they’d delivered a proclamation that all who were true loyal servants should wish such upon them evermore. Death before their time. So long as you weren’t worried about what came after death, I could see the appeal for some.

The guard at the castle gate let us through, and Fabian and I marched onward through the great hall to the throne room.

We found the Queen staring dreamily out a window, a chalice of deep red liquid—probably port if her preferences still held—hanging loosely from one hand. The king was absent, probably out gnome bowling or trying to convince the demon Raquel down at the tavern to sneak off with him. He might even be plotting along with Pax and the ravens.

My mind lingered on Pax. I would have to tell him what trouble I’d landed myself in without meaning to, and I could only imagine what he’d say. His first question was likely to be, “Well? Did the guy deserve it?” No judgement at least.

But it was a tricky question. Had Lazaraphael deserved to die? Probably not, but I tend to think no one deserves it. Better to let nature decide those matters than to have anyone take it upon themselves to make the plans. At the same time, if anyone “deserved” it, Lazaraphael might be a good candidate. He wasn’t exactly, well, an angel. Well, maybe literally, just not figuratively. He had a reputation for cruelty back in Heaven, and I’d always done my best to stay away from him when I could.

And now, he’d come searching for me. That couldn’t be good. “Your Majesty,” Fabian announced as he strode forward, pushing me a step ahead of him. “Your great and loyal knight Sir Olivia Swift has just been witnessed by a large crowd, including myself, your humble servant, murdering an angel with her lance.”

The queen tore her gaze from the window at the word “murder,” and she inspected both of us through unfocused eyes. “Someone murdered someone?”

“Yes,” Fabian said, straightening his posture even further, which I didn’t think possible. “This woman. Sir Olivia Swift, angel from Heaven and Knight of Autumn. She has slain a man with a rod of unholy adamantite through the chest.”

The queen’s eyebrows rose, and she studied me silently for a long moment before speaking. “Sir Olivia Swift, this adamantite sounds like a powerful substance if it could be used to kill an angel. Tell me, could it possibly murder me as well?”

I knew which answer she was hoping for, and in a way, I wished I could give it to her, but it would have been a lie easily exposed. “I’m afraid I don’t know enough about your particular particular spell to guess. Usually, jamming a rod of anything through someone’s chest can be lethal, with the exception of beings like me who are immortal. The exception to that is adamantite. It only has one purpose that I know of, and that’s to kill angels and gods.”

Queen Collette considered that, looking unmistakably disappointed.

She addressed Fabian next. “Then I’m not sure why you brought her here, Sir Knight. Did you not read the latest decree?”

“I did, Your Majesty, it’s just that justice—”

“It specifically said not to bother me unless you’ve found a way to kill me. This adamantite sounds promising, but unless it works, I don’t care.”

Fabian maintained his stately manner, but I could hear a shade of uncertainty coloring his voice. “I understand, Your Majesty, it’s just that this knight, who is bound to serve you, has killed an angel.”

“Was the angel one of ours?”

“No, Your Majesty.”

“Then this sounds more like something for the sheriff.”

Fabian cringed. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

I wasn’t ready to involve that man in this mess, though. Sheriff Watson Boswell was as corrupt as he was lazy. Perhaps his laziness had planted the original seed of that corruption, but it had sure blossomed into a whole garden of thorns in the years since. I would do just about anything to not have to see him and smell those two troll henchmen who followed him around.

No, keeping him out of this was best. If there was some sort of conspiracy afoot to frame me for murder, he would be so easily paid off to claim I acted with malice and intention that I would be visiting the executioner before I knew it. Normally, such a threat wouldn’t have bothered me, because as I said, I’m an angel and it’s nearly impossible to kill me. But the one substance that could achieve my demise was now at play within the walls of the Faire; and so, for the first time in centuries, I found myself in a life-or-death situation. I wasn’t a fan of it.

“I propose something different,” I said to the queen. “I won’t deny that it was my lance that killed the angel, but I swear to Your Majesty that I didn’t know what was inside my lance. I didn’t even know what was inside the other set of armor. I thought it was Elias Deschain, the Summer Knight. I thought he was acting funny because he’d had too much to drink the night before.” I paused, trying to gauge her interest. Not much, but perhaps enough to keep going. The true enemy of the queen was boredom, not the potential of a dangerous murderer loose among her subjects. So long as I could keep her somewhat interested and promise some intrigue, I might have a chance to set this right. “Someone else wanted me to commit that murder. I don’t know why. Tonight is the Midsummer Feast, a time of great celebration and a turning point. If you’ll give me until tonight’s feast to investigate this oddity, I’ll have your answer and present it there.”

Her left brow hitched up just the slightest bit. “In front of everyone?”

“If you wish.”
Nelson, Nova. A Midsummer Knight’s Scream: A Paranormal Cozy Mystery (Magical Renaissance Faire Mysteries Book 3) Kindle Locations (286-355). The Faire Ladies LLC. Kindle Edition.

Olivia manages to get the Queen to allow her until the Midsummer’s Feast that night to find the one who set her up to kill.

The investigation takes many twists and turns. Who was actually behind it all, surprised me. I got a real kick out of Pax and his antics, and I loved the friendship and support Olivia gets from her friends. That support helps her in more than one decision.

I look forward to reading more of this fun series.

5 Contented Purrs for Nova!

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Nova Nelson

Nova Nelson grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie novels. She loves the mind candy of cozy mysteries and has been weaving paranormal tales since she first learned handwriting. Those two loves meet in her Eastwind Witches series, and it’s about time, if she does say so herself.

When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys long walks with her strong-willed dogs and eating breakfast for dinner.

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Unicorns and Honey Cakes – Shifters and Sweets Book 1 by Zoe Chant


Unicorns and Honey Cakes
Shifters and Sweets Book 1
By
Zoe Chant

1cf2a-addtogoodreads

Everything is coming up roses.
Way too many roses.

Gale has a problem. A really thorny problem.

He can’t touch anything made of wood without it bursting into bloom… which is inconvenient, to say the least. Clearly, his unicorn is cranky about something – Gale just wishes he knew what.

In the meantime, being cursed with the world’s most annoying green thumb is making it pretty much impossible to continue working as a sous chef. Maybe a relaxing trip into the mountains will be enough to soothe his sullen unicorn.

After years of hard work, Sylvie’s dream has finally come true: she’s opened her own bakery in her sleepy little hometown, and her signature dishes are selling like… well, hotcakes. That is, until the flashy new bakery down the road opens up – and they’re not only stealing her customers, but her recipes as well.

When the hottest guy she’s ever seen walks through her door, Sylvie knows there’s something special about him… but a gorgeous guy coming in to buy her cakes is hardly going help her save her business. Right?

Gale MacEwan’s unicorn has become extremely ornery. If Gale touches anything natural flowers grow, lots of flowers.

He’s decided to go to the mountains to spend some time with nature all around. Hoping this would calm his unicorn. Right now, he’s hungry and looking for a place to eat that won’t out his out-of-control gift of growth.

The one he finds, serves him the best chili dog and fries he’s had in a long time and for some reason the woman who served him seems to know he’s a chef. Not questioning it, he also makes note of her recommendation to check out Sylvie’s Sweets and Bakery and not the ‘other’ bakery.

Sylvie Taylor has a problem. The new bakery in town Johnson’s Pies and Bakery seems to get her newly created recipes before she can launch them. No one seems to know anything about the owner and all the workers are out of towners, easy to spot in a small town like Girdwood Springs.

Sylvie needs to figure out how they are getting the jump on her ideas. She’s sure it isn’t Emily, her apprentice, she’s been here from the start.

Gale does stop at Sylvie’s bakery and is pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

This is a favorite scene.

“Well, it looks and smells delicious,” Gale said honestly. He wondered why Sylvie was so nervous – and why, with goods like these, her bakery was empty of customers besides him. This place should be bustling! Maybe it was busier in the mornings? The display case seemed to be a little too full for that, though – he’d had his pick of cakes and tarts. But perhaps it had just been restocked, in the expectation of more customers looking for something sweet after lunch?

Either way, it was clear Sylvie was giving him her full attention. She hovered at the table a moment, before she flapped her hands a little, shaking her head.

“Sorry! I don’t mean to stare at you while you eat! I’ll – I’ll just leave you to it and go heat up the apple rose.”

Gale watched her go as she made her way back behind the counter, picking out an apple rose before taking it out the back to heat up. She was hard not to look at.

Sighing, Gale turned his attention back to his tart – which was also tempting, though in a very different way. He was so eager to taste it that he didn’t notice that the handle of the little fork Sylvie had given him to eat with was made of carved wood until he’d almost touched it, and he jerked his hand back as if he’d touched a burning hot pan.

He wondered if he should just ask Sylvie for another one, but she still hadn’t reappeared from out the back of the bakery yet.

Oh, well, he thought, picking up the tart with his fingers. It was pretty small, and he’d been told he had big hands. He shouldn’t make too much of a mess eating it like this.

He closed his eyes as he lifted the tart to his mouth, taking a bite.

Oh. Oh my God. I think I might have died and gone to Heaven.

The baked tart was just that good.

Gale chewed, letting the flavors roll through his mouth. The pine nuts gave the tart a soft, mellow taste that was balanced by the sweetness of the honey and richness of the butter. Gale had tasted a lot of desserts in his time, but this had to be one of the most delicious. It wasn’t just the combination of the butter, pine nuts and honey that made this so good, though – there was something else there too, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on –

“Is it good?”

His eyes sprang open at the sound of Sylvie’s voice. She was standing behind the counter again, blinking, her teeth worrying at her lower lip.

Gale nodded, still chewing, the tart soft and gooey in his mouth.

“It’s amazing,” he said once he’d swallowed. “You said you’d added your own twist – what is it? There’s something in there I can’t quite pin down.”

A pink flush suffused Sylvie’s face as she broke out into a grin. Gale was utterly charmed as he watched it spreading across her cheeks and down her throat. Clearly, Sylvie was someone who wore her heart on her sleeve, every emotion she felt plain to see on her face.

“Well, some recipes have lemon zest in them, just for an extra bit of zing,” she said, her words coming out in a rush. “But I use lemon and orange zest, so it has a little bit of a different feel to it. Plus I use orange blossom honey, so it gives it that kind of floral taste. I think it works well, don’t you? I mean, not that I’d tell you what to think or anything like that…”

Sylvie trailed off, blinking, looking as if she’d said something she thought she shouldn’t have, though Gale couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

“Well, whatever you do, it’s clearly working,” he said, looking appreciatively down at the tart in his hand. “Because I could eat one – or ten – of these every day for the rest of my life.”

He took another bite, savoring the taste all over again. It was really amazing, and now that Sylvie had pointed it out, he could taste the orange and lemon zest beneath the sweetness of the honey.

The tart was small enough that it was gone in another two bites – it was rich enough in taste that its petite size was just right. Gale shook his head, still slightly amazed by just how good it had been.

Order another one, his unicorn suggested, with a flick of its tail. You should make sure she knows how much you enjoyed it.

Gale thought he might do just that – though, now that he thought about it, maybe he’d just come back tomorrow. His cabin was only a short drive farther up the mountain, after all, and it’d be a good excuse to come back and see Sylvie again –

“Your apple rose,” Sylvie said, placing it in front of him. The smell that rose up from it was heavenly. Sylvie glanced down at the unused fork by his hand. “Um. Is it dirty? I can get you a new one if there’s something wrong –”

“No, there’s nothing wrong,” Gale said quickly. “I just… like to get in touch with my food. You know. Really get a feel for it.”

What the hell am I saying?! he berated himself, as Sylvie simply blinked at him.

“Oh – well, I’ll get you a spoon anyway. For the ice cream,” she said, reaching behind her for the cutlery tray on the counter. “Here you go.”

The spoon, thankfully, was metal-handled, so Gale had nothing to worry about as he tucked into his apple rose.

It was just as delicious as the pine nut and honey tart had been – the apple was tender and sweet, and again, there was a little something extra beneath the expected nutmeg and cinnamon spice…

“Is that cardamom I taste in there?” Gale asked, looking up at Sylvie.

Sylvie looked surprised. “Yes, it is. Not many people pick it, though.”

“It definitely adds an extra something,” Gale said – and it did. “But then, I love cardamom. I used to put it in my coffee, before I quit drinking it.”

Because it made my unicorn hyperactive, he did not add.

“Oh, well done you for managing to quit,” Sylvie said, laughing. “I can’t get through a morning without it – but then, that’s what four thirty a.m. starts will do for you. The joys of being a baker.”

“Believe me, I get you. Though it was the opposite for me – you work a lot of late nights as a chef.”

“Oh – you’re a chef?” Sylvie blinked, a look of confusion crossing her face. “I thought – ” She shook her head. “But then, that makes total sense. I did think you must have been a chef, before – well, before.”

Gale frowned a little, not sure he understood what she meant. But how had she known he was a chef? Surely not just because he knew what cardamom was. It wasn’t the most common of spices, but it wasn’t exactly unknown, either.

But then, Eula back at the diner somehow knew as well. Maybe somehow it’s just obvious?

“You’re the second person today to guess that,” Gale said, shaking his head. “Did someone stick a sign to my back or something?”

Sylvie’s eyebrows drew together. “Well, Eula from the diner did call me,” she said slowly. “But… I didn’t really think she was… I mean, not until I saw you and I realized…” She trailed off, biting her lip. “I mean, we are talking about the same thing, aren’t we?”

“That… I’m a chef?” Gale said, feeling mystified.

“Oh – yes,” Sylvie said. “But… your other job…”

Gale shook his head. “I’m sorry – I don’t have another job. Not right now, anyway, though in the past I’ve worked at a few different things – handyman, a bit of time on some building sites, and – don’t laugh – I was a night watchman at a cemetery for a little while, but that’s all in the past.”

To his surprise, Sylvie looked a little crestfallen. Maybe it was the cemetery part – mention of cemeteries usually didn’t make people smile.

“Oh,” she said after a moment. “No, I – sorry, I wasn’t really talking about you being a chef. I’m sorry – Eula at the diner said some things to me and I didn’t believe her, but then I saw you, and I guess I let my imagination run away with me…” Sylvie trailed off, shaking her head. “Sorry! Now I’m running my mouth and not making any sense! I’ll just leave you in peace to eat your apple rose. Please just let me know if there’s anything else I can get for you – we do tea and coffee here, too.”

Gale swallowed, his heart pounding. He wasn’t sure why, except that Sylvie was clearly disappointed about something. Plus, he didn’t understand what she meant – what had Eula at the diner said that could have upset her?

Comfort her, his unicorn ordered him imperiously. A lady is perturbed – will you allow her to go without offering her aid?

Of course not, Gale told it, glad Sylvie had turned away and wouldn’t see the scowl that crossed his face. As if he wouldn’t try to find out what had upset her, and help her if he could!

“Sylvie?” he said, standing and reaching out to her, his hand brushing against her shoulder. “Is there something wrong? Did I say something?”

“No, no,” Sylvie said, shaking her head as she turned back to him. “Like I said – I just let my imagination run wild for a second, and got my hopes up.” She hesitated, then laughed lightly. “Well, I may as well tell you, so you can have a little giggle with me. There’s been a rumor going around that a famous food critic is going to pass through town. Have you ever heard of Aubrey Z.?”

“Of course,” Gale said instantly. Everyone in the restaurant business had heard of Aubrey Z. Their reviews were legendary.

“Of course,” Sylvie echoed, nodding. “Well… Eula got it into her head – and, I swear, you’ll laugh – she decided that you must be Aubrey Z., and so when you came in here and seemed to like my stuff so much, I thought, well, maybe a little luck had finally come my way…”

Sylvie sounded so dispirited that there was no way Gale could have laughed at her story. Instead, his heart went out to her.

“I’m sorry, but no, I’m not Aubrey Z.,” he said, as gently as he could. “Though if I could, I’d definitely start a website just to sing the praises of these tarts – they’re seriously the best I’ve ever tasted, and I mean it.”

“Thank you,” Sylvie said softly. “That does actually mean a lot to me. And, uh, thank you for not laughing at me.”

“I would never,” Gale said seriously. Obviously, he’d never laugh at someone who’d just been disappointed, even if the idea of him being Aubrey Z. was kind of weird. He swallowed. He wished there was something he could do to make Sylvie smile again – and he wanted to ask her what bad luck she’d had recently that had made her so hopeful things might be turning around for her.

He wasn’t usually the type to want to pry into someone’s personal business, but there was just something about Sylvie that wasn’t making him act like his usual self, in any respect. He didn’t usually stare at women in helpless awe of their beauty either, but that’s what he’d been doing with Sylvie from the moment he’d arrived!

“Sylvie,” Gale said, not really sure what he was going to say, only that it was something, “I know we only just met, but if there’s anything I can do to help you –”

As he spoke, Gale reached out without really meaning to – and his hand came down on hers where it rested on the table next to the vase of flowers.

Immediately, Gale felt a ripple of electricity flowing right through him – through his fingers, up his arm, and settling in his chest.

As his eyes widened in shock, his unicorn reared up within him, plowing the air with its hooves, its mane shimmering as it flowed out behind it, mouth opening in a forceful cry.

Mine! Mine! Mine! My mate!
Chant, Zoe . Unicorns and Honey Cakes Kindle Locations (350-411). Kindle Edition.

With his unicorn’s declaration that Sylvie is his mate, Gale touches the wooden fork, and it starts to bloom. Fortunately, under the menu where it wouldn’t be seen.

He gets it together as they discuss her treats and the use of unusual spices to create them. When she acknowledges she has a ‘black’ thumb, he confesses to be a gardener of sorts, having much luck creating gardens where nothing would previously thrive.

Now he has an in, but he still has to court her and tell her not only about his unicorn but also that she’s his mate.

Let’s not forget the mystery of the new bakery getting her recipes needs to be solved as well.

This is a fun read, with laughter and a unique solution.

5 Contented Purrs for Zoe!

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Zoe Chant loves writing paranormal romance. Over a cup of tea (or something stronger) she whips up sexy tales of hunky heroes and adventurous heroines to tantalize and satisfy her readers. Sizzling hot romance, no cliffhangers!

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