NEW RELEASE & REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: Touch of Red by Laura Griffin

Tracers Book Twelve; Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

When crime scene investigator Brooke Porter arrives at the home of a murdered woman, the only thing more shocking than the carnage is the evidence that someone escaped the scene. But where is this witness now? A thorough search of the area yields more questions than answers, and before Brooke even packs up her evidence kit, she’s made it her goal to find the witness and get them out of harm’s way.

Homicide detective Sean Byrne has seen his share of bloody crime scenes, but this one is particularly disturbing, especially because Brooke Porter is smack in the middle of it. Sean has had his eye on the sexy CSI for months, and he’s determined to help her with her current case—even if it means putting his attraction on hold so he and Brooke can track down a murderer. But as the investigation—and their relationship—heats up, Sean realizes that keeping his work and his personal life separate is more complicated than he ever imagined; especially when the killer sets his sights on Brooke.

 

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Full of mystery and romance, Touch of Red brought another climactic story to Griffin’s Tracers series. Written with differing sides of law enforcement (forensics versus police procedural), it perfectly marries the two genres of romance and suspense while giving readers a meaty and thrilling story to sink their teeth into.

There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t enthralled and in need of finding the answers faster, but Griffin also kept the pace consistently steady with an enjoyable crescendo of a build-up throughout. The depth of knowledge that is put into each character and their complicated professions never goes unnoticed, and again I’m amazed at how exact and scientific every case in this series is. Brooke’s passion and hardheadedness was alive on the pages, and the steadiness of Sean’s character mixed and clashed with her beautifully, both professionally and personally. That push-pull was subtle in nature, but profound in its reverberations, keeping their connection thriving as the story progressed.

Touch of Red was an exciting and unputdownable story that will truly captivate readers who love shows like CSI or Law & Order. Griffin’s prose was easy to fall into and to be carried away with on their exciting journey. Both characters were strong and vivid, and easily someone you’d root for in real life. And I cannot help but look forward to where Griffin will take us next!

 

♦SERIES♦

Click on the cover to buy; each book stands alone.


My Review

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

lg

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author LAURA GRIFFIN started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner (for the books Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Laura currently lives in Austin where she is working on her next book.

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NEW RELEASE & REVIEW: Follow by Tessa Bailey

Standalone

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He wants her soul. Too bad she already sold it.

Family is everything to gambling den darling, Teresa Valentini. Blood comes first, especially before men. So when her brother lands himself in hot water, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to save him. And showing up topless in her unwitting savior’s motel room is turning out to be the furthest thing from a hardship…

Will Caruso is the bad boy of New York’s financial scene…and he just found out the very thing that drives his success is a damn lie. Now, he’s exchanged his high-stress life for the open road, no one but his Great Dane…and half a million Instagram followers to keep him company. When a mysterious beauty arrives, her secrecy prods his suspicions, even while she tempts his lust to the breaking point.

Teresa met Will under false pretenses, but the bond consuming them is real. They’re strong enough to overcome a little betrayal…aren’t they?

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Tantalizing and provocative, Follow easily became an addictive story from the first page. There will be no surprise that Bailey easily penned two complex, well-rounded main characters with a distinct and unique path for them to journey on. But what will be surprising is her ability to pull a kinked rabbit out of her dirty bag’o’tricks to make this story distinctly her own brand, and in a rare (for her) first-person written form, too.

For a story cloaked in secrecy, the depth of raw honesty between Teresa and Will was all too vivid. The confidence and badass personas they constructed to push the playing field to their benefit became a stalemate of epic proportions as sexual tensions escalated. Bailey’s rare skill of creating an erotic story different from everything else she’s written again shines brightly as she adds a new level to her game. Written with the most basic of human instincts in mind, she fleshed out the guttural aspects of a human to human emotional and sexual connection with ease and a trained hand. Their connection, in every way, spoke volumes to how beautifully the story was woven as it built higher and higher.

Follow was incredibly erotic, but only because Bailey made these characters work for that level of exposure of themselves and for the power to envelop us. I want to see more stories like this from her–stories that beg to be devoured and demand to become a part of you, and she’s been delivering on that for years. The level of heat that emits from this story is sky-high, but it had a strong plot, character growth, and a love that was earned. It’s a must-read story, and it will leave you bereft once it’s over.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

The cheers are deafening. Will hoots and rises from his chair, moving into a spot behind mine. Paula takes his place across from me. Everyone crowds in on all sides. And suddenly my world has been narrowed down to an arm wrestling arena.

“All right, baby.” Will’s voice smokes into my ear. “Here’s how we get to five seconds. You’re going to top-roll.”

We? And what is that?”

I sound like a hysterical cartoon character, but Will continues undaunted, his breath on my neck, his thumb massaging me between the shoulder blades. “If we make this a bicep game, she’s got you beat, so we’re going to make it about hands, fingers and wrists, to ease the disadvantage. You’re going to work your palm upwards, along hers, like you’re trying to wrap your hand around the top part of hers. Just hold firm and focus on coming over the top of her.”

Paula is mean mugging me across the table, gum being mutilated between her teeth. “I thought you ran a hedge fund,” I mutter to Will.

“I didn’t always,” he mutters, laying a kiss on my cheek. “Five seconds. You got this.”

“I was wondering why you aren’t already married. Mystery solved. You get a lap dance from your date. Then she gets her arm torn off.”

Another kiss and this time his lips linger on my temple. “You could look at it that way. Or you could look at it mine. Thank fuck I’m not married or I’d have missed the girl who gave me a lap dance, then took on the local gator-wrestling champ. All before lunchtime.” His fingers slide up into my hair and tug, firm and gentle all at once. “Thank fuck, right?”

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

tessa bailey bio

Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.

Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

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REVIEW: A Little Too Late by Staci Hart

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I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with the nanny.

When my wife left, she took the illusion of happiness with her, and I’ve been caught in a free fall ever since. For nine long months, I’ve been fighting to figure out how to be a single dad, how to be alone.

For nine long months, I’ve been failing.

When Hannah walked through the door, I took my first breath since I’d found myself on my own. She slipped into our lives effortlessly, showing me what I’ve been missing all these years. Because Hannah made me smile when I thought I’d packed the notion of happiness away with my wedding album.

She was only supposed to be the nanny, but she’s so much more.

The day my wife left should have been the worst day of my life, but it wasn’t. It was when Hannah walked away, taking my heart with her.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

A Little Too Late was a sweetly decorated love story between a man trapped in his insecurities and the worldly au pair he hires to take care of his children. Hart’s poetically romanticized language brought an additional layer to the story, evoking equal levels of helplessness and growth throughout. As the story progressed, her presence in the household was less about the kids and more about the family as a whole entity bringing with it a wonderful charm.

If you’ve read A Thousand Letters, it might hit you that Charlie and his then-wife had a small part in that story–you certainly don’t need to read it to understand this story as it’s casually explained within it, but it was a nice surprise to have that prior connection. With Charlie’s situation involving his kids, Hart very adeptly and non-judgmentally handled the topic of a father having very little knowledge of how to care for his kids on his own. His level of naivete was very clear, but mixed in with it was this strong epiphanous moment of clarity in realizing how very far out he had traveled emotionally from his family–and his desire to do something about it. Hannah’s calming patience and big heart in showing him the way, both with his kids and in opening his heart again, was very much enjoyable to experience as a reader. Oftentimes male characters don’t have this level of vulnerability and an openness about it, and Hart’s way of tackling that was unabashed and moving.

A Little Too Late was a beautiful addition to Hart’s versed list of novels. She eases the reader into the story very organically and her characters, crisp and original, become larger than the pages. With low angst and a wonderful build to a fresh-feeling romance, this was easily the kind of story that anyone can escape into and get lost with.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

 

CHARLIE

The next morning, I was up and in my office before anyone was awake, attacking my work with newfound enthusiasm and a plan in mind. Because I wanted to feel like I’d felt the night before in the kitchen again, and there was only one way to get that back.

Today, I would take a few breaks and be present. Today, I would change, work be damned. Today would mark the first real attempt. Because change wouldn’t happen on its own. I had to make it happen. And to make it happen, I would have to put boundaries in place, starting with my weekends.

I checked the clock around eleven that morning and closed my laptop, pushing away from my desk and heading up the stairs in search of my children.

When I rounded the corner into the kitchen, I found them sitting at the table with their lunches. And when they saw me, their smiles validated my grand plans with unwavering certainty.

“Hey, guys,” I said, smiling back as I walked over to them, ruffling Sammy’s hair when I passed him.

“Hi, Daddy,” he said.

Maven’s mouth was full, so she just waved, and Hannah smiled at me from the island where she was setting up a spread for sandwiches.

I snagged a grape off Maven’s plate and popped it into my mouth. She handed me another, which I accepted.

“Thanks, pumpkin.”

“Are you done working?” Sammy asked hopefully.

“’Fraid not, bud. But I thought I’d come have lunch with you. Is that okay?”

“Yeah! Want a Nilla Wafer?”

“Psh, obviously. And I thought we could play for a little bit before I have to get back to work. What do you say?”

He nodded, grinning. “We can play trucks! You be the bulldozer and I’ll be the tractor and Maven can be the monster truck and Hannah can be the ambulance because she helps people.”

“Perfect,” I said on a chuckle.

A burst of color caught my eye. A vase on the windowsill behind the table held a spray of red and orange tulips.

“Those are beautiful,” I said, gesturing to them. “Where did they come from?”

“Oh, I picked them up this morning,” Hannah said with that ever-present smile.

“Feeling homesick?”

“Always a little. But I love having fresh flowers in the house, something bright and delicate and alive. Well, maybe not alive anymore, but it feels alive, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” I said as I moved to her side.

“Can I make you a sandwich?” Hannah asked.

“Nah, I think I can manage, thanks. How’s it going this morning?”

“It’s good. We went to the park this morning.”

“I rode my bike!” Sammy crowed.

“Did you? No bumps or scrapes?”

“Nope!”

“I’m impressed. Maybe next time I can come too,” I said, hoping it was something I could deliver as I reached into the bread bag for a stack.

Hannah turned to the cupboard, returning with a plate for me.

“Thank you.”

She was still smiling, standing at my side, assembling her sandwich. It was so mundane, something completely and utterly boring, but like the weirdo that I was, I found myself watching her hands as she folded cold cuts. We worked around each other—not that it was complicated, but there was a sort of rhythm between us, a natural pace wherein I used what she wasn’t and finished just as she needed what I had. I wasn’t sure why I noticed it, but I did, and I appreciated the simple synchronicity of the moment, a breath where things were easy.

I passed her the mustard as she handed me the ham. “So, I was thinking …” I paused.

“Oh, were you?” She glanced over at me with a hint of mirth at the corners of her lips.

“I know. I almost sprained something.”

Hannah laughed gently.

“If it’s okay, I think I’d like to try to handle bedtime tonight.”

“Of course it’s okay; they’re your children.” That time, her laughter was sweet.

“Do you … would you … do you think you could maybe …”

She shifted to face me, her eyes full of encouragement.

“Would you mind … helping me?”

Hannah nodded, her smile opening up. “That’s what I’m here for. Just let me know what you’d like me to do.”

I smiled back. “I’m sorry. I know it sounds stupid. I just … I haven’t done this much on my own, but I’d like to start.”

Her eyes softened, caught by slanting light, lighting up with sunshine. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said simply.

I didn’t speak.

“There’s no right or wrong, and they don’t care about anything other than you being there. It’s simple enough; you only have to try.”

“Is it really that easy?”

“It really is. You’ll see.” She reached for my arm and gave it a squeeze that wasn’t meant to be anything but friendly but held something more, something in the pressure in her fingertips and the depths of her eyes.

It was something I did my very best to ignore. But I felt the heat of those fingertips long after they were gone, even as we sat across the table from each other eating lunch, the tulips in the vase behind her bowing their long heads as the sunlight illuminated them, exposing what was hidden within their petals.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

StaciHartAuthorPic

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey.

From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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NEW RELEASE & REVIEW: Move the Stars by Jessica Hawkins

Something in the Way Book Three; Not a standalone

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Lake
It was a hot summer day when I met him on the construction site next to my parents’ house. If I’d known then what I do now, would I have kept on walking? Manning was older, darker, experienced—and I’d trusted him when he said the story would only ever be about us. I’d held those words close and challenged fate, but I had lost.

A part of me is still that sixteen-year-old girl squinting up at Manning, but no matter how far I fall or high I soar, I’ll always be a bird without her bear and nothing without him.

Manning
When I close my eyes, I can no longer see her. The decisions I made were to push Lake in the right direction—away from me. But now that she’s gone, would I have made those same choices?

I’d walked away like I was supposed to. I’d kept my distance. I’d bent over backward to keep Lake pure, but she’s no longer that girl, and I don’t know if I can stay away anymore. I only know I don’t want to. She’s still everything I want and nothing I should ever have, but if anyone can move the stars, it’s her great bear in the sky.

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Both satisfying and fulfilling, Move the Stars was a just and beautiful ending to an angst-filled trilogy. What has always been great about this series is that Hawkins doesn’t make their path at all easy; instead vividly portraying how heartbreaking and debilitating a love between two people can be. Because I refuse to spoil any part of the final piece of their story, I won’t be commenting on much other than it as a whole.

Throughout this journey, both Manning and Lake have been tormented by choices and consequences. Choices that forced distance and separation and unfulfilled desires. I was curious to how Hawkins would rightly bring it all together and I’m satisfied by how she carried it out. It still held all of the elements of angst that this story has always brought, but it leaned more on the helplessly heartbreaking side of it thus eliciting a different kind of reaction than the prior two books. The emotions were strong and hard and brutal, but very necessary. The gut punches and twisted heart responses were all too real.

The true beauty of Move the Stars was in how tough of a journey it was to get to this point, and how wonderfully it all came together to meet my expectations. Other than some slower moments in the first half, I honestly cannot complain about anything else. The poignancy of this book was spot-on–it easily written on the page and into these two characters. I’m sad to see these two go, but very happy to finally see what beauty Hawkins squeezed from their final stand.

 

♦SERIES♦

Something in the Way Ebook Cover

Something in the Way Book One; Not a standalone | My Review

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Something in the Way Book Two; Not a standalone | My Review

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Jessica Hawkins grew up between the purple mountains and under the endless sun of Palm Springs, California. She studied international business at Arizona State University and has also lived in Costa Rica and New York City. To her, the most intriguing fiction is forbidden, and that’s what you’ll find in her stories. Currently, she resides wherever her head lands, which is often the unexpected (but warm) keyboard of her trusty MacBook.

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