REVIEW: Wild Card by Karina Halle

North Ridge Book One; Interconnected standalone

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♦BLURB♦

She swore she’d never go back home.
She swore she’d never see the man who broke her all those years ago.
But you don’t always get to choose your path.
And sometimes that path is as wild and rugged as the heart.

Rachel Waters thought she saw the last of the small mountain town of North Ridge, British Columbia, when she left six years ago. But while her advertising career blossomed beneath the skyscrapers of Toronto, her mother’s sudden illness has the 26-year old returning to North Ridge to care for her, putting her career on hold while dealing with family secrets, regrets and unresolved goodbyes.

Shane Nelson has always been a bit of a wild card. The youngest of his brothers, Shane’s spent most of his life being underestimated and misunderstood. With his quiet intensity, classic good looks and thoughtful demeanor, he’s an enigma on horseback, managing his father’s sprawling ranch on the slopes of North Ridge.
But while Shane remains the quintessential brooding cowboy, complete with an arsenal of inner demons, all of that changes when Rachel steps back into his life.

She was the girl he pushed away.
Now she’s the girl who wishes she could leave.

Despite the odds, Shane will do everything to convince Rachel he needs a second chance that he doesn’t deserve but when the two of them head off into the wilderness together in search of lost cattle, more than just their hearts are at stake.

Whether it’s love or lives on the line, one thing is for sure: always bet on the wild card.

 

♦3.5 STAR REVIEW♦

Set in a rugged small-town where the landscape felt like a secondary character, Wild Card‘s second-chance romance, one that ended on bad terms six years ago, pulled in light angst and heartbreak at every turn. Told in dual perspectives and in the past and present timelines, Halle brought the reader into the lives and hearts of both Shane and Rachel with ease, lightly sprinkling in tension and turmoil as it progressed, ultimately building upon a love story that was larger than life.

I adored getting to know the rugged, intensely quiet pull that was Shane, and how his devotion and hardworking demeanor made his character what it was. He was easy to connect with, to find attractive, to fall for. His allure wasn’t in your face, but a slow, steady beat that entranced with each pulse. And while Rachel was very much his opposite, at times difficult to connect to, one couldn’t help but see the pain and love and joy that hung heavy in Shane in his, and their, every scene thus making her character more real and likeable.

What I crave from all second-chance romances is that raw, pulled-apart beauty that forces my heart into my stomach as I’m ripped in two due to their pain and heartbreak. I want to feel that messy breakup or that horrible heartbreaking pain as they are either torn apart or upon re-connecting. That pain is needed in order to believe that their love can overshadow any struggle and to connect the reader with the couple. Because these scenes were absent, much of the angst between the characters felt only surface deep, and I never truly felt any of it in my gut.

But, I still think Wild Card is a beautiful romance that readers who love the lighter side of angst will rave about. It opened a breathtaking world for the series to be in and set a foundation for the rest to stand on. The Nelson family was wonderfully introduced and has me very excited to experience the beauty of what’s to come. Halle is always reinventing herself and I look forward to how she’ll present her inner self in the next story, either in this series or one outside of it.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Halle Headshot

Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.

Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

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COVER REVEAL w/ EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Show Me the Way by A.L. Jackson

Fight For Me Book One; Standalone

Release Date: October 2, 2017

PreOrder: Notification for Live Release on Amazon | Signed Paperback

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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 . . .

♦EXCERPT♦

Dropping my head, I started for the door, unsure if I was cowering or if I was just staggered by what I’d unwittingly forced my way into. I felt like a fool. Naïve and reckless. Because I’d come seeking something I hadn’t understood.

And I’d just stumbled into the awareness that their lives were pieced together precariously.

Fragilely.

A tender, loving, imperfect balance.

It would only take one misstep to send everything toppling over.

I reached for the latch when I felt the flurry of intensity rise up behind me, the tension suffocating, the movement stealing the air from the room.

I spun around, my back plastered to the door as he approached.

Coming closer and closer.

He wasn’t touching me.

But he might as well have been.

He rested a hand on the door above my head, his face dipping toward mine, his words a breathy grunt at my ear. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing to me, Rynna?”

Lust and confusion trembled through my bones, this man pushing me away and then drawing me closer.

I thought maybe neither of us could ignore it.

The overpowering attraction.

Because the fever in my veins ignited a fire in my belly.

Torrid.

Blistering.

No words would form on my tongue.

“Tell me, Rynna. What do you want with us?” he murmured, low and rough. “Because I don’t have anything to offer you, and I won’t let you take anything else from us.”

I attempted to process what he said, what he meant.

But I couldn’t focus. Couldn’t see. Could feel nothing but the heat radiating between us.

Wave after blinding wave.

I gasped a breath, and he inched closer, a single knee wedging between my legs. He set both hands on the door above my head.

Caging me in.

A desperate sound rumbled through the strength of his chest.

A hand was suddenly on my jaw, thumb under my chin, tipping my face up to meet the ferocity in his gaze.

Rage and restraint and desire. I couldn’t decipher what was happening. The push and the pull. The hatred and the need.

I could barely speak. “I . . . I thought maybe you could use a friend.”

♦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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♦GIVEAWAY♦

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♦FULL JACKET♦

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NEW RELEASE: Wild Card by Karina Halle

North Ridge Book One; Interconnected standalone

Purchase: Kindle US | Kindle UK | iBooks

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♦BLURB♦

She swore she’d never go back home.
She swore she’d never see the man who broke her all those years ago.
But you don’t always get to choose your path.
And sometimes that path is as wild and rugged as the heart.

Rachel Waters thought she saw the last of the small mountain town of North Ridge, British Columbia, when she left six years ago. But while her advertising career blossomed beneath the skyscrapers of Toronto, her mother’s sudden illness has the 26-year old returning to North Ridge to care for her, putting her career on hold while dealing with family secrets, regrets and unresolved goodbyes.

Shane Nelson has always been a bit of a wild card. The youngest of his brothers, Shane’s spent most of his life being underestimated and misunderstood. With his quiet intensity, classic good looks and thoughtful demeanor, he’s an enigma on horseback, managing his father’s sprawling ranch on the slopes of North Ridge.
But while Shane remains the quintessential brooding cowboy, complete with an arsenal of inner demons, all of that changes when Rachel steps back into his life.

She was the girl he pushed away.
Now she’s the girl who wishes she could leave.

Despite the odds, Shane will do everything to convince Rachel he needs a second chance that he doesn’t deserve but when the two of them head off into the wilderness together in search of lost cattle, more than just their hearts are at stake.

Whether it’s love or lives on the line, one thing is for sure: always bet on the wild card.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Halle Headshot

Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.

Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

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REVIEW: So Good by Nicola Rendell

Alpha Dogs Book One

Purchase: Kindle | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

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♦BLURB♦

On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.

Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.

But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?

It feels so good.

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

A friends-to-lovers story full of charm, wit, and romanticism, So Good beautifully captured everything it needed to perfectly tell the tale of two life-long best friends and their spiral into more. Rendell’s captivating male point-of-view brought Max to life with ease, wholly impressing me with her ability to accurately portray the male mind. Just as easily, Rosie both disappeared so the reader could become her and became larger than life to separate her from us.

Even though we were not privy to their friendship growing up, it was incredibly easy to see and feel their deep friendship–to experience their ease and closeness with one another–as if I had been with them from the start. Rosie and Max were vivid, stark characters that acted and reacted as you would expect yourself to, creating a very real feel to the story. The addition of Julie the cat and Cupcake the dog was true icing on the cake. They became more than animals but true characters to the story, both individually and through the relationships they had with the main characters.

Because the friendship was built so strongly, the sexiness of this book ran so very hot, the deep, stomach-dipping kind that will take your breath away time and time again. It was the kind of book one could easily immerse themselves into, with a grand, beautiful love story that felt natural and organic, and the writing to pull you in from the first page. So Good was a very well-written story, a must-read, and was just that: so good.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

Max

As I unlocked the door to my houseboat, I heard it. At first, it sounded like a duck paddling, but then I heard something else—a panting, or a gasping. For a second, it died down. It didn’t worry me, really, because the docks were full of weird noises, and boats were noisy as fuck. But I turned the deadbolt turned, the sound got louder and more frantic. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound good and it sure as hell didn’t sound like a duck. I let my work belt slide off my shoulder onto the deck, and looked down in the water, gripping the taffrail. There in the shadows, gasping, paddling, and panicking, I saw something small and wet and terrified.
​Holy fuck. It was a dog. A tiny, drowning dog.
​Fully clothed, boots on, I jumped into the water off the sternside. I plunged in deep, submerged in a world of shadowy barnacle-crusted dock pilings and chains holding anchors far below. Holding my breath and looking up toward the sunshine, through the bubbles that came down with me, I saw it. No bigger than a chicken, and kicking hard. I breaststroked toward the dog, aiming to come up right below it, but the salt water stung my eyes, and I closed them out of reflex. When I surfaced, it had gotten a few feet away. It was just a tiny thing, soaking wet, sucking in terrified breaths. It doggy-paddled in circles, slipping down into the water so that only its nose was above the surface. I did one strong breaststroke, but it was in full flight-or-fight mode, absolutely fucking petrified, and it paddled away from me, slipping out of my grasp. With one more big stroke, I had it, and I scooped it up into my arms to held her up out of the water, the way people do when the hold babies in the air. I saw it was a girl, her tummy soft and much less furry than the rest of her. Her big black eyes bugged out for an instant, and then…
She went limp in my hands. Lifeless, with her feet dangling down, her tongue hanging out. Her eyes were closed. On my palm, I couldn’t feel a heartbeat where I was sure there should have been one thrumming along.
​Fuck. Fuck.
​I gave her a shake, but she dangled like a rag doll.
I held her out of the water, keeping her in a tight bicep curl over my shoulder. Carefully, I maneuvered under the jetty that led to my boat. I got a toehold on the old dock ladder, rusty and unsteady. Using one hand to climb up, and using both boots like climbing picks, I emerged from my boat’s shadow and out into the sunshine of the dock. I laid her down on her back, supporting her lifeless body. With every passing millisecond, my heart fucking broke more and more. I could not let this happen. I could not let her die. I pulled myself up all the way and knelt beside her. She was flat on her back, with no signs of life at all. Her arms were limp at the wrists, and her paws dripped onto the dry wood beneath her. Still, her tongue hung out. Still, her eyes were shut. Still, she wasn’t breathing.
Somewhere, buried deep in my memory, I remembered learning the basics of canine CPR. I felt like maybe it was in my lifeguard class when I was in high school, but I didn’t fucking know and it didn’t fucking matter. All I knew was I had to do something, and fast. So I did. I wrapped my fingers around her tiny muzzle and brought my lips to her leathery nose. I blew gently, and as I did I felt her chest swell up. I held my own breath and prayed for anything, any sign of life, but there was nothing. Lightly, with the tips of my fingers, I did compressions on her soaking wet fur. One. Two. Three. And then I did another breath. One. Two. Three.
“Come on, little lady,” I whispered, and rolled her onto her side. I gave her a few pats, firm but not too hard. She was absolutely tiny—from scruff to tail, hardly bigger than the span of my hand. I rolled her over onto her back again and gave her one more breath, all the while going through the paces of what the fuck to do if this didn’t work. I had no goddamned idea whatsoever where the vet was. Did we even have a vet? Would she survive that long? What the fuck was I going to do?
But as I started the next set of compressions, she coughed. She actually coughed, like a tiny person, a gasping choking hack, accompanied by a few mouthfuls of water spilling out onto the wood planks.
Holy shit.
I froze with my hands just above her tiny body. Her strange, buggy eyes opened up and she started panting hard.
“Hey, hey!” I scooped her up in my arms, cradling her to my chest. I could tell by the way she was so limp against me that she was exhausted. Keeping her close to my body, to keep her warm and safe, I scratched the fur at the back of her neck, her tail started to wag. But she was also shivering hard, and I didn’t like that one bit.

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.

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