REVIEW: From This Moment by Melanie Harlow

Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

It was like seeing a ghost.

When my late husband’s twin brother moves back to our small town, I want to avoid him. Everything about Wes reminds me of the man I lost and the life we’d planned together, and after eighteen long months struggling just to get out of bed, I’m finally doing okay. I have a new job, an amazing support group, and a beautiful five-year-old daughter to parent. I don’t want to go backward.

But I’m drawn to him, too. He understands my grief and anger and loneliness like no one else—and I understand his. Before long, that understanding becomes desire, and that desire becomes uncontrollable.

We make excuses. We blame our sorrow. We promise each other it will never happen again.

But it does.

And when our secret threatens to destroy his family and my reputation, we’ll have to decide what’s more important—loyalty or love?

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Tenderhearted and romantic, From This Moment captivates and enthralls from the first page. Harlow easily captured all of the little nuances of two people suffering from the different sides of grief–from the regret to the heartache and the guilt. The many issues at hand, one being a woman falling for the identical twin of her deceased husband, were handled with grace and aplomb, leaving the reader to simply follow along as the pages turned and the story unfolded.

With a plotline such as this, one that covers a very sensitive subject and the many hurdles that must be addressed, Harlow didn’t shy away from showing the characters battling with it and finding both strength and mistakes along the way. Hannah’s character had a mountainous obstacle to overcome, and it was refreshing to see her truly struggle with every different aspect of it. Her sensitivity, fears, and sexuality were very present and at the forefront of her character’s being–as they should be. The mutual connection between Hannah and Wes and what they both lost was a connecting factor, but what came out of it was uniquely very much its own thing.

From This Moment was a passionate and delicately-handled love story, one with a healing kind of love that easily encapsulated the reader in its arms. Wes was as dreamy as a hero can be, but the strength and perseverance of Hannah was the shining factor–a trait emboldened by his support and friendship. It’s a beautiful story with an even more beautiful message to tell.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“Want to go out in the canoe?” he asked.

“Okay.” I ditched my flip-flops on the small, beach-level deck, and we set our wine glasses and the bottle on the deck’s little round table. Wes was already barefoot. Together we dragged the forest green canoe from the tall beach grasses on the side of the deck down to the water’s edge and tipped it over.

“Let me rinse it out a little,” Wes said, frowning at the dirt and spider webs inside. “Want to grab the paddles? They should be in the shed.”

“On it.” I went to the small shed on the embankment, opened it up and grabbed the oars, which stood in one corner. On the shelves were life jackets and sand toys and deflated rafts that probably had holes in them, and scratched into the wooden door among other graffiti was WP + CB. Huh. I’d never noticed that before. Who was CB? I glanced over my shoulder at Wes, who’d taken off his T-shirt and tossed it onto the sand.

My stomach full-out flipped.

Quickly, I shut the door to the shed and brought the oars down to the canoe.

Wes stood up straight and stuck his hands on his hips. He wore different sunglasses than Drew had worn, more of an aviator than a wayfarer. The body was similar, though Wes’s arms seemed more muscular, especially through the shoulder. Other things were the same and caused a rippling low in my body—the soft maroon color of his nipples, the trim waist, the trail of hair leading from his belly button to beneath the low-sling waistband of his red swim trunks. In my head I heard Tess’s voice. Arms. Chest. Shoulders. Skin. Stubble. Muscle. The smell of a man. The solidity of him.

“What’s the law on drinking and canoeing?” he asked.

What’s the law on staring at your brother-in-law’s nipples? I wondered, swallowing hard. What was wrong with me?

“I think we’re okay,” I said, handing the oars to him. Our hands touched in the exchange. “Let me grab our glasses.”

“Perfect. If you hold them, I’ll take us out.”

I retrieved the wine glasses from the table and walked carefully across the sand to the lake’s edge, taking deep, slow breaths. A sweat had broken out across my back. I was wearing a swimsuit beneath my cover up, a modest tankini, but I didn’t want to remove it. Wading ankle deep, I attempted to step into the canoe, but it wobbled beneath my foot.

“Whoa.” Wes took me by the elbow and didn’t let go until I was seated at one end, facing the other. “Okay?”

I nodded. Despite the heat, my arms had broken out in goose flesh.

“All right, here we go.” As he rowed us away from shore, the breeze picked up, cooling my face and chest and back.

“Drew and I used to have canoe-tipping contests.”

I snapped my chin down and skewered Wes with a look over the top of my sunglasses. “Don’t even think about it.”

He just grinned, the muscles in his arms and chest and stomach flexing with every stroke of the oars through the water. Momentarily mesmerized, I allowed myself the pleasure of watching him. It was okay if we were both thinking about Drew, wasn’t it?

In fact, it was only natural that I was intrigued by the sight of Wes’s body. He was my husband’s identical twin, for heaven’s sake, and I missed his physical presence in my life. I missed looking at him naked. I missed feeling the weight of him above me. I missed the feeling of being aroused by him, of my body’s responses to his touch, his kiss, his cock.

Deep in my body, the rusty mechanism of arousal creaked to life. My nipples peaked, my stomach hollowed, and something fluttered between my legs.

Oh, Jesus.

I sat up straighter, pressed my knees together, and closed my mouth, which I realized had fallen open. Hopefully I hadn’t moaned or anything. After another sip of wine, I turned my head and studied a freighter off in the distance. My heart was beating way too fast.

It’s only natural. It’s only natural.

Wes stopped paddling and set the oars in the bottom of the canoe, their handles resting against the seat in the middle. “We’ll have to bring Abby out here.”

“Definitely.” Did my voice sound normal? “She’ll love it. Here, want this?” I held his wine glass toward him and he reached out to take it. His fingers brushed mine, and I pulled my hand back as if the touch had burned me.

“Thanks.” He tipped the glass up then looked along the shore. “I’d like to find a place on the lake. Maybe not along this stretch of beach, though.”

I caught his meaning and smiled. “A little too close to home?”

“Yeah. But I don’t want to be too far away. I’d like to get a boat too.”

“What kind of boat? Drew always talked about it, but we never quite settled on one.”

“Not sure. Maybe just a little fishing boat, something to ski behind.”

“That sounds fun. Drew loved to ski.”

“We’ll have to teach Abby.”

I laughed. “You, not we. I managed to get up and stay up a few times, but I am not the expert.”

“You can teach her to cook, I’ll teach her to water ski.”

“Deal.” Separate activities seemed like a good idea.

“Breakfast was incredible.”

“Thanks.” I tucked a strand of hair that had escaped my ponytail behind my ear, but the wind blew it right back into my face. “I really like working there. I’m so glad Georgia suggested it to me.”

“How long have you been there?”

“Since spring, when they got busy. I’m not sure what I’ll do this winter when it slows down. I’m dreading it, actually. Abby will be in school full time, and it will just be me at home alone.” This was something else I hadn’t talked about with anyone, how worried I was that the gray skies and cold weather and silent hours would set me spiraling into depression. “I always thought I’d have another baby to take care of, but life saw things differently.”

“You’re still young, Hannah.”

I shook my head. “I’m really not. And I feel even older than I am.” Please don’t go Grief Police on me and tell me I’m being ridiculous, I begged him silently. This isn’t the life I chose. It was handed to me and I’m doing the best I can.

But he didn’t say anything more, just sipped his wine and looked out at the horizon. I was grateful.

“What about you?” I asked. “Think maybe you’ll get married now that you’re back? Have a family? Abby won’t have any siblings so she needs some cousins.”

“That seems to be a popular topic of discussion around here,” Wes said, shaking his head, “but I really have no idea.”

“Small town. We like to know everyone’s business.” I smiled. “Hey, what about CB? I saw your initials carved with hers on the door of the shed. Maybe she’s still around.”

He groaned. “Is that still there? Jesus. That had to be twenty years ago.”

Hugging my knees, I leaned forward. “First love?”

“Not even.” He hesitated, as if he were trying to decide whether to confess something.

“Come on,” I cajoled, carefully reaching out of the canoe, and splashing water toward him. “Tell me. I’ve been spilling my guts for an hour.”

“First kiss.”

I squealed. “And?”

He cringed. “It’s too embarrassing.”

“Wes, I had a completely humiliating breakdown in front of you last night. I got snot on my arm.”

“This is worse.”

“Get it out. You’ll feel better.”

“Let’s just say it was a very awkward, very fast experience.”

I gasped. “You lost your virginity to her?”

“No. Just my dignity.”

Laughing, I tilted my head back and felt the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and something like joy in my heart.

It had been a long time.

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.

Melanie is the author of the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.

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REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: Hideaway by Penelope Douglas

Devils Night Book Two; Not a standalone

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♦BLURB♦

DEVIL’S NIGHT is returning! Hiding places, chases, and all the games are back…

BANKS

Buried in the shadows of the city, there’s a hotel called The Pope. Ailing, empty, and dark—it sits abandoned and surrounded by a forgotten mystery.

But you think it’s true, don’t you, Kai Mori? The story about the hidden twelfth floor. The mystery of the dark guest who never checked in and never checks out. You think I can help you find that secret hideaway and get to him, don’t you?

You and your friends can try to scare me. You can try to push me. Because even though I struggle to hide everything I feel when you look at me—and have ever since I was a girl—I think that maybe what you seek is so much closer than you’ll ever realize.

I will never betray him.

So sit tight.

On Devil’s Night, the hunt will be coming to you.

KAI

You have no idea what I seek, Little One. You don’t know what I had to become to survive three years in prison for a crime I would gladly commit again.

No one can know what I’ve turned into.

I want that hotel, I want to find him, and I want this over.

I want my life back.

But the more I’m around you, the more I realize this new me is exactly who I was meant to be.

So come on, kid. Don’t chicken out. My house is on the hill. So many ways in, and good luck finding your way out.

I’ve seen your hideaway. Time to see mine.

*Hideaway is a romantic suspense suitable for ages 18+. While the romance is a stand-alone, the plot is a continuation of events that began in CORRUPT (Devil’s Night, #1). It is strongly recommended that you have read Corrupt prior to reading this. It is currently on sale for $0.99.

 

♦3.5-STAR REVIEW♦

A long-awaited second installment in a series that started with such an amazingly dark and tantalizing story, Hideaway continues in the tradition of the one before it. Told in both the past and present with viewpoints from both of our two main characters, we travel back six years ago, before the story of Corrupt ever happened, to when Banks and Kai first met and their twisted story that carries to the present.

With a contentious relationship at best, Banks and Kai have circled one another, constantly pulling the other in while taking steps back, for years. Banks is an enigma to him, a woman so unlike others, but he’s inextricably drawn to her–her strength, her brash attitude, her loyalty. There’s more than an attraction between them as it’s muddled by the hatred of Damon, someone she’s impossibly tied to, so their love-hate is all too real, all too twisted around immovable barriers. And yet, in spite of that, something special grows between the cracks and blossoms into a beautiful and strong love. A love that suffers many setbacks that created delicious emotion and physical tension.

Having adored and been consumed by every prior Penelope Douglas book, I have to admit that I was surprised this book didn’t affect me in the same manner. I couldn’t get myself into the story, constantly placing it down when it wasn’t holding my attention, and I was beyond frustrated because this is Penelope Douglas and I LOVED Corrupt. I knew these characters and had a connection with them from back when, and I just couldn’t immerse myself. I enjoyed the story, don’t get me wrong, but the plot was too long-winded. Too much filler left a loose story that felt like it never got anywhere until suddenly it did to then fall off again. This is the sole reason why it wasn’t a 5-star. I loved the characters, I felt the attraction and the rising tension, it just took way too long to get anywhere with it, and I think the romance suffered a bit with it.

Hideaway was another thrilling installment in a dark storyline that will continue on to the next book (and I assume, the one after that). It was truly a pleasure to see the gang again, to fall back into their strife with Damon and everything that surrounded it, and to fall in love with Kai and Banks. But I think we’re all itching to see what Douglas does with Damon in his story next and how she can possibly redeem the irredeemable (…and we’re not worried because we know she can).

 

♦SERIES♦

Corrupt 500x777

Devils Night Book One

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My Review

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Penelope D

Penelope Douglas is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Fall Away series.

She dresses for autumn year round, loves anything lemon flavored, and believes there is too much blood in her Coca Cola stream. Or too much Coca Cola in her blood stream. Or…

You know what? It doesn’t matter. She loves Coke. Now you know.

She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and daughter.

Website ⊥ Facebook ⊥ Twitter ⊥ Pinterest ⊥ Instagram ⊥ Goodreads

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REVIEW w/ EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Intermediate Thermodynamics by Susannah Nix

Book Two; Standalone

Romantic Comedy

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♦BLURB♦

Aerospace engineer Esther Abbott doesn’t believe in love, but she’s perfectly happy hating her screenwriter neighbor, Jonathan. Until she’s forced to make a devil’s bargain with him: if he distracts her best friend from a mouth-breather ex, Esther will be his science advisor for the sci-fi script he’s writing.

Her patience is put to the test when it’s time to fulfill her end of the deal. But the more time she spends with her nemesis, the more hate turns into attraction—and attraction into something much deeper. As Esther’s carefully-constructed defenses start to crumble, will love be her undoing or her salvation?

Intermediate Thermodynamics follows in the tradition of contemporary romantic comedy favorites like Penny Reid, Sally Thorne, and Jennifer Crusie. This sweet, enemies-to-lovers romance is the second in a series of standalone rom-coms featuring geeky heroines who work in STEM fields.

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Lighthearted and smart, Intermediate Thermodynamics was a fresh and fun take on a rom-com. With Nix’s unique characters, both immensely smart and well-tasked in their respective careers, their banter and intelligence played off of one other in a funny and charming way, making it easy to laugh and quickly turn the pages for more. Along with the humor was the slow, but beautiful progression from a love-hate dynamic to more, and the ease with which it was to transition from one to the other without either character noticing.

Nix penned a wonderful, well-rounded female character in Esther. Her practicality and fierce independence were strong personality traits, and yet even when she was blinded by hate flipping into love, she maintained her head while not ignoring heart even if it took everything within her to do so (and many internal swift kicks). I loved the sweetness of Jonathan, both his charm and pull, and how they were so very different from one another, but found so much of a sense of home in each other.

Filled with heart and humor, Intermediate Thermodynamics was a well-rounded story with compelling characters and a beautiful love story. As a new reader to Nix, I enjoyed getting to know her writing style and seeing her spin on romance. Well-written and unbelievably enjoyable, this is a book not to miss.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“He’s cute,” Jinny whispered when he was out of sight.

Esther gave her a sidelong glance. “Who?”

“Him. Your neighbor. Whatshisname.”

“Jonathan? Ugh. No. He’s not.” Pretentious, beanie-clad, farmer’s-market-shopping hipsters weren’t Esther’s type. Objectively, she supposed he might be considered attractive—so long as he didn’t open his mouth and start talking. He was just so damn annoying, it was impossible to separate his looks from his personality.

Yeah, he is,” Jinny insisted. “He looks like a young Jake Gyllenhaal. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

“He does not look like Jake Gyllenhaal.” Esther didn’t even like Jake Gyllenhaal, but she felt this was an unfair aspersion against him that required her defense.

“Come on, he’s got that great, thick, wavy dark hair—”

“Which is always covered by those dumb beanies he wears.”

Jinny sniffed. “I like a man in a beanie.”

Of course she does. Stuart wore beanies all the time. So did half the men in LA under thirty, but still. Esther felt justified in her loathing of them.

“Plus, he’s got those soulful blue eyes,” Jinny added.

Soulful? What was she talking about? Esther wrinkled her nose. “You can’t even tell what his eyes look like under those hipster glasses.”

“I love those glasses! Guys in glasses are super hot. Oh!” Jinny reached over and smacked Esther on the arm. “You know who else he looks like? Dev Patel.”

Esther stared at her. “Dev Patel is Indian.”

“I know that. Duh.”

“And looks nothing like Jake Gyllenhaal or Jonathan, both of whom are white.”

Jinny laid her magazine aside and leaned back, crossing her legs. “It’s the hair. Jonathan has the same great hair Dev Patel has. The kind you want to run your fingers through.” She wiggled her fingers for emphasis. “And that beard. God, I love a beard.”

Stuart had a beard. Although his hair was golden brown instead of Jonathan’s darker, almost-black-brown.

Esther’s eyes narrowed as she tried to decide whether Jinny was actually interested in Jonathan or projecting Stuart onto him. “How long have you felt this way about my neighbor?”

Jinny shrugged and reached for her mimosa. “I’ve always thought he was cute.” Her phone vibrated beside her, and she picked it up. “Ugh. I wish Stuart would just leave me alone.”

Esther frowned. “What does he want?”

Jinny set her phone down without replying. “Forgiveness. Reconciliation. More sex. Take your pick.”

“I’m telling you, you should get a restraining order.”

“Thanks, your honor, but I don’t need a restraining order. It’s just Stuart.”

Stuart, who’d been gaslighting Jinny for the better part of six months. Who had her convinced she was dating above her level and should be grateful for his half-assed attentions. Who steered her around like a child.

Esther eyed her suspiciously. “You’re considering it, aren’t you? Taking him back.”

Jinny didn’t say anything.

Jonathan reappeared in the courtyard with a forty-pound bag of mulch balanced on his shoulder. He skirted around the edge of the pool and dumped it onto the ground by Esther’s chair, next to a bed of freshly planted begonias.

“What are you doing?” she asked, peering at him over her sunglasses.

“Mrs. Boorstein asked me to pick up some mulch for the new plantings.” He wiped his hands on his jeans and headed back toward the carport.

Jinny leaned over and smacked Esther on the arm again. “He helps little old ladies with gardening? That is so sweet!”

Esther wasn’t sure Mrs. Boorstein would appreciate being called a little old lady, but she had to agree it was kind of sweet.

They heard the sound of a trunk slamming, and Jonathan reappeared with another bag of mulch hoisted on his shoulder. He dropped it next to the first one, then bent over to slide it a few feet to the left, spacing them out at either end of the bed.

His backside was right in Esther’s eyeline, and she had to admit it wasn’t the worst view she’d ever seen. Fine. So he had a decent body. He irritates the hell out of you, remember?

Jinny smacked her on the arm a third time and Esther jerked her gaze away, flushing slightly.

“Nice ass,” Jinny mouthed silently, tilting her head in Jonathan’s direction.

 

♦SERIES♦

Book One; Standalone

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Susannah Nix lives in Texas with her husband, two ornery cats, and a flatulent pit bull. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, knitting, watching stupid amounts of television, and getting distracted by Tumblr. She is also a powerlifter who can deadlift as much as Captain America weighs.

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REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Show Me the Way by A.L. Jackson

Fight For Me Book One; Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

The first sexy, captivating, stand-alone novel in the brand-new FIGHT FOR ME series from NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author A.L. Jackson . . .
Rex Gunner. As bitter as he is beautiful.
The owner of the largest construction company in Gingham Lakes has been burned one too many times. His wife leaving him to raise their daughter was the last blow this single dad could take. The only woman he’ll let into his heart is his little girl.
Rynna Dayne. As vulnerable as she is tempting.
She ran from Gingham Lakes when she was seventeen. She swore to herself she would never return. Then her grandmother passed away and left her the deed to the diner that she once loved.
When Rex meets his new neighbor, he knows he’s in trouble.
She’s gorgeous and sweet and everything he can’t trust.
Until she becomes the one thing he can’t resist.
One kiss sends them tumbling toward ecstasy.
But in a town this size, pasts are bound to collide. Caught in a web of lies, betrayal, and disloyalty, Rex must make a choice.
Will he hide behind his walls or will he take the chance . . .

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Both angsty and heartwarming, Show Me the Way told a beautiful story of second chances and the rewards of family. Jackson perfectly wove together the intricacies of a man and woman gun-shy to opening themselves up, to the risk of chances, and created a true telling of the steps, both forward and back, of their journey to love. Filled with a fantastically enchanting romance that evokes an array of emotional responses, this is a story not to miss.

It was starkly vivid, feeling the need for connection emanate off of Rex and Dynna who had both been deprived of it for so long. His cantankerous nature and general fears of change struck true to a man that had the sole responsibility of raising his young daughter weigh on his shoulders every moment of every day. The magnetism to him, as risky as it was, felt forbidden and wild…pulling Rynna in even if every thought of hers told her not to. But what was most fascinating to watch was this timid woman find boldness in going after what felt right, in this lonely woman soothing another wounded soul, and how she came into being her own woman–one now brave and strong and free.

Show Me the Way had heat, the kind that went beyond sexiness as was built from the heart first, slowly and easily. The push-pull was crisp and lent itself to creating an irresistible angst that grew with each page turn. Jackson’s always been great at writing emotive stories, and this was no different. The palpability of the characters brought them out of the book, making them feel like people we knew, and created an element to the story that felt very real. This book consumed me just as I consumed it, and I cannot wait for more from this town.

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, as well as the newest BLEEDING STARS novels. Watch for the next installment STAND, coming Spring 2017.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson or text “aljackson” to 24587 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

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