REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne

Love Unexpectedly Book Five; Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

She’s making a list—and checking it twice. But is there a nice guy among all her naughty exes? The New York Times bestselling author of Blurred Lines returns with a charming friends-to-lovers rom-com.

When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.

Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.

 

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

An Ex For Christmas brought a Hallmark movie feel to a book filled with the usual flair of a witty and steamy Lauren Layne novel. Written with a quirky heroine that makes her choices depending upon signs from the universe and her oft used Magic 8-Ball, the story follows her struggle of locating all of her exes to find the one she might’ve missed, all due to a woman with Sight telling her she’s already met her fated true love.

With a wonderfully warm hometown feel and the setting of Christmastime, this story easily developed into a beautiful romance built from deep friendship and years worth of feelings. And because Layne’s known for her charming, quiet heroes that say more without words and are easily magnetic, it was really too easy to fall under Mark’s spell. His stoic nature and patience clashed with Kelly’s whimsicality, but one could instantly sense their compatibility the first scene they had together. Kelly was flawed and deeply romantic, but her inability to see what was in front of her face was all too human–something of which made her very relatable to the reader.

An Ex For Christmas read like a movie, and it was enjoyable all the way through. The humor and wit of her characters made it light, but the deeply constructed romance and steaminess gave it a hearty substance. If you’re looking for a holiday-themed romance, this is the perfect choice; but outside of the holiday featured, it was a wonderful romance that all will enjoy.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

As I walk, I check the weather app on my phone, delighted to see that while it’s nothing but rain today, there’s a chance of a snow shower tomorrow. Nothing says Christmas break like snow.

I just miss my train, but there’s a decent-ish voice singing “White Christmas” nearby, and the platform’s not too crowded, so waiting’s not as bad as it could be.

My eye catches on a middle-aged woman who’s set up camp under one of the stairwells. It’s not unusual to see all manner of people under the streets of New York, although this one’s better dressed than most. She’s wearing a blousy red shirt, jeans, and ankle boots, and is sitting cross-legged on a plaid blanket. She’s got twigs of what seem to be fake roses in her hair.

None of that’s the weird part.

What’s weird is that she’s watching me. Intently.

We make awkward eye contact, and I give a quick smile before turning my attention back to my phone.

But I still feel her eyes on me.

Not in an unfriendly way, not in the way that makes me mentally catalog whether or not I saw any cops on my way down here who would hear me if I scream. She doesn’t seem eager to push me onto the train tracks either, and since that’s every New Yorker’s secret fear, that’s a plus.

Still, the focus is unsettling. I glance up again, and her eyes lock on mine. Her dark gaze is clear and focused, and I can’t decide if that’s more or less disturbing than if she seemed sort of hazy.

Then she smiles right at me. “Kelly.”

I get immediate goosebumps for reasons that have nothing to do with the winter weather. She knows my name.

“Come.” She beckons. “Come. I see.”

Now you’re thinking, Hell, no. Run!

I should be thinking the same, and on some level, I am, but . . .

There are a couple dozen people around. None are paying attention to me, but it’s not like I’m all alone in a dark alley.

And look, we’ve already established that I believe in fate expressing itself through a Magic 8 ball and horoscopes, and though I haven’t mentioned it yet, I totally avoid black cats, the number thirteen, and walking under ladders.

I also believe that there’s such a thing as sight. I know, because my grandma had it.

Grandma Shirley was one of those delightfully batty old ladies that most people dismissed as quirky, but nobody can deny that she seemed to know stuff. She knew when I’d win my soccer game, and by how many points. She knew when her cat’s litter of kittens would be born, down to the minute. Once she’d even predicted an earthquake, even though they’re really rare in New York.

She’d passed away when I was in eleventh grade (she’d predicted the when and how of that too), and though I didn’t inherit her talents, I’ve never stopped believing that some people see and know things that they shouldn’t. I call it the Sight.

I step closer, and the woman grins and beckons me even nearer.

I stop a healthy few feet away. I’m superstitious, not crazy.

The woman leans forward. “You seek love.”

Huh. Color me unimpressed. I mean, don’t most humans seek love? Sure, I’m recently single, and I don’t particularly want to be. And maybe I sometimes try a little too hard to find my forever guy.

But I’m not hearing anything other than generic lucky guesses from this lady.

“Sure,” I say, already starting to back away.

She holds up a hand. “The one you seek? Your forever guy, the love of your life . . .”

I freeze, because her phrasing echoes my thoughts almost exactly. A coincidence? Maybe. I don’t move away just yet, willing to hear her out.

She smiles again. “You’ve already met him.”

I blink. “What? I think you may want to recheck that crystal ball. I’m single.”

Her smile merely grows. “I didn’t say you weren’t single. I said you’d already met him. You just let him go. He’ll come back to you before Christmas.”

Whoa whoa whoa. This is . . .

Huh.

“You’re telling me that the love of my life is one of my exes?”

She extends both of her palms as though to say, There you have it!

I stifle a little surge of disappointment. Clearly she hasn’t met my exes. There are some decent ones in the mix, but mostly they’re duds, and none of them make my heart beat faster. Well, maybe—

Nope. No. Do not go there.

Thankfully, I feel the rumble of an oncoming train, and a glance over my shoulder tells me my ride outta here is approaching.

“Thanks very much,” I say with a strained smile. “Merry Christmas.”

“Happy holidays,” she says with a nod, standing and gathering up her blanket. Apparently she’s taken a cue from Madison Meyers and is sticking close to the PC route. Fair enough.

I lift a hand in a wave and move toward the train, but her next words give me a fresh wave of new goosebumps.

“Tell your parents happy anniversary. Thirty’s going to be a magical year for them.”

I whip my head around. “How did you—”

The woman is gone.

Like vanished gone.

Leaving me to wonder . . .

If a woman I’d never met was right about my parents’ anniversary, was she also right about other stuff?

Have I already met my one true love?

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband.

A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career. She signed with her agent in 2012, and her first book was published in summer of 2013. Since then, she’s written over two dozen books, hitting the USA TODAYNew York Times, iBooks, and Amazon bestseller lists.

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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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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

Purchase: Kindle | Paperback

♦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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♦GIVEAWAY♦

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